Yesterday in church, I was reminded of a story I heard once. I’ll write it in first person. It goes like this:
“She stood behind the cement wall, not moving. A tiny girl of only 4, her whole world was the wall. Tall and unmoving, she would stand with an innocent smile on her face, not seeing the grass, or the flowers, or the trees around her. The wall stood 12 feet tall, 3 feet thick, and 8 feet wide. Her nose was only 4 inches from the face of the wall, and her feet stood on the cement pad that the wall was built upon.
Her world was the wall. Around her was a beautiful meadow filled with the most luscious green grass you could ever want to touch. Within the grass were waves and waves of purple flowers, gently rocking in the breeze.
Yet, she couldn’t turn her head to look at them. She was frozen, looking straight ahead, only seeing the gray that was before her.
The ring of trees around the meadow stood tall, and foreboding. A wall to keep her in, just in case she chose to break free.
But she never did.
She was frozen behind the wall, a picture of innocence and love, just…..waiting. Not knowing that life could be so much more.
I walked to that meadow with my saviour. He was tall, and quiet. I didn’t know where we were going, but I trusted in his steady footsteps to lead the way, and keep me safe. We walked along a rocky path that wound through a meadow, up a small hill sprinkled with flowers along each side, and back down again, until we stood in front of the forest.
I do not know what is on the other side of the woods. I simply know that they are black. Not just dark, but black.
I can feel that there is darkness inside of there. I do not want to go in.
But I am told by him that there is one on the other side who needs to be set free. She is just standing there, waiting for me. He says this with love and compassion, and understanding, in his eyes.
I tell him that I can’t go through the woods. They are dark and scary, and I don’t have the strength to face the darkness.
He looks towards the dark trees, and then back at me.
‘I will go first, and the darkness will run before me. Stay behind me, and my light will keep you safe.’
Before I know it, he has entered the dark woods, and my feet are following right behind. As soon as he sets foot inside the darkness, it vanishes. Each step he takes reveals another step on the path. His light creates a safe bubble within the darkness, and I know within the depths of my heart that I am safe. I do not fear the darkness as long as I am with him.
When we step out on the other side, I see all that is before me. I see the flowers, the grass, the clear blue sky. I see the ring of trees that surround the meadow, and I shudder inside knowing the suffocating darkness that is there.
Then I look to the center of the meadow, and I see the wall. It seems so final, and strong. It is a stark monument in the middle of beauty, and I know that someone is trapped there and I need to see who it is.
My saviour nods his head, and I know its okay for me to go walk on my own to see. As I walk through the meadow the coolness of the grass tickles my feet, and the delicious aroma of the flowers wafts gently to my nose. I breathe deeply, and enjoy this moment of perfection.
When I reach the wall, I look up as it towers above me. I don’t know why, but it seems familiar. I step to the side, and peak my head around. The little girl just stands there, with her nose close to the wall, not moving. I recognize her face, even from this angle.
She is me.
I want so badly to grab her hand and run away, back through the dark woods, back to freedom.
But I can’t. I turn and flee this reality, and run back to him.
He tells me it’s not time yet, but soon. And then he turns to start walking back through the darkness. I shudder in thinking of walking again through the oppressive night that is in there, but I shudder even more thinking of the little girl who is trapped behind the wall.
We walk back out through the woods, his light banishing the darkness as we go, keeping me safe.
When we reach the other side we again walk up the hill, leaving the woods behind. Leaving her behind. I don’t want to go, but my saviour says it’s not time yet, and I trust him.
Days later, we come back. We walk along the same rocky path as before, up the hill, and back down again. We stop in front of those same woods, in the same spot, where we stood before. I can feel the heat of the darkness reaching out to me, calling me. I am very afraid.
This time, he turns to me, and says that the girl needs to be set free. He tells me that I am the one to do it, to go in and get her.
I think, ‘no problem,’ until he says that I must walk through the darkness without him in front of me this time.
‘NO!’ I cry out, for I know the bleak and utter despair that was just swirling outside of his light, wanting to capture me and drag me in. I cannot face it without his light.
He looks at me and gently says, ‘you won’t.’
My saviour then starts to take off his armor. I hadn’t realized he was wearing any before. As he takes each piece off, he gently turns, and places it on my body. Boots, shin, knees, waist, breastplate, shoulders, arms, helmet. When he is done, I am covered from head to toe. Light breathes out from me….his light. Even though I have a coat of armor on, it is as light as air.
He then takes out his sword, and puts it in my hand. ‘Let the sword of my light guide you through, and let the armor of my body be your shield.’
Secure in this, I step into the darkness. I am terrified. The darkness seems to reach out to me as I press forward. But just as it comes close, the light from Him reaches out and chases it away. With each step I grow more bold and confident, and know what I must do.
When I reach the other side, I breath deeply the fresh air of the meadow. But only for a second. I have a mission.
I walk to the wall, that unmoving, immeasurably strong wall. I walk around the side, and look at the girl. This time, she turns her head to me, and smiles. She trusts me, I can see it in her eyes. I gently ask her if she wants to come out from there. She simply nods her head, yes.
With that, I take a deep breath, jump on top of the wall, and with one swipe of his sword, destroy the wall. In an instant, all that kept the girl trapped for all time, vanished.
She blinks her eyes a few times, and looks around. For the first time she sees the flowers, and the grass. A smile plays on her lips.
Then she see the woods. They are black, and they scare her to her core.
‘It’s okay,’ I say to her. ‘Take my hand, and we will walk out together.’
With nary a backward glance or a question, she puts her tiny hand in mine. As we walk towards the line of trees, her hand tightens.
‘I’ve got you. See all this shiny armor, and this big sword? I have a friend who this belongs to, and he really wants to meet you. He is kind, and gentle, and he filled me with his power so that I could come and get you. We’ll be okay walking through the darkness because he is our shield, and he is with us.’
She looks up at me with big eyes, and nods yes.
We walk, hand in hand, into the darkness.
And before us, the darkness flees. Through the oppressive, stifling heat of the forest we trudge, the sword of his truth held before us. Not a single drop of darkness touches us. And we are not afraid.
When we reach the other side, my savior is right there. He smiles and nods at me, saying ‘well done’ with his eyes and his heart. I hear the words deep within me, though no words are spoken. He then looks down at her, and smiles.
‘This is my friend,’ I say. ‘He is strong and he is kind. He’s the one who gave me the strength to bring you out.’
She smiles up at him, and takes his hand. She has faith in him. He rescued her. She didn’t realize the world she lived in, until he came and revealed it. Now, he has set her free. She trusts him, and knows that she will always be safe in his arms. She won’t ever let go.
She is free.”
What has he set you free from?