The Messenger of Love
by Laurie Kolp
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you and watch over you.
~ Psalm 32:8
Penny stopped dead in her tracks. The road should be in front of her instead of the meandering brook which was blocking her path. She was sure she had retraced her steps correctly. Was she lost?
Follow the river upstream, or you will go in circles. Penny heard her father’s wise words echo through her mind. He had told her many times as a child what to do if she ever got lost in the Piney Woods. A brook leads to a river leads to activity. She heeded his advice and began walking along the trickling stream.
Above the tall timbers, a warm March sun peeked through cirrus clouds; but Penny felt chilled and afraid. All she had wanted to do was go on a stroll, get some fresh air. It had been a spontaneous decision. Penny had pulled her car over to the side of the road and locked her purse in the trunk. She had forgotten her cell phone was in the bag. Now she was lost and her family thought she had gone to the store. They would never know where to find her.
Penny decided to stop and rest when she happened upon a tree stump. Exasperated and tired, she put her face in her hands and began to pray. She asked God to help her find her way home. She cried until there were no more tears. Then she lifted her head and opened her eyes to the most beautiful sight she had ever seen.
Right in front of her stood a cherry red cardinal. His head was cocked to one side and his eyes stared pensively into Penny’s. She had never been so close to a bird in her life, let alone such a beauty. She drank in every last detail of his intricate feathers and alluring symmetry. The whole time, the cardinal kept his eyes on hers.
A peaceful rapture spread through Penny’s body as if she had taken a swig of whiskey. Her chill was replaced with a blanket of warmth. Penny instinctively knew everything would be okay.
At that very moment of clarity, the crimson bird hopped away from the water. He turned his head and looked at her. For some reason, Penny knew what to do. She followed the bird’s lead, the whole time praying.
The tiny leaps forward soon transformed into bigger spans as the cardinal continued to lead the way. Each time he moved forward, he turned his head and waited for Penny to catch up. They were advancing deeper into the thick forest, but Penny was not the least bit scared.
Before long, they came to a small gap in the woods. A pine tree had fallen and Penny had to climb over the rough bark to proceed. She remembered passing the same spot on her venture into the maze of mile-high trees. Penny was grateful for the reassurance that she was doing the right thing.
The light may have been fading as dusk drew near, but the warm comfortable glow within kept Penny hopeful. The cardinal was now flying low and stopping just short of disappearing from Penny’s sight. She sensed his urgency and quickened her steps.
What seemed like hours later, but was actually only thirty minutes, Penny began to hear the familiar sound of cars zipping by. She had finally reached the road. She turned her head to the left and spotted the splotch of red atop her car. The cardinal had led her safely out of the woods. When she turned toward her car, the bird flew away.
Penny had gotten lost in the woods and asked God for help. He had sent Penny a cardinal as red as love to guide her through the forest and back to her car. She had taken a leap of faith, hoping that she was doing the right thing. She listened to her instincts, was reassured through serenity, and found her way home. All she had to do was reach out for help and open her heart. Who would have known such a blessing would arise from being lost in the woods?