The long and tortuous night was almost over. Eliza’s feet hurt, her back ached, and she was exhausted from hours of trudging. The pack she carried grew heavier with each step. Her eyes were bleary from fatigue. Despite her weariness, she was driven on by the worry in Mama’s eyes and the edge in Papa’s voice. She knew their freedom, and possibly their lives, depended on finishing this trek.
Eliza’s family brought up the rear of the multitude. She chanced another look behind her, her eyes darting right and left, hoping to see her forbidden love. Still, all she could see filling the gap from the wall of water to the north to the identical wall to the south was the same unchanging cyclone. The swirling pillar seemed to be a mix of fire and clouds. It provided light to their path, yet darkness behind. The thick column had trailed them all night, concealing them from their pursuers as they crossed the vast canyon carved into the sea. Streaks of purple and orange now painted its eastern edge as the sun eased over the horizon, reminding her of how many hours they had spent on this terrifying journey.
“Daughter! Don’t fall behind. We’ve almost made it.”
Eliza’s head snapped forward. “Coming Papa.” Hours spend in the mist drizzling from the raging waters had drenched Eliza’s cloak, damping her tunic beneath, and chilling her to the bone. “God, I don’t have it in me to continue. Osaze is there in the throng pursuing us. Please grant us both strength.” Her legs found new speed and her feet caught her up with her family.
Just as she spied the grassy bank marking the end of the crossing, a stone, poking from the mud of the riverbed, caught the toe of Eliza’s sandal. The weight of her pack threw her off balance; she fought to keep her footing. She lurched, tottered. The blue scarf covering her head dropped to the rutted bed of the vacated sea. Tears of frustration welled as she turned and knelt down to retrieve it. Low to the ground, she finally caught sight of determined soldiers on horseback and in chariots frightfully close to the fleeing Hebrews. Eliza’s breath caught and she froze, petrified with terror.
One face at the front of the throng swam into focus and her heart leapt – Osaze! So close to her. She floundered in conflicting emotions, and her father’s voice seemed to come from a great distance. “Eliza! Do not delay!”
Eliza snatched up the sodden scarf, struggled to her feet, and turned to take the last few steps. The others had already left the sea bed and made it onto the bank; she was the last. As her feet made landfall the roar of the waters intensified, and she whipped around. The fiery, cloudy, pillar was diminishing, and she beheld the sea tumbling back into place, burying their path and threatening the pursuing soldiers. Forgetting all reason, she dropped her belongings and dashed into the tumult. She could still reach Osaze and rescue him from the waters.
“Osaze!” Frantic, Eliza screamed the name of her love. Over the thundering din, she made out his voice, returning her call. She sighted him again, much closer now. He had been knocked from his mount and was struggling to gain his footing in the knee-deep swell. Fully soaked now, Eliza reached out and grabbed his arm. “I’ll help you!”
Staggering, sputtering, slogging, clinging to each other, they made it to the grass and fell to the ground as the full brunt of the sea filled the void. They watched, shivering and stunned, as Osaze’ fellow soldiers were tossed like flotsam and crumpled bodies were washed to shore.
“Thank you, Eliza, for saving me.” His voice was hoarse from the long, cold, night and the choking waters.
Eliza cast her eyes down, searching for words. She then meekly turned to face her love. “Remember all I have told you about the One True God?”
“Yes. The Great I Am who sent the plagues. I have been thinking much about Him.”
“It was God who saved you. I was but a humble tool in His hands. And it was He who delivered us, His people, from bondage and parted the sea before us.”
Osaze contemplated the Reed Sea, once again level and full, considering her words. “Only a great and mighty God could have performed such a miracle. Only a loving God would do this for His people.”
“He has a purpose for your continued life. Thank Him for your salvation, and put your faith in Him. He will never fail you.”
Osaze nodded. Eliza took his hand, and together they prayed.
Catrina Bradley grew up in Iowa, but now calls Georgia home. She is happily married to her much better half, has a wonderful 23 year-old daughter, and a precious, long-haired dachshund named Lady.