This story is by aRcana and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The leaves crunched under my feet and the cool wind kissed my cheeks as I walked through the park. Sunrise was my favorite part of the day. Few people were awake at this hour. Watching the sun rise over the hill each morning felt like a miracle. Being in nature always helped me get a fresh perspective.
The bench was waiting for me, vacant as usual, under the weeping willow on top of the hill. The sea was smooth this morning and the sky was starting to change colors in the distance as the sun’s beams started to reach the top of the rolling hills.
He came to me again in a dream last night. It’s been years, but I still feel him close to me every day.
I remember the day we met. I was six years old and studying at the temple. The teacher was asking about our parents. When I mentioned not knowing my real dad but having been adopted some of the kids laughed. One threw a pencil at me while another yelled out “Bastard!” That’s when I looked up and saw him from across the room, his hand was raised. He was adopted by his dad too. His eyes were so kind and comforted me just by looking at him.
We became close friends throughout our school years together. When things started getting bad at home, being with him seemed to be the only place I found peace.
When I was about 16, I had a dream about my real dad, only he turned out to be the devil. He said no matter how hard I tried to be a good person, I was his daughter and everything I did would end up serving him. I was terrified!
Perhaps it was my mom’s religious guilt in having me before she was married that caused her to be so hard on me. I would tell her that my teachers liked me and she said that was because they didn’t really know me. Was that dream true?
I ended up depressed and suicidal. I would call up that boy, longing to be comforted by his piercing, kind eyes. He was able to hug me with his words. He reminded me that the world is a really big place and what was going on at home wasn’t going to be what I found in the rest of the world. Talking to him filled me with hope.
It came time to go to college and I threw myself into my studies and activities at the temple. After having gone to a religious school, being near the temple felt safe, it was familiar. However, it seemed like those were the years I was supposed to fall in love and find someone to marry. If God wanted me in a “pure” relationship, why didn’t any of the guys at the temple groups want to date me? Since my real dad left before I was born I thought maybe I was cursed, that no guy would ever love me.
After college, I started feeling like an imposter at the temple. I would put on my best smile, and hide what was inside of me, trying to be accepted, yet never feeling good enough for the “in crowd.”
I started partying and finding guys who would tell me they loved me only to find them with someone else a few weeks later. “Loving one person is so limiting and controlling,” they would tell me. That didn’t work for me.
One day I was sitting on a hill, watching the sunrise, much like the one today. It was another morning I was thinking of him and it was almost as if he was there with me. As I looked across the water as the sun put on its show, it occurred to me, I was happier on my own than pretending to be someone else and still feeling rejected. I went home that day with a love in my heart that I hadn’t felt before. It was as if I loved myself for the first time.
After years of not talking, he called out of the blue and I agreed to visit that weekend. Before the visit, I had another dream. We were together and laughing and my heart felt free. When I woke up I wondered what that meant, if anything and figured I would find out when we saw each other.
He took me to his favorite place for lunch and we caught up on all the time that had passed. Butterflies were in my stomach as we moved the conversation back to his place. As I told him about my dream, he smiled and drew me in. We kissed for the first time.
My past relationships entailed trying to get the person I was dating to want to be with me while being myself. It seemed to be a process of pretending to be someone else at first or holding back a lot of who I was, in order to be accepted. “Guys need mystery,” my girlfriends would say. But I just wanted to be me, I didn’t want to play games.
Here was my friend that I had known for years. We already knew each other, were ourselves and liked each other. This felt like it was the goal of all my past relationships. Now that I was starting a relationship at this point, where would we go from here?
We spent the next few days talking and getting to know each other deeper. It was through this that I began to understand what real love is. I wasn’t perfect, yet he loved me. He continued to love me without expecting anything in return. The love I felt from him opened up my heart to choose to love him back, even when things got tough. Through this love, I was starting to feel my bigger purpose for this life.
Living in a new neighborhood and feeling disconnected, he encouraged me to make soup and hot cocoa for the homeless in our neighborhood. These folks became my friends when I felt judged by my own peers. They were always happy to see me and never complained even when I knew it was a little burned.
He encouraged me to connect with other women, who like me had lost their way and needed a reminder of the love they had within themselves and how they could positively impact the world with their love.
While I worked with the women, he worked with the men. He encouraged them to have faith and stand for love in all of their relationships. Together we found a community of people who wanted to change what they saw in the world by first finding the love and healing within themselves.
As we looked around the world we noticed sicknesses caused by pollution. Poverty and homelessness were on the rise as fear drove some to be greedy. It was during this time that a tyrant came into rule.
Things became difficult throughout the country. The women were losing faith. The men started to fight back and hold protests even though he was encouraging peace and love. History repeats itself and the only way to break the cycle is through peace and the way to peace is love.
One of his dear friends turned him in for not following the laws of the tyrant. The police came and took him away. I followed and watched as they beat him to death. Police brutality has been on the news, but you never think it will happen to you or someone that you love. The nation was crumbling before our eyes.
After his death, his friends and I got together a few times, trying to keep his message alive, but we started to fight amongst ourselves. I was worried that they would turn me in the same way they turned him in so I ran and hid as well.
I know, you must think I’m a coward. I don’t blame you. I thought that of myself. However, he came to me in a dream shortly after I went into hiding. He said he would keep me safe and that he would come back for me.
Last night was that night. He came to me and said it’s time for me to rise. Time for me to come out and gather the women. Remind them of their healing powers. Remind them that the men need us now to work with them to create balance in our communities, across the country, and around the world.
Who is this man who taught me how to love by showing me what unconditional love is, you ask? Who is this man who spent his life teaching people forgiveness by forgiving? Who is this that was betrayed as he tried to keep his country from falling?
His name is Jesus.