I Am Hungry. I Am Thirsty. I Am Dirty.

Shame. Guilt. Regret. Sorrow. Pain. Anger. Worthlessness. These words won’t stop running through my heart and my mind as I sit here in the mud once again. My stomach grumbles, reminding me of the food I haven’t eaten in several days. I am hungry. I am thirsty. I am dirty.

Look at me. Who would ever want me, anyway? I think back to my time as a servant girl in the castle of the King. I never did get to meet Him. I was always scrubbing the floors, cleaning the kitchen, setting the royal table. But I was never able to catch a glimpse of Him. I suppose it is all for the better, anyhow. Everyone always said He was strict, cold-hearted, and short-tempered. Even still, despite all the rumors, there’s always been a longing deep inside me to see the King and His Son. The warm, sweet scent of freshly baked bread suddenly brings me back to reality; where I am hungry, where I am thirsty, and where I am dirty.

I look for the source of such a wonderful fragrance and am confused, since I am miles outside the nearest village of the kingdom. I spot a hooded traveler walking along the cold, dusty road. My mind rationalizes that he’s on a journey, so he must have brought food with him. As I continue to watch him walk (at this point, he’s such a small figure at such a great distance away, I can’t even see his face), I am intrigued by his demeanor and the way he carries himself. He almost looks as though he were on a mission, with determined steps, as though he were searching for something. He holds his head high with confidence, and yet steps gently with humility. Even from this far away, I can see that this man is thoughtful and kind. He stops frequently, either to help some wounded, freezing animal along the road (many of which I saw on my way here), or to take in the scenery around him. The latter I can’t understand. This the ugliest part of the kingdom’s countryside, but as he gets closer, I can see that he looks at everything as if it were the most beautiful thing he’s ever laid eyes on. As I grow more and more confused, I lose interest, and the thoughts and the memories come tearing through again, reminding me of the reason why I am hungry, why I am thirsty, and why I am dirty.

Cold wind whips across my face, stinging my whole body, as my mind goes back to just a few nights before. I was locking up the horses’ stable when a cold, familiar hand covered my mouth, and the other roughly made its way up my waist, up my side, my chest. Those icy hands could belong to no one else. He visited me frequently, whenever he was feeling particularly lonely, and threatened to get me thrown onto the streets if I told anyone. Year after year, he used me, leaving nothing behind but a hardened heart and an empty soul each time. The most recent night was different. Someone happened to come out of the castle, for some reason I have yet to figure out, since I am- or was- always the last person inside for the night. Whoever it was saw as he was greedily forcing his lips on mine, and called out to us. My abuser jumped and then began to oh-so-innocently explain how I had attacked him, how it was all my fault, how I was guilty, and that he hadn’t said anything for fear of tainting the King’s honorable reputation with talk of an immoral servant girl living in His royal castle. I couldn’t take it anymore, so, half-dressed, I ran through the slippery streets, through the cutting wind, and eventually ended up here, in the mud, where I am hungry, where I am thirsty, and where I am dirty. I decide that rest would be an oasis compared to the excruciating pain of revisiting the past, so I cry myself into a fitful sleep.

I am woken by a warm, comforting hand on my forehead. I jolt up and cower away, for I’ve never experienced a loving touch from a man before. I look up and find myself in the most unforgettable eyes. Eyes that speak so that His lips don’t have to. They whisper concern and worry for me, as He tries again, and this time, succeeds, in lifting a strong, gentle hand to my face, which I now remember is covered in mud. It seems as though He hasn’t noticed that I am half-dressed and filthy, and if He has, it doesn’t faze Him. His eyes speak care and gentleness, as He pulls out a small bottle that contains water combined with the sweetest, most expensive fragrances in all of the kingdom. His eyes speak selflessness as tears His own clothes and uses the torn rags as a cloth to wipe the tears and the dirt off of my face. His eyes speak understanding when He hands me the makeshift towel to wash the rest of me. He turns around while I clean up and marvel at this man, who has every opportunity, and frankly, every right, since I’m just a servant, to look at and take advantage me, and yet, chooses to respect and honor me as a person, and not to treat me like an object, like other men have before. When I finish, I tap His shoulder and hand Him the bottle and the rag. I want to thank Him, but I am left speechless as His eyes shout mercy and grace as He removes His coat and wraps it around my bare, shivering shoulders. I try, once again, to offer my gratitude, but am interrupted as His eyes sing love over me, as He reaches into His bag and gives me bread and water, I hungrily accept, and by the time I am done, I have no words to offer anymore. All I can think is that my hunger is satisfied, my thirst is quenched, and I am no longer dirty- I am clean.

All that time, I was so lost in His eyes that I hadn’t noticed the glorious, shining crown He revealed on His head after removing His coat until now. I am filled with shock, with awe and wonder, and with humility, as I slowly realize that I am standing in the presence of my King. He seems to read my mind, because a radiant smile spreads across His face, and as He pulls me into His arms and holds me tight, I hear Him say, “You are beautiful. You are worthy. You are loved.”