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Refreshment in Refuge

    by Gina Burgess

Love knows no bounds
Date Posted: August 22, 2021

Rain plinked on the roof, or it might have been frozen rain, I was too tired to take enough interest to look. It was a soothing sound far outweighed by the splattering of rain in the puddles. The dampness soaked into my clothes and settled into my bones. The small blaze in the brazier finally gave up the fight against the cold and went out. I shivered.

Slipping the roped leather sandals from my feet, I tossed them to the corner of my bed and tucked my feet under me to warm them. I succeeded in chilling the only part of my body that had any warmth left. I brushed dirt from the thin sheet, my hand found a worn place and my broken nail caught a thread, tearing a hole in the only thing I owned between me and the cold winter.

The bed on which I sat, and the box it filled, for it could not be called a room at all, belonged to the man whose back I was watching. His coat was thick with animal fur and his turban was wound around his head in thick braids with a double portion protecting his neck. I didn’t have to see his face. It held a permanent expression of displeasure even when he was taking his pleasure, if you know what I mean. He snarled his words. As each day passed into night he would allow man after man to look in my box, and when they would shake their heads refusing me, his disposition got increasingly malevolent.

I know what they saw. I had no comb so my hair was ratty and dirty. I had no bath so my body was caked with dirt and grime. I had no perfume so the stink was unbearable. I was not old in years, but I was very old in experience.

There was no escape from this box or from the cold so I dreamed about a different time.

My feet were in soft, hand-worked leather slippers. My body was draped with silk and a girdle of gold about my small waist. I smelled of the finest perfume and my hair was soft against my cheek. My husband settled a stole of softest fur around my chilled shoulders. I lifted my cheek for his kiss and waved him on his way. As soon as I heard the door close, I rose and powdered myself. Without a thought to the babes in their cribs, I ran to meet my lover. I melted in his arms. His strength was beyond bearing. His weight was a seal upon my heart. His breath was sweet and his passion was intense. I savored the glow of pleasure. I craved it. More and more I needed the release of it. I dressed in the gifts of my husband. I ate what he gave me but I craved pleasure from another.

I tried to recall my first lover. His face was blank above me. I was not married then. I was free to choose when I would take pleasure. I flitted from one to another, tasting what was offered and offering myself for tasting. Sensuous pleasure lasts for such a fleeting moment. I craved it more and more so I became party-hungry, going home with whomever I could coax into my bed, far grander than the one I sat upon at the moment. I gathered gifts from my lovers… fig trees and grape vines. I had a forest.

After I married, I saw no reason to change my ways. He knew what I was when he married me. So what? Yes… Yes… He gave me all I could ever have wanted. But, he also gave me children! My body changed and bloated and I thought I would never get it back. After months of working at it and refusing those succulent morsels from my table, I finally got my slim form back.

Then, I slipped from my husband's arms and ran to the lover I had seduced before the pregnancy. He didn’t want me! He slammed the door in my face!

I went to the next one. He said I disgusted him… a far different tune he had been playing in my bed. I met wall upon wall and had no where to find pleasure... or comfort.

So. I returned home. My feet dragged in the dust. I had chased so many lovers, I had worn holes in my shoes and blisters rose on my tender feet. The path was hot. The sun beat on my back. My throat dried up and I craved water more than any thing I had ever wanted. I stopped at our well, but the bucket came up empty of water, but full of mud.

Winter wind blew in the opening of my box, spraying my face with cold rain. It was just as well for what I was remembering heated my face with shame, and I had no desire to remember what happened next. It was too humiliating… too painful. I scrubbed my face with the thin sheet, and some of the grime transferred from my face to it. This is probably why the next man to poke his head into my box decided to taste my wares. Money clinked from one hand to another and I transported my mind from this box back to that hot day. What was the difference? The shame was the same.

I stood there staring into that bucket, my thirst to a point of a dry, cracked river bottom. My tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth. That day every secret was exposed and I could not have defended myself even if I had that desire.

That day, my husband called a meeting in the gates.

Jezreel, my oldest born, came flying from the doorway. He fell to his knees and his pleas were just a jumble of words. Loruhammah, my lovely daughter added her cries to those of her brother's for Loammi had joined us by the well. After some moments, I dropped the bucket and tried to sort out their distress. All of life stood still as I gazed at their faces streaked with tears. Surely thunder cracked overhead when the lightening strike of understanding hit my thirst-craved mind. Their names made sense to me for the very first time. God Will Sow… No Mercy… for you are Not My People.

No Mercy. Not my people. Not my wife. Disowned. Rejected. No Mercy. My fright exceeded my shame for surely the stones would pound me into death. That was the Law. That was my sentence for what I had brazenly and shamelessly done.

In a way I was blessed, for that is not what happened to me. I had been tossed out with nothing save the clothes on my back. No wonder I landed in a box the size of a small bed with a mattress of dirty straw and a thin sheet for warmth. He disowned me, but I sold myself to another for food and a box. I had valued things over Him. I loved silks and perfumes rather than my children. I craved those fleeting moments of pleasure rather than the warmth and strength of my husband’s arms. I chose the raspy voices of many over the sweet words of love offered by my husband. I chose drunkenness over refreshing waters. I desired sweets rather than roasted meat and therefore I was starving. I was thirsty. I was blind to the true treasure which was what my husband provided. I was wretched.

Icy tears slid from my closed eyes. I had not even noticed when the latest invasion had left my cold bed. I curled into a ball and let the tears flow. I lost it all. No hope. No love for me. I had it all, but tossed it away like a dirty rag.

I heard the chink of coin again and groaned. Not another! How much more could I endure?

“Aiyi! From the looks of it, this is your day of fortune!” the raspy voice of my owner raked over my nerves as he jiggled and poked me to sit up.

“Eh?” I rubbed my eyes and looked at the veiled face in front of me. It was of such fine, thin material his breath ruffled it from his face for he was male, all male, broad of shoulder and thick of arm. His chest expanse seemed to fill the box opening. Fear snaked through me. This brawny brute could do lots of painful things with those hammer arms if he so chose.

“Fifteen pieces of silver! Ha! Not even the going rate for a slave girl. You are not worth the spit from my mouth so I have sold you. I will eat well for all winter with my 17 bushels of barley and my 15 pieces of silver! You, my ugly one, have provided well for me this night. Be off with you. No! Leave the sheet. I paid good money for it and will need it later.”

I scrambled from the box and blinked in the rain. With no covering for my head, my hair was soon soaked and my clothes clung to my thin body for all to see each bony angle. Grime ran in rivulets down my back and legs. The man slipped a fur lined cloak around my shoulders. It was warm from his body and held a scent of…

I glanced up quickly. The eyes were so different from the last time I’d looked into them. Gone was the anger and fire. In their place was something I had not seen since the day of my marriage. It was gentleness and mercy and compassion. Those eyes held the kindest expression. His arm was wrapped warmly around my cold shoulders and then He swept me up into his snug embrace. Where I had foolishly chased dreams with no substance, he offered kindness and I grabbed it with all my being.

“You will be with me for the rest of your life,” he whispered to me, his breath warm in my ear. “No longer will you lay on your back for coin. No more sleeping around with others. I betroth you to me forever. This time our wedding will be full of feasting and dancing and your eyes will be only for me and mine for you. To you I am no longer Baali. You will call me Ishi… My beloved husband. I will give you vast vineyards and precious treasures, but your greatest treasure is your Ishi. Come rejoice with me, Beloved.”

Hosea 2:14-20 Therefore, behold, I will lure her and bring her to the wilderness, and speak to her heart. 15 And from there I will give her vineyards to her, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope. And she shall answer there as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. 16 And at that day, says Jehovah, you shall call Me, My husband; and you shall no more call Me, My Baal. 17 For I will take away the names of the Baals out of her mouth; and they shall no more be remembered by their name. 18 And in that day I will cut a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the birds of the heavens, and the creepers of the ground. And I will break the bow and the sword, and the battle out of the earth, and I will make them to lie down safely. 19 And I will betroth you to Me forever. Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in mercy, and in compassions. 20 I will even betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know Jehovah.

Isaiah 61:10 Rejoicing I will rejoice in Jehovah. My soul shall be joyful in my God. For He clothed me with garments of salvation; He put on me the robe of righteousness, even as a bridegroom dons as a priest his head-dress, and as a bride wears her ornaments.

Refurbished from a column in 2006

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Biography Information:
Gina Burgess has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training for almost three decades. (Don't tell her that makes her old.) She earned her Master's in Communication in 2013.

She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.

If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection

Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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