I stand on a pedestal, like a slave being sold at the block, for all the world to see. I breathe shame. Despicable child that I am, I cannot but look at the faces surrounding me and wonder, “What do they see? What are they thinking?” The questions burn—they taste like vomit in my mouth!
Yet, who can I be, but this slave? I know nothing of the world that does not demand perfection. All my life, my captors have tried to train me to be a model of perfection, but I have failed them! In my heart, I am sickened by the fact that I want to please them at all, enough to sacrifice my heart, mind and body to their deadly appetites. I want so badly for them to praise me that I let them keep me on the block longer and longer, just so people will know that I am of some worth to these men!
In the crowd, I see the beloved face of my husband and the faithful eyes of my best friends. They look at me now with a feeling much deeper than the simple concern they began with. They were once slaves, too, you see, but a man of light set them free long ago.
That same man once came to my cell to free me. I stepped out from behind bars only to jump back into the arms of the people I knew best.
Yet my dear ones cry for me here, today, especially my husband. Their eyes plead with me, begging me to believe that I am destroying myself, grinding myself into nothing. From the ground, they beg me with earnest voices to at least try to see what they see. But up here on the block, I see nothing but my ambition to be worth something to these slavers.
My husband reaches out his hand, telling me that I am worth his very life to him. I turn my head away. He who would take me home, nurse me to health, dress me in beautiful robes and hold me tenderly in his arms, does not count. The only people who count are these dealers in death. Why? Because they are the men who run the world, don’t you see? They are the ones who will launch us forward into fame and renown. They are the victorious army – everyone else fights with a glory that will not be seen until the very end. While I am on this earth, I want to be a part of the army that looks like it’s actually winning!
Sleep is my only respite from this deadly dance.
In the night, I curl up in my cell and forget about my captors’ presenting me until the next day. Someone shakes me awake. For a moment, I hang on the edge of a dream, clinging onto the doorframe that leads into a land where my value is secure and my eyes are made new. Then, the wind of reality sucks me out, out, out, with black and hellish pain I cannot fully describe.
What is this? A man has come to rescue me in the night. He reaches out his hand, as my husband did, and in his skin is the light that illumined the dream. In his being is the essence of value, security and newness, made real before my eyes.
But I cannot accept. Oh, who could accept something so good? Something so good could not be true. And I cannot ever be free.
“I will free you.”
“Dear one, I will free you.”
No, Lord, NO!
“I have adopted you, and you are my child. I have loved you, and you are able to love and be loved. I have become your righteousness, and you are sanctified forever with me.”
“No matter what you say, beautiful one, no matter what you do, these things will not change.”
I bare my teeth. Anger erupts in my heart and scratches up my throat like a scream too loud and bitter to swallow down. I scream, and scream, and scream.
His face never changes, except for a slight tightening of the eyes that might be sadness. His face is all love and compassion. He is not unsure of himself, even in his emotion. He is surety incarnate as he looks at me, spreads out his hands and says, “Did I not tell you it is finished?”
I swallow every word I have ever spoken when I see those hands with those holes gaping in them, wounds that pierce from front to back with indiscriminate hatred and rejection. In my mind’s eye, an image of blood and storm clouds and tears and death flashes like lightning.
Noise like a hurricane explodes in my ears. I cannot hold on any longer! I cannot, I cannot, I--!
All at once, the world goes still.
I am not in my cell.
I panic, groping the floor, trying to figure out what this strange world is. I collapse—I am too exhausted to go on.
In a haze, I feel strong arms lift me. They hold me securely and carry me as their owner walks forward.
I look up, dizzy and squinting against the mist, to see a smile more warm and definite and unchanging and sincere and full and holy than could belong on anyone but the Son of God himself. He brushes a tear from my cheek with his finger—I didn’t know I was crying. I need to turn my face away. I cannot face him like this; I can never face him again!
I cannot stop crying. He cradles my head, lets me bury it against his chest. When I look up, he is still smiling with even more love than before, if that were possible. I try to return the smile, weakly.
He nods, and holding me close, whispers, “Did I not tell you? It is finished.”