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Drama Inspirational

“Are you there, God? It’s me…Cass.”

Cassandra pulled her quilted jacket tighter around her and zipped it up to ward off the Autumn chill. She wanted to turn back, but she kept going, trudging up the wooded path. She stepped over logs and hopped over streams rushing with water. Nothing had frozen yet, so if she slipped and fell, she’d be wet and miserable. She pulled her golden yellow knit hat down over her ears and patted the little puff at the top. Taking a deep breath, she said,

“I know I wasn’t exactly nice to you the last time we talked, but…I don’t know. I just need someone to listen to me, I guess. I know you’re there, I just don’t know if you’re really going to hear what I have to say. But I guess it can’t hurt to try, right?”

She spoke the words aloud and quickly looked around, thinking that someone might overhear her. No one was there. It was too cold for most of the usual hikers to be out and it was also later in the day. Any hikers she did pass would be heading back to their cars or to their cabins at the lake. Cassandra was glad she’d booked a cabin so she’d have a warm place to go back to at the end of this hike. She remembered the extra pair of socks and the fleece jacket she’d put in her backpack, glad she thought to bring them along. She’d be frozen by the time she got back if she had forgotten them.

“I feel bad for the way I yelled at you the last time I talked to you. But I have to know why you did it. Or, as my pastor would say, why you allowed it to happen. Why would you do that? Everything was fine and then all of a sudden you decided to pull the rug out from under me. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think straight. And something in you decided that this plan would be the best for everyone? I don’t get it. And at this point, I’m not sure I want to.” That’s it, she was done talking. All it had done was make her sarcastic and angry, which is what she didn’t want.

She knew Pastor Murphy was right about God allowing things to happen, but it didn’t make any sense. She didn’t know why going to the lake would help anything make more sense. All she knew was that she had to get away from the noise. There was so. Much. Noise. Everywhere. But it all seemed so superficial. No one asked how she was doing or care if she was okay. Which she wasn’t. She shook her head and decided to keep walking and not think about it anymore.

“I don’t know if I’m ever going to understand why you did what you did, God. It all seems so…unnecessary. Was it because I wasn’t thankful enough for the people you put in my life? Was it because I took them for granted? Is this some kind of cruel punishment? All I wanted was…you know exactly what I wanted. When I was younger, I didn’t know how to pray for what I wanted. But you knew my heart and you answered the prayers that I had stored there. Now it feels like you’ve taken those answered prayers back. It’s so unfair and really, really cruel.” Did God really take back prayers that He had answered? Cassandra doubted she’d ever know the answer. Maybe her pastor would know? She shook the thought away.

“I’m not sure what you want from me, but I feel like you’ve left. I’ve always been told that you’re not the one who moves, that it’s us. We move away from you. But that doesn’t mean that what happened is okay. I lost a lot of people I love. And yes, I might not lose them forever. But I’ve lost them for…years. I’ll miss years with them that I could have had if you hadn’t allowed this to happen. What were you thinking? I asked you to fix this. I asked you to let me keep them. To let me keep communication open. You didn’t. What am I supposed to do now?”

“What?” Cass screamed and spun around. Behind her, off to the left, was an older gentleman with a dog by his side. A golden retriever with tired ears and an energetic face. The man looked alarmed and put a hand up to his chest.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to scream. I just didn’t know anyone else was out here.” Cass explained, suddenly afraid he might faint. He shook his head and spoke,

“No, I’m sorry, young lady. I thought you were talking to me. Of course, I was following my own musings, so I only heard you ask what you’re supposed to do now. Seeing as you’re alone, I thought you knew I was here and were talking to me and Buddy here.” He patted the dog’s head and focused his attention on Cass, seeming to wait for her reply like he knew what she would say.

“No, I wasn’t talking to you. I was…I was talking to God.” She looked down at her feet and could feel her cheeks reddening, even with the temperature dropping.

“Oh, well then please, don’t let me interrupt you. I’ll just be on my way.” There wasn’t even a hint of sarcasm in his voice. His face reflected the sincerity she could feel radiating from him. Ther was something warm about him, something she hadn’t felt from many people lately. Normally, alarm bells would be going off in her head, but he was just an old man with a dog-he couldn’t possibly mean any harm.

“Wait, please. You’re right, I am alone. It would be nice to have someone to walk with. If it wouldn’t be out of your way, please walk with me to the lake.”

“That’s exactly where I’m going. I’d like that, because even though Buddy is an excellent listener, he doesn’t talk back or give advice. I’d welcome the company. I’m Gabriel.” For the first time that day, a sincere smile crossed Cassandra’s face.

“My name is Cassandra, but everyone calls me Cass.” They shook hands briefly and walked together along the path. Soon, they would get to the rocky regions where they’d both have to be careful to avoid a twisted ankle. As they walked along in silence for a minute, Cass studied him and decided she was glad she met him. She’d feel awful if he fell and hurt himself, with only his dog as a companion. He didn’t have a walking stick with him, as most older men and even experienced hikers carried with them along these trails. Cass didn’t have one either, but that was because her dad had taken it with him on a hiking trip last weekend and forgotten to give it back to her.

“So, do you hike here often?” He asked her, seeming to sense her need for conversation.

“My family and I come up here every few months just to get away from the city. My dad’s really in to hiking and fishing, so he’ll hike to his favorite fishing spot and spend the whole day there. What about you and Buddy?” The dog had taken to walking in between them instead of Gabriel’s left side, as he had done previously. Leashes for dogs were strongly enforced, but Buddy’s leash was folded in Gabriel’s hand, as if he knew his dog could be trusted. Cass sensed that was true.

“Buddy and I come here often, about every few weeks. We hike these trails and fish sometimes. Other times, we kayak around the lake.”

“You and Buddy kayak?” She tried to hide her surprise, more that the dog took to the kayak than Gabriel, although both dog and man looked too old to be traveling around the lake in any moving vessel. 

Yes, we do. I have an open kayak, so buddy rides right on the end and looks out for tree branches for me. My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be.” For the second time that day, Cass smiled.

“You both wear life jackets, don’t you?” She was half serious, half joking. Life jackets were required for humans, but she had seen a few dogs swimming with life vests before. Most of them were pint sized dogs, but still, an old dog like Buddy would get tired quickly. Gabriel laughed and replied,

“Yes, we both make sure to follow the rules. Buddy thinks his jacket is quite the fashion item.” They shared a laugh and then were both silent for a while, taking in the beauty around them. Every now and then, Gabriel would point out a specific tree he found interesting or a small stream that was particularly high or low, but other than that, they walked in silence. Cass could feel herself growing calmer than she’d been all day as they walked. After a while, he spoke,

“I’m not sure what you were talking to God about, but whatever it was, I’m sure it was important. I’m sorry for ruining your conversation.”

“It’s all right, no worries. Our conversation was pretty much ruined anyway.” She shrugged. He halted and looked her in the eyes. She stopped walking too, feeling confused at why he stopped moving.

“Why do you say that?”

“I was basically yelling at God and telling him that I don’t understand what he…allowed to happen to my family. I’m sure he’d rather hear praise or thanks than me getting angry with him.” Gabriel rubbed his grey beard and said,

“I’m not sure about that. Of course God loves to hear our praise and thankfulness, but I think it’s just as important for Him to hear our frustrations, too. We get closer to him that way and if we listen closely, we can hear his responses to our anger. His responses are filled with compassion and love, rather than a retaliation of the anger we may think we deserve.”

“I didn’t really think of it that way. I’m just trying to understand why He let these things happen and every time I think I have an answer, it doesn’t quite fit. Or I think of a contradiction or another reason it could have happened and eventually my brain hurts from doing so much overthinking.”

“I don’t mean to overstep, but perhaps you should stop thinking for a while and just listen. See what He says.”

“How am I supposed to know if it’s His voice or my own thoughts?” The question flew out of her mouth before she had time to think about what she’d said. Gabriel put a hand on one of Buddy’s ears and stroked it between his fingers.

“Buddy knows my voice from every other voice in these trails. If I called him to me, he’d come in a heartbeat. He can hear the love and concern in my voice when I can’t find him. He hears the relief in my voice when he comes back to me. I keep him by my side when he wanders off because I don’t want him to wander anymore. I think it’s the same with God. Those who know his voice come when he calls. They know His voice because they listen to His words repeatedly. We can hear the love in His voice by the words He speaks. He calls us back with love and the promise of safety when we’ve wandered away.”

“I didn’t mean to wander. I clung to Him for help and then…things happened. I didn’t understand. I still don’t. I’ve been bitter. I…I’ve been lost.” Her face was wet with tears and she angrily swiped them away. She’d cried enough. She was done being blinded by tears.

“Cassandra, I think we should keep walking. It’s going to get dark before too long and we still have to make it to the lake and back.” She nodded and swiped at her face again. He smiled softly and handed her a tissue from his pocket, which she gratefully accepted.

“Here, grab onto my hand. We’re at the rocky point and I’ve seen many people fall along this part of the trail. Even some of the young ones like you need help getting up and are sore for days afterward.” He clipped Buddy’s leash onto his collar and put it in his left hand, then reached for Cassandra’s hand with his right. Normally, Cass would have declined his offer. She didn’t need his help to get across the rocks. But she did need his help to keep walking. To get to the lake. To see this through. So she reached out and clasped his hand. It didn’t feel awkward like she thought it would. It felt very safe; he would not let them fall. She’d been worried about him falling before, but now she knew he was the one worried about her.

They walked along the rocky pass together, slowly making their way through the steep parts. It looked like someone had taken large rocks from the trails and mixed them with the river rocks to make an obstacle course, which is exactly what this part of the trail had become. Even though Cass had crossed it many times, she’d never done it alone and she didn’t know what had made her think she could do it alone now. Maybe she hadn’t considered making it this far at all. Yet here she was. As they walked along, Gabriel guided her so she wouldn’t slip, and Buddy seemed to be guiding Gabriel as if choose the safest rocks to come across. He talked to her more about God’s provision and guidance and told her that whatever she was going through, God would lead her through and she’d come out the other side with all the pieces of her heart still intact. She was tempted to doubt him, but he wasn’t saying she’d come out of this ordeal okay. Because she wasn’t okay and he knew that. Some things in life shattered your heart and broke your spirit. Gabriel insisted that God always put His people back together.

Once they’d finally gotten past the rocks, they came to the lake. The place she’d been wanting to come this whole time, yet doubted she’d make it to. Here she was, with a man and a dog she’d just met. At first, all Cassandra could do was stare at the lake in awe. Gabriel and Buddy seemed to do so, too. They didn’t say anything, they just stared. The sun hadn’t set yet, but the sky was taking on a darker shade of blue than its normal baby blue haze. The water was clear and the bottom was filled with smooth colorful rocks. Towering trees that were different shades of green surrounded the lake on all sides. The air was cool but comforting. Time seemed to stop and it didn’t matter to Cassandra anymore if time moved on without them. She was tired of feeling forgotten about. Tired of feeling weary and worn. Tired of crying her eyes out one minute and the next pretending everything was all right. Tired of being alone and feeling even lonelier. As if reading her thoughts, Gabriel said,

“You’re never alone, Cassandra. God is always with you, ready to listen. Ready to comfort. Eager to love.” Every thought and emotion she’d been feeling the past few months rose to the surface, threatening to choke her if she held them in for one more second. The sobs bubbled in her throat and threatened to choke her. She couldn’t keep them at bay anymore. She wasn’t sure how long she cried; she heard Buddy running in and out of the lake, occasionally come to push against her hand with his wet nose. She would pat his wet head for a while until he would run back into the lake. He repeated this several times and while he did this, Gabriel just rested his hand on her shoulder and whispered the occasional comforting word to her. Cass could occasionally hear him muttering something softer, and she assumed he was praying. After a while, her sobs subsided. He gave her another tissue from his pocket, cleared his throat and said,

“We should go back, Cass. If we go now, it will just be growing dark when we get back to camp. I don’t see well in the dark.” She nodded and they walked back together, carefully making their way over the dangerous rock and back over the wooded forest paths. As she’d come to learn, Gabriel was right and they made it back to the cabins just as it was getting dark. Gabriel asked where her cabin was and insisted he and Buddy walk her there safely. She agreed and upon reaching her cabin, turned around to thank him. He wasn’t behind her. But she was sure he was just there. She’d heard his footsteps and Buddy had even walked right beside her. She did a full spin around, looking for Gabriel or the dog, or any sign of them, but she found none.

“Gabriel? Buddy? What...where did you go? Hello? Gabriel?” She even walked around her cabin and a few of the others to make sure they hadn’t gone around there. She found no trace of the man or his dog. The only other place she could think to look was up.

“Thank you, Lord. Thank you for sending me Gabriel and Buddy today.” She walked into her cabin, peace filling her heart and God’s love wrapping around her like a healing balm. She wasn’t completely healed yet, and she wasn’t sure if she ever would be in this life, but she was off to a good start. And for now, that was enough.

February 12, 2022 02:17

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22:12 Feb 16, 2022

Mattea, it was nice to read, thank you for that. I think we all have written our unfinished business with god and it's interesting to write about it in the story, right? ” Did God really take back prayers that He had answered? - I have loved this place. Frankly, I think that editing and correcting someone's idea is not right. Artist writes about what he/she feels and it can't be edited. If you would like to hear my opinion as a reader, I will then. Thank you and wish you healing fully, Cass. I wish it for myself also. <3

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