Signs of Spring
by Madison Wheatly
I’ve lost him. At last.
Jumping a fence, I was swallowed up by shadows of the towering timbers beyond my foster family’s backyard. Overhead, a nor’easter surged, dumping a good foot of snow over central Maine.
It was the worst storm of the year, and I was running away, wearing no boots and only a thin jacket to shield me from the bitter cold. In my rage following an argument with my foster father, I had stormed out of the house without a second thought.
My strength was flagging as I trod over the slick blanket of snow and ice. As the forest thickened, I had to slow to a brisk walk and plan each step with more precision.
But as I walked, I heard something. Boots crunching behind me, a deep voice calling my name.
He’s still following me?!
Against my better judgment, I broke into a jog, clumsily navigating the snow-coated underbrush. I didn’t know whether to be more impressed with or irritated at my foster father for making it this far, but I knew one thing: I wouldn’t let him catch me.
But when an especially deep snowbank devoured my legs like quicksand, I face planted in its biting softness. I fought to regain my footing, but my legs were like jelly. I stood, then slipped on a stone, knocking my head against the bark of a white birch as I flailed and fell.
And there it was again—that steady sound of boots crunching in the snow. Tears stung my eyes as I tried to push back the regret and shame that welled up with every muffled footfall.
I was too weak run anymore, though. When my foster father lifted me up and led me out of the woods, all I could do was complain.
Me: Leave me alone.
Him: Where were you planning on going? You coulda died out here.
Me: Like you care.
Him: You know I do.
The lack of anger in his voice—even after all the vile things I had said to him earlier, even after I had led him into the cold and the dark—made my heart ache. There was only hurt in his words. Deep hurt and sorrow.
I didn’t first learn about God’s love through reading the Bible. I didn’t experience it during church. In my short life, I had been preached at and prayed at, and to no avail. I thought, if God really loved me, He wouldn’t have let me be born to useless parents. He wouldn’t have let the State bounce me from home to home, fake family to fake family.
But as my foster dad led me to my bedroom, piling extra blankets in my arms and bidding me to get some rest while he called the doctor, the icy walls that had choked my spirit began to thaw—gradually, gently. I drifted off to sleep, dreaming that Heavenly arms were carrying me through a bleak, frigid forest.
Me: Like you care.
God: You know I do.