The dark path stretches out in front of me endlessly. My blurry eyes reach for the horizon only to have the dark hand of despair block it from my eyes in billowing drifts of endless clouds.
The path is narrow, clinging precariously on the edge of a cliff whose end disappears into the sky. How easy it would be to shut my eyes and drift dreamlessly on the comfortable wings of darkness. A foot slips and a few sharp rocks scream their fall into the abyss. I dare not look down.
My journey is forward, always forward though the tendrils of guild and regret entwine themselves around my ankles, dragging my fatigued soul backwards. From the depth of my anguished soul I let out a cry… a cry that echoes off the canyon walls, across the abyss that threatens to silence it, and -rising beyond the threatening clouds- it escapes.
I never look back.
I hear a sound as if a sword is sliding from its sheath; the sound is strangely comforting as it slices the tendrils imprisoning me in the past.
A demon rises out of the abyss. His name is written on his forehead as it claws at my hope and tries to steal my faith: if Only. Its name mocks my pain.
Its essence reaches into the caverns of my thoughts.
A thousand memories, each one bringing a jolt of pain.. a thousand possibilities unfulfilled… a thousand times I thought if only.. a thousand paths I could have taken.. a thousand choices.. a thousand different –easier!- paths I could have taken.. oh, if only! Where would I be now? What pain would I have avoided? If Only…
Emptied. my being.. my soul.. even my faith is being threated to be emptied..
I have a choice to make.
Do I let the abyss claim me? Do I give in to The Shadow and let it fill my being with its ugliness?
Do I surrender to the owner of that sword? The one that sets me free.. that devides between truth and untruth… between The Shadow and The Light.. between the path ahead and the path behind?
I will never give in but I will gladly surrender.
That’s all it took, a decision.
I realized where I was. In the Valley! My eyes were opened and I saw the Light. The Shadow of death and fear dissipated like a bad dream. The sinister sky cleared and there, another few paces ahead, was the end: the end of the valley! The demon If Only was driven back into the abyss. The abyss which the Light wouldn’t –couldn’t- bring out of The Shadow; indeed, it was the source, nay, the home!- of The Shadow!
The Light reached down and with His hand picked me up like a lamb and set me down on the edge of the Valley. I looked up and there He was, The Light. He was stunningly beautiful! A shepherd’s garment of the purest white dressed him, his bare feet in the green, lush grass of a meadow that had no end. His scarred hand raised me to my feet. I was instantly filled with an indescribably, unspeakable joy.
I turned. He was pointing back to the way from which I had just come.
I was standing on the edge of The Valley, marveling how there was no grey between the Light and the Shadow.
“There.” He pointed. The black fog cleared, and I saw a looming, sinister mountain rising out of the abyss. Its peak lost in clouds so black that there was all sense of depth was lost.
“That is your past, my child. Everything you’d ever tried to escape from. The demon If Only made his home at the base of that mountain, always trying to persuade you to go back and take a different path: a path more traveled. Yet you did not give in. You persevered to the end, you have fought a good fight, and finished your race.”
His love overwhelmed me as he placed a victor’s crown about my head.
I turned to take a last look at The Valley. Looking down, I noticed that the path, which had clung to the side of the cliff, was no longer there!
Puzzled and astonished, I asked where it had gone.
“Oh my child, the path you saw is no longer there because you are no longer in The Valley. I carried you across the abyss: I was The Way! I am the only Way, the Truth and the Light and no man can come across the abyss and into this, My Father’s Kingdom, unless they choose Me. You clung to Me, never giving up, and I led you to this, the home which I have prepared for you! You are more precious to Me than every diamond.”
Then, I understood. I knew why the path was narrow, hard, and difficult. A refined diamond! The pressure created and molded me. Difficulties wore away my sharp edges, my imperfections. The Way was my refining process. He chose a diamond in the rough and turned it into a shining example of His Love and Purity.
I was His! He created, refined, and redeemed me with His own blood when I had lost the Way, then brought me home to exist there in His Light forever. He was delighting in me!
He took my hand and led me away from The Valley of The Shadow. I didn’t need to turn around to know that His Light had forced The Shadow back into the abyss. The Valley had sunk beneath the meadow, and I knew that if I turned around all I would behold is an endless, pristine pasture.
There before me was the most breathtaking banquet I had ever seen, spread beneath the Tree of Life on the banks of the River of Living Waters. Laughter greeted me as my brothers and sisters welcomed me by name.
My senses strangely entwined: I sensed the wonderful aroma of colors I didn’t even know existed. I could see the most exquisite music floating on streams of light throughout the meadow. Animals I had never seen before in sheens of colors I could not have imagined, roamed freely among us. Angels in peerless garments laughed with us. The River -sparkling as thought it was alive- flowed from a Throne of Grace. The Father seated on it, shining so bright that it was a miracle to behold Him yet so beautiful that you could hardly take your eyes off of Him.
I realized that I too was wearing a spotless, shining garment of purity! My whole being was restored to utter perfection and holiness.
I drew near and knelt prostrate before the Throne of Grace, taking the crown off my head and placing it at my Father’s feet.
In His great love, He reached down to me and raised me to my feet.
“Well done, my child. Enter into the joy of my Kingdom.”