Learnin’

I told a dear friend of mine today that if God was using all of this craziness to grow me, then I would be thankful for it, despite the pain and hurt.

After the text was sent that held that message, I stopped for a minute and just pondered whether or not that was truly true. Am I thankful? Eeesh…I think so. There are some days that I scream for the Lord to take this cup from me….doesn’t seem very thankful behavior.

But.

I am growing. In ridiculously amazing ways. I’ve learned to depend so heavily on the Lord, because, honestly, I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Not a Sunday School answer of always seeking God first, but more of a Skid Row answer of reaching an undefinable pit and having nowhere else to look but up. Wish I would have proved more faithful from the get-go…but I didn’t. I’m just thankful that my Jesus happens to like the folks on Skid Row.

I know God is growing me. I can feel it. I can see it. There are days that I think I’ve grown plenty, and tell the Lord so, giving Him my permission to grant the desires of my heart. And then I can almost hear Him chuckle, and I settle back in for more growing. He and I have many a conversation about just how much is enough. So far, my only answer is “wait.”

I guess He’s not done. Or I’m not a fast learner. Probably both.

Some of you who know me, know that Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling is a book that was delivered to me from the post office of Heaven itself. God has spoken such peace through my veins throughout my days with just a few words from that one little book. (My Public Service Announcement for the day: If you don’t have it, get it. Like yesterday.)

Today’s entry was no different….

Jesus Calling — November 29
Let Me infuse My Peace into your innermost being. As you sit quietly in the Light of My Presence, you can sense Peace growing within you. This is not something that you accomplish through self-discipline ad willpower; it is opening yourself to receive My blessing.

In this age of independence, people find it hard to acknowledge their neediness. However, I have taken you along a path that has highlighted your need for Me: placing you in situations where your strengths were irrelevant and your weaknesses were glaringly evident. Through the aridity of those desert marches, I have drawn you closer to Myself. You have discovered flowers of Peace blossoming in the most desolate places. You have learned to thank Me for hard times and difficult journeys, trusting that through them I accomplish My best work.You have realized that needing Me is the key to knowing Me intimately, which is the gift above all gifts.

Isn’t that beautiful? And so very true.

The book of Isaiah speaks often about streams in the deserts, strong trees in the wildernesses, and growth where there once was nothing but desolation. I not only claim those promises for my marriage, but also in me.

It’s hard to be thankful for all of this. Of course, it is. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. Being thankful when everything in you wants to just drop down and give up borders on torture for this fleshly body.

But, God’s way is better.

Hard or not.

Because with His Way comes those undiscovered flowers of Peace and His best work.

I’ll take Peace for $1000, Alex.

Perfect Peace

“Blessings” by Laura Story has been a song that I have used as a crutch through this whole process. I’ve kept the song on repeat through many many a long night. Today, on what some might call a whim, but I say it was Jesus telling me to do it, I downloaded all of Laura’s “Great God Who Saves” album. I know why I did now. Every song has spoken the words of the Lord straight to my heart. Love. Absolutely love.

This song is my favorite for today and where I am finding myself for this moment.

Of Cottages, Cities, and Castles.

O Lord…for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things planned long ago. You have made the city a heap of rubble, the fortified town a ruin, the foreigners’ stronghold a city no more; it will never be rebuilt….You have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat……Surely this is our God; we trusted Him, and He saved us. ~~Isaiah 25: 1-2, 4, 9

The village was quaint. The cottages were aligned neatly in cursive rows with their thickly thatched roofs and colorful carved shutters. It was the kind of village that allowed for unlocked doors by night and cobblestone streets filled with carefree children by day. Clotheslines draped with fresh sun-kissed laundry. Fresh baked pies on windowsills. And the people seemed to always be happy. There was an air of joy that enveloped the tiny village, and the folks that lived there clung to it with a second-nature determination.

The village set serenely in a lush valley that provided every earth-born necessity the villagers could dream of. The rolling hills that surrounded the valley were lush, as well, but the villagers never had need of venturing out of their valley’s boundaries because they quite literally had everything that they could ever possibly need right in their own backyards. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the valley, though, was the gorgeous view that the village had of one hill in particular.

Atop that hill set a castle.

A beautiful castle. Complete with romantic spires and handsome walls. Lush ivy crept up the stonework, and the freshly polished armor of the attending guards always shone like diamonds in the sun. The castle was a sight to behold for anyone lucky enough to behold it, but to the villagers, in particular, the castle was a true gem. And each afternoon, all activity in the village would stop; all the villagers would come out to the middle of town; all eyes would turn to the castle; and someone in the crowd would call out: Come! And then they would wait.

For Him.

For each afternoon, without fail, at the sound of the villager’s call, the gleaming polished soldiers would stand at attention on the castle walls, the drawbridge would lower, and the unmistakable sound of horse hoofs would clatter across the bridge and begin making their way down the road toward the village.

It was the Prince.

He had, for as long as any of the villagers could remember, made a habit of riding down into the village every afternoon, dismounting His fine horse, and spending several hours in the village. Some afternoons He would play street games with the children, laughing and playing and not worrying about getting His fine outfit dirty. Other times He would sit on a bench, sip coffee, and talk about the old times with the ole’timers. Still other times He would invite Himself into the kitchen of one fine village cook, eat a warm slice of pie, and sit and talk about nothing-at-all with the ladies of the town. Some days He would sing lullabies to the babies. Tell stories to the little girls. Climb trees with the boys. Go fishing with the menfolk. Whatever He chose to do each day, the villagers were always thrilled to see Him and always were certain of His true interest in each one of them. He was their Beloved Prince.

And so life went on in the village. Soon though, as if almost suddenly, because noone can even be sure of its beginning, the villagers stopped calling for the Prince to come and join their daily lives. They got caught up in their own affairs and would often times turn in for the night, only then to realize they had forgotten to call for the Prince that day. They would make promises and look to the castle and whisper in the moonlight: Tomorrow we will call. But it seemed that as the tomorrows would fall, the busyness of village life would creep in and empty whispers would be lifted each night on a continuous basis.

There were a very few villagers, however, that would call out to the Prince and ask Him to meet with them. The Prince would ride out to meet them, but would always meet for conversation and fellowship in a place away and secluded from the village, because, the Prince had explained, the whole village wasn’t asking to see Him. And so was the way life went on in the valley….

Until, however, one unsuspecting day, a simply dreadful mass of people made their way through the hills and down into the valley. These men and women were all dressed in a similar manner. Clothing so dark that it was hard to tell where one body stopped and the next started when all were standing so clumped together. The group seemed to almost float; making their way through the village peering eerily in open windows and stealing long stares with the villagers. Children were hurried into their homes and curtains were drawn as the stench of uncertainty began to pierce the air.

Leading the group was a very handsome gentleman dressed, too, in dark clothing, but unlike the members of the group, he was very distinct. He walked with a fierce posture, and his face seemed permanently attached to the smirk that took up so much of it. Under his arm he carried a large bundle of rolled up papers, which appeared to be blueprints of some kind. In his other hand, a large shovel. Upon closer look, the group members all were carrying tools and what seemed to be building materials.

When the dark mass arrived in the very center of the village, they stopped. The villagers that had dared to stay outside of their cottages followed and watched with complete curiosity. Their eyes were fixed.

Without hesitation, though, when the dark gentleman stopped, he immediately began unrolling his blueprints. After examining them for only a moment, he lifted his shovel high in the air, only to bring it crashing down onto the cobblestone. This is it. We shall build here. It was all he said. And with that, the crew who accompanied him set in right away on their project.

They worked quietly and, what seemed to be, effortlessly. Occasionally a worker would stop to consult with the gentleman, but then would get immediately back to work. The gentleman paced around the work site; keeping watch and wearing the silly smirk.

By now, the villagers were aghast. They had stood in shock and awe during the parade, but now were flabbergasted at the audacity of these dark strangers to waltz in and begin tearing up their cozy village with no rhyme or reason. A few villagers tried to object and put a stop to the building, but to no avail. Their objections were met only with a sickening throng of laughter and stiff shoves and pushes out-of-the-way. There was no question that these dark strangers were stronger than the villagers and had every intention of taking the village over for their own. All the villagers could do was sit back and watch.

As the morning hours ticked by, a strange sight began to take shape in the cobblestone streets. The helpless villagers watched as the form of a small city began to emerge. It was constructed out of what looked to be iron and steel, and the buildings that were built were immaculate. With a blink of an eye, another piece to the city appeared. And by noon, the entire village streets were filled to the brim with parts and pieces of this new, gleaming, cold fortress. The metal walls and streets pushed against the village’s small cottages, almost threatening to push them over and away. And the people had nowhere to go except into their homes to peer through their windows at the monstrosity.

Afternoon came and went, and evening fell. Construction on the hideous, beautiful city continued. And, in the midst of the shock, not one villager thought to recognize that the Prince had not made His way down the hill that day.

The next morning, though not much sleep was had on the part of the villagers that night, the valley awoke to a most obscene spectacle. The city had grown to ten times its size over night, and it now boasted ugly barred windows and doors and grotesque statues. It seemed cloaked in a dark shadow, and because of its huge expansion, had pushed the cottages out and away. Some of the cottages had been knocked over completely, and the neat rows were now replaced with a haphazard smattering all over the hillsides. The villagers stood in utter disbelief. They mumbled and grumbled amongst themselves as to how any of this was possible, yet none of them could come up with a solution to the huge mess that faced their tiny village.

It was about that time that a young villager who couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, spotted the castle setting high and untouched up on its majestic hillside. The Prince! The Prince! He’ll know what to do!

The whole lot of villagers, young and old, began running for the castle. Yes! The Prince will help us! But as they neared the hillside road, many villagers suddenly stopped and turned back.

We can’t go to the Prince. What would He think? That we can’t handle things on our own? Why, He’d think we were a bunch of helpless children. No. We won’t go to the Prince. We’ll figure this out on our own.

And just as they made their way back to the village, the iron gate was thrown open, and the smirking gentleman ushered the arrogant group into his leering city.

The remaining villagers, after watching what had happened, hurried all the more up the hill and had almost reached the drawbridge when the rest of the group (save a very few) stopped.

We can’t go to the Prince. Oh my goodness, we didn’t even notice that He didn’t come yesterday. Surely He was watching and waiting for us to call to Him, and we never did. How embarrassing. And, even worse, we haven’t been calling to Him in ages. No, we cannot face the Prince. It’s just too humiliating.

And with that, they turned back, made their way down to the village, only to be met almost immediately by the gentleman and his smirk. Into the city they went. The iron gates crashing behind them.

Only a small group of villagers remained, no more than can be counted on one hand. Although these had watched and pleaded with their friends and family to not be discouraged and turn back, they mustered up their courage and approached the castle walls.

The drawbridge lowered for them as if they had been expected. None of them had ever been near the castle before, so they entered cautiously and with great anticipation. And with a great shock, they were surprised to find the Prince himself waiting to greet them.

My dear people, why have you made the journey up the hill to see me? All you would have had to do was call me, and I would have been in your midst this very day.

Oh, great Prince, we are so confused and scared. A great and terrible thing has come to our village. We do not understand it. We are terribly frightened. Please, Prince, help us.

I have seen the terrible city take shape. I watched every second of its construction. It grieves me deeply to see such a horrid thing take over your precious valley, but you must understand that I am in control.

Then, Prince, put a stop to this right away! We long for things to return to the way that they were! Just say the word, and the city will flee. This is your valley, Prince, the man and his city will have to leave us alone.

My precious remnant of villagers, this is all too much for you to understand. Even if I explained My ways to you, you would not comprehend them. Do you love me and trust me enough to believe that I have our valley’s best in mind? That the plans I have for our valley are plans to prosper us, not to harm us?

Of course, Prince. We trust you.

Then, come, rest here. You will be safe from all that is happening in the village right now if you will just stay here.

And with that, the Prince led the remaining faithful villagers to a room plush with beds, couches, new clothes, and tables full of food. He stayed just long enough to make sure they were all comfortable, and then He left them with His finest attendants to watch over them.

The villagers took advantage of the room’s offerings, but before too long they made their way to the window that looked out over their village. What they saw did not so much amaze them as confirm to them the awesomeness of their Beloved Prince.

For down in the village, seated high on His majestic horse, was the Prince. He was just outside the iron city’s ugly blackened gates, and He was speaking with the gentleman with the smirk. Although, now, the villagers noticed, the man was hunched over; he had rid himself of his arrogant posture. His handsome face was now gnarled and scarred. And his smirk had turned to a grimace so sour and scornful. He looked as though he wanted to speak, but couldn’t. He had been silenced by the Prince.

The villagers craned their ears and could just make out the Prince’s words. This is my valley. This is my village. These are my people. Yes, it may appear as though they just let you come in here and take over and build up for yourself a fortress, but you are wrong. Because though you were able to lure many of the villagers into your lair, there are but a few that remained faithful to Me. They sought me out and believed that I, alone, could save their land. Because they have chosen to abide in Me, so shall I abide in them. And so, I command you to FALL!

With that, the most terrifying noise filled the valley. Popping iron and steel beams and bars echoed through the hills. The fortress began releasing itself wall by wall. Slowly at first. One wall would clang to the ground, and then another, until before long, the gigantic monstrosity had collapsed in entirety. Piercing screams filled the air as people ran; some caught in the rubble, others running for the hillsides without looking back. The men and women who worked for the gentleman fled for the hills, stumbling over their feet in an effort to get away. After the aftermath spoke of only total destruction, the Prince and the gentleman stood staring at each other; the only ones left in the village. The villagers in the castle now could barely make out the voice of the Prince as He spoke in almost a whisper.

You have tried to make a home here in this fine village. You did your best to tear it in two. But hope, faith, and love for Me trumped you today in this place. I command you to leave. This village will rebuild, and you are not welcome here.

Without so much as even the hint of an argument, the now-hunchedback gentleman turned and limped out of the village. He only stopped to pick up his blueprints, as if he had a thought to try his master plan in another village in another place.

After he was gone from sight, the Prince turned His horse and galloped back up the hill to see His precious faithful villagers. Upon seeing that He was returning, they dashed out of the room and ran to meet Him just inside the castle gates.

Oh, Prince! You have saved us! We praise You for being such a mighty and strong Prince! But what of our beautiful village?

My children, do not worry. Your village will be more beautiful than before. And I, myself, will help you rebuild.

***

It took awhile for the village to rebuild. The rubble from the city collapse had to be cleaned up and hauled away. Many cottages had to be completely torn down and rebuilt from scratch. The cobblestones had to be replaced. And many of the gardens and flowerbeds had to be retilled and planted. But everyday the villagers worked diligently on rebuilding and restoring their precious village. They kept a close eye on the hillsides to watch out for any looming danger or strangers that might be making their way into the valley. And they met together often to encourage each other in the hard rebuilding tasks.

The villagers made it a point to never miss a day of work on restoring their beautiful village.

And neither did the Prince.

He was always there. Always faithful. Just as He said He would.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I believe in beautiful. And I believe in hope. And in faith. And in the absolute sovereign ability of God to make beauty from ashes. I am clinging to the promises that my Beloved Prince has given me that He will be my refuge and my shelter, and that He will fight for me. I believe that He will cause the foreign cities in my marriage to fall, and that He will do marvelous things that He had planned long ago. I believe it. I just do.

I just do.

Please and Tired

I wonder sometimes if it is possible for me to ever pray another prayer.   I feel like I wear out the same words over and over.  Please deliver.  Please rescue.  Please comfort.  Please. Please. Please.

I’ve actually forgotten what it’s like to pray about or for anything other than something or someone attached to this whole maddening trial.  My praises even seem to all be related. 

I really don’t remember what it was like to pray for something differently.

Sigh.  Big heavy deep-breathed Sigh.

And I must tell you….I’m tired of praying about it.  I really am.  I’m tired of breathing prayers over my children because I know they’re hurting.  I’m tired of falling asleep at night talking to God about how much this hurts not only me, but so many others.  I’m tired of waking in the morning begging God that today will be the day that rescue and relief would come.  I’m tired of pleading for deliverance for my husband.  I’m just tired…

I’m so ready to talk to the Lord about something else.  To have something else on my mind.  To not connect the dots of absolutely everything and everyone that I come in contact with to this horribly stupid situation.  I’m so ready.

Beyond ready.

Like, I’m about to scream, ready.

Please, Lord Jesus, come quicklyPlease.

Hello. My name is Much-Afraid. And I’m….well….Afraid….

The Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.  –Habakkuk 3:19

There are very few things in my life that I cannot put a beginning to.  If I can’t pinpoint the exact time they entered my life, I at least can nail down an approximate sometime that they started…..

This, however……

 

…..has always just been around.

I would venture to say that this just might be one of my daddy’s favorite books of all-time.  And because of that, it’s held pretty sacred status on bookshelves and desktops throughout my homes since before I can even remember.   I can actually remember wondering What the heck is a ‘hind’ anyway?  And I was so confused as to why they would be on high places, because the only time I ever heard the word “hind” was when my mama would talk about swatting my “hind-end.”  Very confusing. 

But, when I was old enough to “get-it,” I was bestowed with my very own copy of Hannah Hurnard’s allegorical masterpiece.  Still have that yellow-paged copy somewhere. 

Sadly, even though I may have been old enough to technically “get-it,” I was in nowhere near the place I needed to be to truly appreciate the beauty in it. 

In fact, even over the too-high-to-even-count-’em times I’ve read the book in the past years, I’m not sure I’ve ever been in the place to truly appreciate and understand it fully.  I think I’ve always read it as a great piece of literature (because I’m one of those kinda girls), but also just as a really lovely portrait of God’s journey for us as He calls us to be His children.  A fairy tale of sorts.  And we already know how I feel about a good fairy tale.  And, though, I’ve always loved the book, it really has just taken that sort of honorary place on my own bookshelves and memory….. Basically, it’s been awhile since I’ve read it. 

But, God is amazingly cool in His orchestration.

Because just last night, my dear sweet friend sent me a text full of precious encouragement (on a night that I was about to throw in the towel, no less), and it simply said:

You are like little Much-Afraid holding hands with Sorrow and Suffering but the Master Shepherd knows you wanna go the HIGH PLACES.

 And that was enough.

Enough to cause me to go digging for my book.  And I’m a hot mess of weepy tears as I read its blessed promises as though I’ve never touched these pages of the story before.

Let me give you a brief summary just in case you haven’t read it before:

Much-Afraid is a crippled shepherdess who very much lives up to her name as she works in the service of the Great Shepherd down in the Valley of Humiliation.  By invitation of the Shepherd, Much-Afraid begins a very long and difficult journey to reach the High Places, a place of promise and hope and ultimate love and healing, a place where “perfect love casteth out fear.”  But, in order to reach the High Places, Much-Afraid must endure an onslaught of characters and obstacles that work their hardest to detour her from the path.  She meets Bitterness.  And Pride.  And Craven Fear.  And a host of others that almost master her, if it were not for the Great Shepherd’s unfailing help and love. 

Think Pilgrim’s Progress…..only easier to read.  And, not hatin’ on John Bunyan, but written much much much more beautifully.

Here’s where Jesus stepped in last night and said to me:  Read these words again, my little Much-Afraid, I had them written for you in this time.

Oh.boy.

There’s a certain part in the book when Much-Afraid and her faithful companions (given to her by the Shepherd himself), Sorrow and Suffering, are journeying along what seems to be the very direct path up to the High Places, when suddenly the path turns and heads in a direction that would put the High Places to their back.  And it is leading straight down into a vast wilderness of desert and what appears to be deadness.  No growth of any kind.  Just sand-dunes.  Much-Afraid is bewildered by this and doesn’t understand this change of course.  She questions it in this exchange from the book:

“I can’t go down there,” panted Much-Afraid sick with shock and fear.  “He can never mean that–never!  He called me up to the High Places, and this is an absolute contradiction of all that he promised.”

She then lifted up her voice and called desperately, “Shepherd, come to me.  Oh, I need you.  Come and help me.”

In a moment He was there, standing beside her.

“Shepherd,” she said despairingly, “I can’t understand this.  The guides you gave me say that we must go down there into that desert, turning right away from the High Places altogether.  You don’t mean that, do you?  You can’t contradict yourself.  Tell them we are not to go there, and show us another way.  Make a way for us, Shepherd, as you promised.”

He looked at her and answered very gently, “That is the path, Much-Afraid, and you are to go down there.”

“Oh, no,” she cried.  “You can’t mean it.  You said if I would trust you, you would bring me to the High Places, and that path leads right away from them.  It contradicts all that you promised.”

“No,” said the Shepherd, “it is not contradiction, only postponement for the best to become possible.”

Much-Afraid felt as though he had stabbed her to the heart.  “You mean,” she said incredulously, “you really mean that I am to follow that path down and down into that wilderness and then over that desert, away from the mountains indefinitely?  Why” (and there was a sob of anguish in her voice) “it may be months, even years, before that path leads back to the mountains again.  O Shepherd, do you mean it is indefinite postponement?”

He bowed his head silently, and Much-Afraid sank on her knees at his feet, almost overwhelmed.  He was leading her away from her heart’s desire altogether and gave no promise at all as to when he would bring her back.  As she looked out over what seemed an endless desert, the only path she could see led farther and farther away from the High Places, and it was desert.

Then he answered very quietly, “Much-Afraid, do you love me enough to accept the postponement and the apparent contradiction of the promise, and to go down there with me into the desert?”

………..”I do love you, you know that I love you. ….I will go down with you into the wilderness, right away from the promise, if you really wish it.  Even if you cannot tell me why it has to be, I will go with you, for you know I do love you, and you have the right to choose for me anything that you please.”

……It was there that Much-Afraid built her first altar on the mountains, a little pile of broken rocks, and then, with the Shepherd standing close beside her, she laid down on the altar her trembling, rebelling will.

–Hinds’ Feet On High Places, “Detour Through the Desert”

I don’t know what else to say other than:  Lord, I do not understand.  It seems crazy.  But I will go down with you into the wilderness, right away from the promise. 

And I’m going to try really hard to lay down my trembling, rebelling will.

Oh boy, indeed.

~~~~~~~

Hannah Hurnard’s book can be found HERE

Read it.  You’ll be changed.  I promise.

Alone….Sucks.

I’m getting super anxious.

Next week brings Thanksgiving.  And with it what could very possibly be my first of many holidays that I spend alone.  I pray not.  Hope not.  Believing not.  But realize it could be so.

I don’t mean alone alone.  I have family and friends that would ensure that would never happen in a million years.  But I mean alone. 

Alone without my family.  MY family.  The 4 men that mean more to me in this world than any other humans could ever possibly hope to.  It’ll mean actually starting this process of his time/my time, his holiday/my holiday…….really….it’s enough to make me want to go throw up right now.

The husband and I have always been very diligent in doing the swap-off of the major holidays with his family and my family.  This Christmas here.  That Thanksgiving there.  And it switches the next year ’round.  But in all the switching between our extended families, I’m pretty sure that we have never not one time ever spent an hour of the holiday time away from each other, let alone the holiday itself.  Our little immediate family has always been together…no matter which house/city/state we were in.

And come a week from Thursday, that run will be over. 

Really…thinking I might be sick any second.

I’m really devastated about not being with husband, but I’m really struggling with not sharing this holiday milestone with my babies.  To be alone.  That they, in a sense, will be alone.  That husband will be alone.

There’s a reason God said in Genesis that the man and woman were to leave their parents and cleave together  (Gen. 2:24)….it’s because as a married couple, we are to do life together.  That, absolutely, our families of our birth and heritage matter, but nothing like the new family that was created at the marriage union.  And our young children are part of that new family. 

This Thanksgiving will be “his” Thanksgiving….because it was already on the books that way.  So that technically leaves me the most alone.  I’ll be spending the holiday with my parents, but will be void of any piece of my leave-and-cleave family.  Alone.  Sigh.

And then husband and the children will be missing me from their holiday.  So, they, too, will be alone. 

It’s just not right.

It’s just not.

I’ve never dreaded the holidays.  Not ever.  They’ve always been my most favorite of times.  Not so sure about this year.

Just not so sure.

Because alone is going to suck.

What am I talking about going to?  It already does.

A Fairy Tale

Imagine with me a King.  A really regal King.  All the fancy fur-lined robes, huge sparkly crown, thick Sean Connery accent, you know… the whole shebang. 

Now imagine a man standing before the King.  If you look at him in some light, he really looks like a boy.  Scared.  Anxious.  His eyes are darting around because he is so uncomfortable being in the presence of the King.  Does the King know what I’ve done?  Is that why I’m  here?  Punishment? All the man knows is that he’s been summoned to the throne.  And now he’s here.  And it’s scary. 

The King rises from His magnificent scrolled throne and majestically moves Himself down the steps in the throne room and approaches the man.  The man is so terrified that he feels as though his legs will buckle at any second.  He’s looking for exit signs.  There’s got to be a way out.  The man has just laid eyes on a door that is dark and deep, but he’s pretty sure it would get him out of this encounter with this all-too perfect King.  Almost about to bolt, the man looks into the face of the King again…. There is something so terrifying yet so comforting in the eyes of the statuesque King. 

Before the man has the chance to consider the dark door to the outside, the King calls for His servants.  They are magnificent to behold as well.  Clothed in the purest of white, the servants almost shine.  The servants are carrying huge loads and packs.  What in the world?  The man finds the door again with his eyes.  Whatever is in those bundles cannot be good.

Just as the man pivots to bolt for the door, the King orders the servants to begin to unpack the loads.  The man stops to watch.  Mesmerized.  One by one, the shimmering servants hand the King a collection of parts and pieces.  The King stands regally.  Tall and straight.  Easily cradling the items in His strong, firm arms.

Son, I have a job for you.  A very specific job.  I’ve called you here today to bestow on you the privilege of this job.

But, Sir.  I don’t really want the job. 

Son, I have a job for youAnd with that, the King hands the man the allotment. 

Full armor.  Complete with inscriptions and etched depictions of parts and pieces of the man’s life.  A gleaming sword crafted the finest the man had ever seen.  A shield bearing the King’s own crest, but with the man’s name added.  This…this…this armor….it was made especially for me.   

Before the man can muster up any questions to ask and while he’s still breathing in the beauty of the mail and plates, the King steps forward and begins to take each piece from the man and dresses him Himself.  The man stands in total shock.  Eye still on the door.  What is happening?  I do not understand.  It would be easier to run.  Now.

The King continues to dress the man.

As the work is done, the King steps back and proudly examines the man.  My dear son.  You will go to battle now.  This way.  And with that, the King sweeps His mighty treelike arm towards another door that is encrusted in the brightest of gems and light. 

Whoa.  Battle?  I have no idea what You mean.  I can’t do battle.

The King stops.  And with a look of true compassion and love, yet all-knowing because He’s been through this before so many times, He returns to where the bewildered shell-shocked man is standing, cups His hand on the man’s face, and speaks.  Son.  My dear dear son.  There is a battle waiting for you.  It is not a vast army.  But one mighty single foe.  You did not sign up for this, no, but I have chosen you for this battle.  I know that you have never wielded a sword before.  I know that you have never touched a shield, let alone know how to use one.  This armor is heavy, I understand.  But I’ve prepared it for you.  Because I know exactly what you need.  Now, go.  Fight.  I will be there with you.

Sir, no.  I can’t.  I won’t.  It’s too difficult, and I’m too scared.  And with that, the man begins to strip the armor off that the King had so lovingly outfitted him with just moments before.  

The dark door looms just steps away.  I can reach it and be done with this.  I just have to get out of all of this stuff.

The man had loosened his leg shields, and was starting on the chest plate when through the dark door sprung a horribly beautiful beast.  The man couldn’t decide if he should run and hide or stand and just take in the bizarre nature of this weird creature.  Then the beast opened his mouth and began to sing a strange siren song.  Others in the room covered their ears and shielded their faces.  They looked mortified.  The King stood firm.  Eyes piercing towards the beast.  But when the man heard the song, he knew.  I know that voice.  I know this creature.  He has called to me many many days, and I haven’t known what to do.  Some days I ignored the sound because it frightened me, and I knew it could prove to be disastrous.  But here lately, this is the voice I hear loud and clear.  I’ve followed the sound of that siren song down into places that have brought me much pleasure but have left me feeling empty and dry at the end of the days and nights.  But yet, it’s so enticing.  I want to follow the si..ren…..

Just as the man began to throw off the rest of his armor and approach the beast to see his latest offerings, the man caught sight of something he had missed the entire time in the throne room.  How did I miss that?   A tiny chair set; though it wasn’t up the steps where the King’s massive throne was, it was placed in very close proximity to the throne.  Like the person occupying the chair could speak freely with the King at any time.  Wait.  A person in the chair.   

The man studied the person.  He knew her.  He knew her well.  She was dressed in a gown of the palest pink, flowers in her upswept hair, and she looked radiant.  Yet she looked so sad.  Wonder why she’s so sad if she’s sitting here with the King?  Her eyes seemed to look a window to his heart.  I remember you.  The man puzzled over this beautiful woman as the beast continued his song.  It was getting louder.  Louder still.  STOP!  The man wanted to yell.  I’m trying to think. 

But no time to think.  The beast lunged at him, but surprisingly didn’t attack.  It kept singing louder and louder, and grabbed for the man’s hand.  The man knew that the beast was inviting him to exit the throne room with him.  He could hear it in the song.  The man began to walk towards the door with the beast, whose song was gaining momentum and almost taking on an arrogant tone.  The man noticed that the beast and the King had their eyes locked on each other.  The King stood.  Unwavering.  The beast smirked.  The woman in the chair began to cry.

And then he heard the faintest whisper.  Fight.  Who said that?  Fight.  There it was again.  The man scoured the room looking for the source of the voice.  Fight.  Where was that coming from?  Fight.  And then he found it.  The woman in the chair.  He knew that voice.  He’d know it anywhere.   Something stirred in him.

The beast felt the stirring.  The hand tightened on his wrist.  The song became louder.  He was almost dragging the man now.  But the stirring in the man grew.  The more the beast pulled and sang, the whisper from the beautiful woman stirred his heart.  Then he saw the King.  The words formed on the King’s lips every time the woman would utter them.  She would say Fight.  And the King would mouth it in unison.  Fight.  Fight. 

This was too much.  The man had to get out of here and just think.  Just for a moment.  But the grasp on his arm wasn’t allowing for thinking time.  There was no escaping the beast.  Yet also no escaping the still small whisper of Fight. coming from this woman who caused such a stirring in his heart that he hadn’t felt in what seemed like millenniums and the powerful formation of the words coming from the lips of the King.

He allowed the beast to drag him a few more steps towards the looming darkened exit door.   Fight.  And then his eyes met those of the King.  This time the King didn’t just form the words.  He spoke.  Fight. 

But I can’t.  Don’t you see?  He is holding me by the wrist.  Dragging me.  What do you expect me to do?  I can’t get away

The King stepped forth.  Time seemed to stand still.  The beast silenced his song at the sound of the King’s voice.  Don’t you see, my son?  You have had the armor the entire time.  I gave it to you.  It’s made just for you.  And I’m standing right here ready to help you.  All you have to do is….fight.

And with that and a quick glance to the sad beautiful woman in the chair,  the man reached for his sword.  The beautiful emblazoned sword.  And with one strong swoop of the saber, he severed the grip of the beast.  The beast roared in objection, reaching for the man, but the man wielded the sword as a gifted knight.  He knew that the power behind the thrusting sword was coming from Someone much stronger than him, yet he continued to plunge and brandish and manipulate the weapon. 

And as quick as the beast entered the room, he slinked out.  No more song.  The room was silent. 

The King stood still.  His eyes focused on the man.

The woman in the chair had stopped crying.  She now had her gazed fixed on the man.

Every man and woman of the court waited with bated breath to see what would happen now.

The man let his sword crash to the floor and collapsed in an exhausted heap. 

Then he felt the gentlest of hands on his body.  The hands were peeling off the remaining pieces of armor, the ones he hadn’t gotten to before the beast had stormed the room.  The hands lifted the helmet from his head and caressed his sweat-soaked hair.  The hands were given sweet-smelling strips of linen from a near-by servant, and soon the hands were sponging the exposed parts of tired and worn-out skin of the man. 

The man mustered up the strength to lift his head and look to see who owned these hands.  Surely just a minister of the court.  A servant sent to look after him.

But, no.  What he had thought was just a pair of hands were actually two.  For beside him knelt not only the woman from the chair, but the King Himself.  These two champion cheerleaders of his, who had spurred him on to fight, were now tending to his wounds and exhaustion in the most tender of ways.

The King was smiling.   Well done, my son.  Well done.

The woman was no longer sad.  Her eyes were free from tears of grief and were replaced with the gentle weeping tears of joy.  I knew you would remember me.  I knew you would come for me.  I didn’t know how, but I knew you would. 

Just then the man remembered.  This beautiful woman was the woman he had wanted his entire life.  And when he had her, they had both allowed others and things of the world outside to entice and disillusion them.  They had both heard the siren song of the beast, in very different ways, yet both had chosen to follow.  And then everything spiraled out of control.  And he’d lost the woman.  He’d been unable to find her.  To see her.  To even remember her.

But here she was.  How?  Why?  Why are you here?  With the King? 

Because this is where I came.  I realized that the beast was a filthy villan and that his song was one of scandal and lies.  I didn’t know where to go.  And one day while wandering the streets, I looked up and saw the castle.  And I knew that I would be safe there. 

But weren’t you scared to approach the King?

Yes.  Until I really met Him.  And realized that He was not what I’d been told so many times.  I really got to know Him.  I sat there in that chair, and we talked and talked.  And He told me all about Himself.  He welcomed me into His Home.  And He told me everyday that you would come for me.  He never revealed the hows and whys, but He told me that you would come.  He did warn me that though He was going to give you everything that you needed to fight the beast and his siren song, that it would be your choice to fight or not.  And that we were to just watch and wait and believe that you would choose to do battle.  AND YOU DID!  You really did!  You came, just as He said you would.  And you fought!

But, I don’t understand.

It is as she says, my son.  I am so proud of you, my beloved.  Come.  Rest here.  Get to know me.  Enjoy getting to know this bride of yours again. 

And with that, the King and the woman helped the man to his feet.  He surprisingly was rejuvenated.  He felt strong.  And alive.  And free.  The King led the man and woman, who walked hand-in-hand to a large table set up in the corner of the room.  They feasted on the finest of food and drink.  They laughed and talked and enjoyed the presence of each other through the entire meal, soaking up the majesty of the King, Who dined with them. 

After the meal, the King stood from His place at the head of the table and spoke.  Come.  Let us move our conversation.

The man and woman rose and followed the King to the grand area that held the glorious throne.  As the King swept up the steps and settled Himself on His mercy seat, the man noticed something.

Where the woman’s one chair had sat earlier during battle…….now….there were two.

 

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I love fairy tales.  I’m a sucker, really.  I love when good triumphs evil.  I love when the princess is rescued by the shining knight.  I love everything about them.

I guess, though, that I had somehow programmed myself to think that fairy tales were unrealistic.  That the romance and gallant behavior of the hero and heroine in the stories didn’t really happen in real life.  I had resigned myself to living out a mundane version of this fantasy in my head and allowing myself to not really expect too much.  Probably out of self-protection.  Or…at least that is what the beast sang to me in his bitter song.

I was talking to a very new, but already dear friend of mine last night, and she spoke to me about a book written by Stasi Eldredge (the wife of John, who wrote Wild at Heart — the crazy popular book for men).  After our conversation last night, I hopped on Amazon and went to looking for the book she mentioned.  I found it, but strangely, I kept being drawn to the “recommended” book that sat next to it on the cyber-shelf. 

 

Yah…it’s a book on marriageUgh.  Really, God?  Really?  A book written for people who are living marriage together….um…I’m just trying to salvage my marriage right now.  I’ll read it later.  But, for some reason, God wouldn’t let it go.  I’m still throughly convinced He popped the sucker in my cart and one-click checked it out for me, before I could say another word. 

And so, I, begrudgingly, started reading it. 

And shut.my.mouth.

Yah, it’s a book on marriage.  But, it’s even more than that.  It has already reminded me in the first 6 or 7 chapters that God digs fairy tales, too.  In fact, He’s created His own Story on the premise and set-up of a fairy tale.  Why in the world shouldn’t I be in love with them, too?  And He has also told me that there is NOT.ONE.THING.WRONG. with wanting and believing and expecting the rescue of my marriage and the future of my marriage to be a fairy tale.  Because God put those desires in my heart.

Now, realism?  Yes.  Only because we live in this crappy world where the beast of my story really does snake around and sing his siren song to each of us.  And because our King really does give us the choice to fight or not.   But, I do know that the King will outfit us with absolutely everything we need, when we need it.  And that He, even more than us, wants our stories to be beautiful and end in victory.  This is HIS PLAN.  God loves marriage.  He loves goodness.  He really really digs this stuff.

So I’m going to hang on to my fairy tales.  I like ’em. 

And I’m going to sit in anxious, yet patient anticipation for the ending of my own.  Because I know it’s coming.  I just know it.

~~~~~~~

P.S.  I really do recommend Love and War for anyone who is married, gettin’ married, or knows someone who’s married.  Really…so good.  Despite where you are or feel you are in your life or marriage journey.