Surrounded by a dark forest of trees that all look exactly the same.
Rain drenches her hair and she can no longer decipher between the raindrops and the tears on her cheeks.
To her right, she sees flames.
To her left, she sees a tornado.
Which path does she choose?
Because right now, both look scary and painful and possibly deathly.
She screams toward the Heavens and asks God why He has left her to forge her own path.
She doesn't want to do it.
She doesn't want to be bruised and scarred. She wants to stay whole.
But God tells her she will learn more about herself this way, that she will grow to understand the world more in depth and be filled with an empathy for others that she could've never known any other way.
He promises her He won't leave.
But she isn't sure she can trust anyone, even the God who created her and knows her entire path.
Because if God was just, would He really tell her to choose between a tornado and a wildfire? Wouldn't He find another way to open her eyes to empathy and understanding? Wouldn't He shield her from pain?
It is at this moment when she remembers God was not responsible for placing her between a wildfire and a tornado. He did not bring her here.
She is here through the choices of herself and others in her life.
Opposition in all things.
She is here because God gave His children the ability to make choices, right or wrong. Because He knew that forcing His children to follow a specific path would not teach them that they are capable of making those choices on their own.
And then she understands why He has promised her a deeper understanding in the midst of her pain.
Because her pain will teach her. She will learn how to love deeper.
Without knowing pain, she won't truly know the deepest joy.
But although she understands, she is so very scared.
She is afraid of what will happen in the midst of a fire. She is afraid she may not make it out alive.
And she is afraid that if she does make it out alive, no one will want to be around her because she will be broken.
Do people ever fully come back from being broken?
She steps toward the wildfire, knowing she is about to be burned but seeing no other options.
Her eyes dart left and right, looking for the best path, and they lock on a person caught in the worst part of the fire.
Does she save them and hurt herself more? Or does she take the path less painful?
She knows the answer. God has taught her the answer.
And so she runs straight into the middle of the wildfire and begins to pull the other woman to safety on the other side.
The fire sears her skin and she screams out in pain. It is in the middle of this fire that she feels her deepest pains immensely.
She feels all of the pain from divorce and custody battles and believing she will never be loved by a man again. She remembers the friends who betrayed her and the ones who just silently left unexpectedly. She feels all of the times she has felt fat and ugly and stupid and annoying.
And she considers giving up.
But she keeps going because she believes there is still life on the other side.
When they finally make it to the other side, she looks to the woman and realizes this woman is now holding her.
And she realizes that although God did not stop the pain, He placed them there together to ease the burden of going through this alone.
Their pain was different but it didn't matter.
Whether for today or for the rest of their lives, they belonged to each other.
Because although hurt people have the potential to hurt other people, they also have the potential to help other people.
And in the midst of this excruciating pain, they had chosen to help each other.
It isn't over.
It may never be fully over.
But as the days pass, her wounds begin to heal.
And although she looks over the horizon and sees many mountains ahead, she knows she can move them. She knows that God will not leave her in the middle of a storm, even when she tries to convince herself that He does.
She knows she can keep going. And that along the way, she will find others to help. And in return, she will find them carrying her when she needs to be carried.
Because she understands that everyone has pain.
Everyone needs someone.
And we belong to each other.