Once upon a time, a young couple had a baby girl, their first child. (All the good stories begin with once upon a time, don’t they?) They were pretty good parents, pretty much did what they knew to do, or what seemed right to them, in a world where nothing ever was perfect anyway. Before too many years had passed, the little girl had 4 brothers, and they lived in a rather hectic household with very little order to it. There were neighborhood children, a big yard and the woods to play in. Dolls, painting, sewing, playing in the woods, reading, all the usual accoutrements of childhood filled her days. She liked doing things by herself, and in order to escape the hubbub of 4 little brothers, not to mention their destructive tendencies, she began to build a fortress that would keep them out. Now of course, it wasn’t a stone and mortar fortress in the backyard, but a place within herself where she could retreat when the outside world was pushing in too much. She didn’t know exactly how it happened, and most people didn’t know it existed, but she had constructed a magnificent edifice that kept out everything that made her the least bit uncomfortable. On the outside she just looked like a rather shy child, always smiling, never letting on that deep inside she was terrified. And she didn’t even know that she was terrified, because not only had she protected herself from the outside with her imaginary fortress, she had also not allowed herself to feel any pain or unpleasantness. So she grew up thinking that everything was normal and fine, except that whenever she was the center of attention, she turned bright red and felt as if she would just faint dead away. Which, of course, made her avoid the spotlight as much as was humanly possible. In her imaginary world, she dreamed of doing wonderful, amazing things in her life. The possibilities, the giftedness, the desires were there, but when she ventured out to pursue the avenues of her dreams, she found that she had forgotten to build a door into her fortress! Alas, it was sturdy and tall and she could see out the windows, but there was no way out. Try as she might, she was chasing her dreams around and around in her prison, with no way to make them come true.
Unable to break free of the fortress, she resigned herself to living within its constraints. It’s not that she never did anything of value, since she got married, and had children, but everything was kind of lackluster, like the lamp that needed to be shined before it could reveal its genie. Or Cinderella, who needed the magic touch of a fairy godmother, and Sleeping Beauty, who needed the kiss of a prince to make her come alive. Hansel and Gretel had to overcome the witch who planned to eat them by shutting her up into her own oven. Like all characters that live in a fairy tale, who were in some sort of captivity, she needed to be rescued somehow, needed to be released from her prison.
Often the road to rescue was fraught with dangers and difficulties. Dragons, witches, and all manner of magical and mythical hindrances dog the footsteps of fairy tale heroes and heroines. And here’s where our story takes a different turn. Fairy tales end with and they all lived happily ever after. The heroine is released from captivity, and her life becomes all that she imagined and hoped it would be. Our heroine‘s release from captivity began with a touch from a real prince, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. But her story didn’t end there; in fact, the adventure was just beginning.
When Jesus touched her heart, and showed her that He was indeed true, and the real God, He transformed her heart of stone into a warm and living heart. She saw, for the first time, the reality of the fortress within which she dwelt. She saw it for the confining imprisonment that it was, keeping her from living the life she was born to live. She imagined tearing it down, stone upon stone, thrown down, a pathway out of captivity and into a new life of freedom. Soon the cares of life took over, blocking her view of the walls and the idea of freedom was forgotten, crowded out by the ordinary and mundane everydayness of life.
Occasionally she would catch a glimpse of the vision again, and begin again to tear down the walls. The stones that were fear and faithlessness tumbled out of place, mortar crumbling into craggy piles at the base of the fortress. However, it was an arduous process, hampered by the stuff of life, and true freedom eluded her.
The Prince, and His Father, the King, beckoned to her from the distance, but she faltered, and fell off the path. Lost, she stumbled along, searching for the path again, struggling to find her way. It seemed to her that it shouldn’t be this difficult to reach the Prince. She longed to regain the warmth in her heart that she experienced at his first touch. She longed to be free of the fortress that imprisoned her; the same fortress that once provided protection now held her captive. In the distance she felt the promise of freedom and fulfillment in the company of the King, but the past held her tight, like a mythical tree with strong, sinewy branches, gripping tightly.
On she trudged, day after day, looking for Him. It was as if she were traveling in circles, sometimes near, sometimes far. When near, she could hear the roar of a waterfall, sometimes see it in the distance. She knew that He must be on the other side, in a wondrous cavern, waiting for her to plunge through. Once she was close enough to feel the cold spray from the cascading water, and the roaring desire in her heart to find Him drew her closer, peering longingly, hoping for a glimpse of the joy she knew awaited her.
Distracted, she stepped back, and the roar in her heart and the thundering water became a distant sound, replaced by the voices in her head and the routines of the days. She took her focus off the wondrous waterfall, and fixated instead on the stony path beneath her feet, and the brambles tugging at her sleeves. She found herself again plodding around inside her fortress, the waterfall a dim lament in the distance. Sometimes she would lift her face heavenward, and recall the King and His Son beckoning to her, and she longed to find that waterfall and plunge through it into their waiting arms.
Venturing outside of the fortress yet again, feeling the familiar desperation and longing, she determined that this time she would find them. She began to call out to them. “My King, My King! Where are You? I have lost my way, and I need You to help me find You!” Immediately, she heard the descending waters, and scrambled through a green pasture to the rocky cliff opposite the cascading waters. Behind the water, endlessly falling from above, she saw their faces, shining, and arms outstretched, so close! Suddenly she felt a surge of strength, and without a moment’s hesitation, leaped across the chasm, through the waterfall and into the welcoming arms of the King and His Son. Joy as she had never known gripped her heart, and she realized that the fortress was gone, obliterated by the power of the King. The prison that she had struggled so hard to escape was gone, banished in an instant, and she stood whole and cleansed, strong, loved, and full of dreams again. And she lived joyfully ever after.
My sisters, beloved of God, this is what our Heavenly Father desires for us. He wants us to come to Him to be cleansed of our unrighteousness, to be loved with an everlasting love, and to be free to be the women He created us to be. Freedom comes without price, but the road before and beyond may be fraught with difficulty and pain. His Word will lead us through, will light our path, and keep our feet from stumbling. In His power He will sustain us as we seek Him, and seek to glorify Him in all that we do.
Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn; the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (Ps. 37:5-6)
Commit (not a dictionary definition) – give oneself wholeheartedly, without reservation, without looking back
Trust (again, not the dictionary)- unswerving belief that God will never fail to do what He has promised.
Commit- and trust- and He will do this: He will make your righteousness (which we have through Christ) shine like the dawn. Close your eyes and imagine with me the dawn… those first rays of light as the sky is becoming visible again. You begin to make out distant hills, and tree branches emerge out of the darkness. For a brief time there is a rosy pink glow bathing everything, and before you know it, it’s daylight. The darkness is gone!
“…and the justice of your cause [will shine] like the noonday sun.” There’s no denying the sun at noon- it’s bright and relentless. Our cause, our righteousness in Christ, will shine through undeniably when we are truly His.
For my regular readers, this is a departure from my usual posts. This was written as an entry for a scholarship to the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference, which is a conference for women who wish to improve their speaking, writing and leadership skills, so that they may be used of God to connect women’s hearts to the heart of their God. Information about She Speaks may be found here: http://shespeaksconference.com/. This particular scholarship is being offered on Ann Voscamp’s website, at this link: http://www.aholyexperience.com/2011/03/how-christians-create-art-she-speaks-scholarship/
I am sorry to say that I have never read any of Ann’s work before, but I am so glad that I have found her. I am in awe of her writing ability and her profound and uninhibited love for the Lord. Please click through to her website- you will be in for a treat!