A Valentine’s Story
Once upon a time, there was a very beautiful woman. She was strong and pure and lovely to look at. Her parents allowed her to move away from her small country home and take up residence in the city.
Since she had always lived in the country, she was naive to the ways of the city. She was naive to the cost of living in the city, she was naive to the deception that ran rampant in the city. It was not very long before she had been taken captive to both.
When she first moved to the city, her father connected her with a man that he had known for quite some time. He owned some very nice apartments that overlooked the park, where the trees stood tall and the creek ran sweetly, singing to all who came to visit. From her bedroom, she could even hear the sound of the birds, singing their delight over their home. Joy Park was a wonderful place to live.
She loved her adorable apartment. It was charming with its small fireplace, large windows with seats in them and hidden, inviting nooks begging to be enjoyed, with overstuffed chairs, piles of books and hot tea. Because of his love for her, her father paid for the first year of her stay, allowing her to stay there with no financial concerns. He was leaving the states, being overseas for many months for work, so he also supplied her with all the money she needed to care for her every need. She was very blessed and well cared for.
The man lived down the street, where the view was not so sweet and the creek had long been forgotten. Instead of birds the people heard the sounds of weeping and complaining. There was no park and certainly no joy. He had become a product of the place that he lived. He had exchanged hope for despair, love for hate and fear for faith. Where he used to be a man of song, he had now become a man of violent and brutal words. There was nothing pure or lovely about him.
The first time the man saw the girl, he thought perhaps he’d just like to enjoy looking at her. She was beautiful to look at, the care of her father evident in all of her abundance. But, day in and day out he enjoyed looking at her, but found he was not content to just look for long. He wanted to own her. He wanted to bring her beauty into his world. He thought perhaps that if he could just have her in his home, some of her abundance would become his as well.
The girl, oblivious to his attention went about her business. And for now, her business was walking through the park, taking in all the beauty that surrounded her, talking to the people that crossed her path. She knew that before too much longer, she would need to find a job and start working, but for now, she was content to just wander about and enjoy her new life. Naive.
She was sitting in the park when he first approached her. He knew he didn’t really belong in the park. He knew that his type didn’t fit there. He found the birds a bit annoying and the sunlight too bright. He would much have preferred that they met down where the creek became the dirty river that flowed through his part of town, but this would have to do.
Since she didn’t really know anyone she enjoyed the fact that he introduced himself to her and was willing to talk with her. While the other people in town were nice enough, they didn’t really take time to talk to her. He was willing to sit around and listen to her dreams and hopes and hear her discuss the home she left behind and her cheery little apartment across the road. She didn’t find it odd that he had all the time in the world to talk with her – I mean she wasn’t working either, so it never occurred to her to find that odd. As I said, naive.
They met in the park for many months, talking endlessly. There were some days that he arrived and his face was dark like a thunderstorm and his eyes were red and bloodshot. She didn’t think it odd that his hands might shake or that he would be afraid some days to sit in the park, looking about them in paranoia. If she asked about his blank, glassy eyes or tremors, he would simply explain that he had had a rough night at work. Because he was her friend, she believed him.
It wasn’t long before fall came and sitting in the park became uncomfortable with the winds of winter beginning to blow about them. So, they took to meeting in her apartment. They could sit at the table in front of the window facing the park and remember the sounds and smells of summer and she enjoyed their growing friendship.
The night the first snow came, he showed up on her doorstep, holding his suitcase. His eyes were red and his hands trembled, making the suitcase bump up against her door, reminding her of the sound her dog’s tail made when he would greet her in the morning while she was growing up. Although she was surprised to see him, she didn’t send him away.
Oh that she would have!
Within a very short time, he had moved in. He convinced her that he was in great need and had no place to live in the cold of winter. He told her how sweet she was and how much he cared for her. Being naive to the ways of the city, she believed him. She gave him a place in her sweet apartment and her pure heart. He knew it and exploited them both.
The first night he brought his friends over, she knew for the first time in her life what true fear was. She locked herself in their bedroom. She sat on her bed, holding her pillows in front of her as though she was attempting to protect herself from the man who had finagled himself into her apartment, her life and her heart. When his friends left, he came, banging and screaming at the locked door. How dare she withhold any part of herself from him. Not only was it the first time she met his friends, it was also the first time she met his fist. Sadly, it wasn’t the last for either.
By the time spring came about, his fist had become her constant companion, as had his friends and the drugs that they brought with them. She was no longer beautiful but now showed signs of malnourishment and neglect. The apartment was no longer a refuge – a haven – from the filth of the world, it had become a vessel from which the filth of the world was poured. There was no safe place for her any longer. Though she longed to talk to her father and have him come and rescue her, the man had her phone turned off and refused any mail that her father sent. She had called once and begged her father not to come home from overseas, out of fear that the man would do him great harm.
With the first hint of spring, her father’s concern had grown so great, that he called his friend that owned the apartment and asked him to check on his daughter. He reminded him that she was the apple of his eye and the delight of his heart. The owner of the apartment building knew how much the man loved his daughter and he was honored that he would ask him to check on her. He knew that the father was concerned by this despicable squatter that had moved in and taken advantage of his daughter.
The owner knocked – there was no answer. But because the day was sunny, on the floor, he could see the shadow of the person standing between him and the door. He considered just opening the door and walking in, but didn’t know if that was wisdom. So he walked away…for now.
Her heart fell when he walked away. She was so longing for someone to come and set her free from the bondage she was living in, even though she was scared to bits that they would. She wanted to get away from the beatings and the lack of food. She wanted to see something other than the scales and white powder that now covered her once lovely table. She knew she couldn’t open the door, if the man heard the door open, he would just wait until the owner went away and beat her again. There were days, like today, that she wondered how his hitting could possibly still hurt her.
She knew he couldn’t wound her heart any more. That pain had stopped one day. He had abused that so thoroughly that she was certain that her heart had died inside her, but her body still betrayed her and she still felt pain occasionally. She hoped that would stop one day too. She wished she could cry, but there were no tears left. So she sat down, looked out the window at the sun and dreamed of purity and lovely things.
Just because he walked away, he didn’t stop his plan of checking on his friend’s daughter. He just went to ask a friend of his – a large, powerful and very strong friend of his – to join him. He didn’t want to walk into this unwisely, because he had no intention of not walking in. He had been charged with rescuing her and rescue he would.
They came back later that day. As they approached the door, the owner could hear what sounded like someone was hitting something – it wasn’t until he heard the words that he realized it was likely the girl. Nothing would keep him from entering that apartment now – nothing! He knocked with the authority that was his as owner of the building.
Expletives followed by “Go away!” was the response his knock received. He replied calmly, to hide his fury, “This is the landlord. I would like to come in and check the apartment.” “You got a warrant?” “I don’t need a warrant. I own this building and it’s in your lease that I can come in any time. You may open the door, or I will let myself in.”
It was obvious from the sounds inside that things were being hidden – the owner could hear things being moved, cabinets being slammed and a door being shut roughly. He assumed that the man would hide and leave the daughter to deal with him. He was wrong. When the door opened, there was no sign of the girl. However, the place was disgusting. What food there was sat about the room, in various stages of rotting. The trash was overflowing with liquor bottles and miscellaneous cans. The dishes in the kitchen were covered in mold. The chintz tablecloth on the little table was covered in some strange brown stains and a powdery substance. No food. Drugs and alcohol abuse everywhere. Dirt. Mold. Things were so much worse than he had imagined.
The owner remembered how beautiful and pure and lovely the girl had been and he knew she could never live in the midst of this foulness and still be any of the above. He could feel his anger rise within him – and within a very short time, the man, his things and his putrescence had been thrown out.
The owner wasn’t without injury, but he would live. His concern was only for the girl. As soon as he had dealt with the vile usurper, he started looking throughout the apartment for her. He finally found her. She was sitting on the floor of the closet of her yellow bedroom, hidden by garbage and a pillow. The light carpet was covered in stains, dirty, sweaty, disgusting clothes and blood stains. The proof of the amount of abuse she had received. He stooped down to look her in the eye.
“I’m here, you don’t need to be afraid any longer. I have thrown him out and I will never allow him to come back and hurt you like this again.” He held out his hand to her. She could see that he too had marks left from the man’s knife. She knew them well. It had cut her physically and emotionally for some time now. His face was so kind, but her fear was so great, she simply shrunk against the back of the closet. She knew the abuse of the man. She didn’t know if the owner would choose to use her, as well. She felt safer hiding in the closet. She gripped her pillow close, holding it between him and her. She knew that it would never keep him from truly hurting her – she knew that from experience – but she could fool herself thinking it might, for awhile. She buried her face in the pillow and cried. What had she done? How could she get to this place? And where did the tears come from?
She didn’t know how long she had cried before she slept – she just knew that as she opened her eyes, she could see several things all at once. First of all, the room was dark. The yellow of the walls was no longer visible. That meant she had been in the closet all day long. (And her body confirmed that, as she tried to move.) Secondly, she could see that the floor was no longer covered with filth. Thirdly, she saw that the owner had not left. He was where he had been when she looked at him last time. On the floor – down at her level.
He smiled. He said, “I’ve got some food in the other room. Would you like to come and eat?” Again he extended his hand. She shook her head. She’d rather remain in the closet. And she did – for days. Every day he brought her food and water and held out his hand and invited her to take his hand and come out. Little by little she could feel her heart come back to life. His kindness to her puzzled her. He didn’t know her. Why was he doing this? Finally, she asked.
“Why?” That was all. Just “Why?”
He smiled. “I know your father. I came because he sent me for you. I stayed because I wanted to. I will not hurt you. I will not let the man come back and hurt you again, either. But, I also won’t leave you here. If you must, you stay in there for now, but I will stay here until you’re ready to come out. I’m in no hurry.”
And so they continued for some time. She hiding in fear – him feeding her and ministering to her in love. There came one day where his extended hand wooed her and she took it. She came out to find her lovely apartment was no longer coated in filth and vileness, but it had been restored to the beauty of before.
She looked at him and asked it again, “Why?” “I know your father. I came because he sent me for you. I stayed because I wanted to. I will not hurt you. I won’t leave you either. I love you.”
My dear Siblings,
This is us. We are hiding in the closet, in fear, of coming out and trusting our Savior with all our hearts.
Our heavenly Father gave us dominion over the earth and the enemy of our souls saw what our loving Father had blessed us with and he was intent on taking it from us. He succeeded. For many years, we lived in bondage to his filth and sin – then Christ came. He came because Father sent Him and yet, He loved us on His own. I don’t understand it. I don’t need to.
I simply need to know that He won’t leave. He will wait for me to reach out to Him. (Which in itself blows my mind! The Most High God allowing me to reach out to Him and not just demanding that I do it NOW?!!! No other King exhibits such patience…such love.) He paid a price I can’t conceive – for each of us. He did it out of love.
This Valentine’s day, I pray that you will know that it’s safe to come out of our hiding places, to trust Him fully. We may have been hurt by the world, by other Believers or by any number of things. But it’s only in taking His extended hand and listening to Him that we will ever truly understand love, every truly be free. Please, if you have not held His hand fully, do so today. Take His wounded hand and take Him at His Word, believe Him fully. Believe Him when He says it’s safe to trust Him. He isn’t even put off by the filth that we may have chosen to live in. He loves us.
He came because of Father. He stayed because He loves us. The Ultimate Valentine’s story.