You are in the center of the most complex, astounding, eternal love story. You are the absolutely adored child of the most fascinating force to ever exist, the true King of all creation. He has overcome every force of nature, every legally binding curse, and the most formidable foe of all eternity to win your love.
You are a prisoner, shoved down into the darkness of a deep, putrid dungeon and forgotten, guilty of horrendous crimes, despairing of hope, knowing you’ll never again see the light of day. Day after eternal day, decade after decade, you’ve slowly lost all hope of escape. Numb with despair, you waste away in the darkness, all memory of joy, beauty and freedom become a scalding acid to your tormented mind.
But wait! A key turns in the lock. The heavy door is creaking open, protesting on its rusty hinges. A beam of bright daylight blinds your aching eyes. Wider, brighter the opening increases until, unable to bear the light, you cover your face knowing you resemble a feral beast, wallowing in your own filth.
You peek through muck-crusted fingers and glimpse a dark outline against the brightness. Ashamed and fearful, you cower, convinced this is another jailer, another tormenter to strip, beat, torture and humiliate you.
Slowly, cautiously, the human form approaches. You are mad with fear. The light is so bright. There is nowhere to hide. The filthy stone prison wall is at your back. There is no escape.
The dark shape walks back outside, leaving the door open. Now you have a choice. Take a chance to trust when you have no capacity for that virtue anymore, or remain in this prison to rot forever. Somehow, it’s more painful to hope than it would be to continue your cursed existence. What if you’re betrayed again? The silhouette outside kneels as if to ease your fears.
Cautiously, you edge toward the door, fully expecting it to slam shut at any moment. A sweet breeze beckons; the sound of water trickling over stones. How long has it been since you felt clean? How delicious cool, clear water would taste; how wonderful would it feel! But no. That’s for others. Others who deserve it. In despair, you stop just inside the door, close enough to smell freedom, close enough for it to break your heart.
A kind, quiet voice calls your name. Something deep leaps at the sound as a glimmer of hope, like one drop of the sweetest honey on your tongue, spreads courage through your frame. You know this voice. Somehow, you’ve always heard it. In moments of tearing beauty, scalding pain, even devastation, this voice has been a constant melody.
It’s enough. That voice is just enough to move your leaden feet over the threshold, inch by wary inch. With a shock, freedom courses through your veins. The light, the call of a bird, the sweet, clean scent of pine are an exquisite torture, sweeping a shroud of horror from your mind.
You hear the sound of laughter like water dancing over stones, a pure, joyful belly laugh that brings a thrill of celebration. But isn’t this a solemn occasion? Your friend who opened the door doesn’t think so. With the exuberance of a three-year-old tossed in the air by their father He takes your hand and gazes into your eyes. You’re swept up into strong arms, into the source of laughter and joy. Your heart grows young and your feet dance and you look down in astonishment to discover—you’re clean!
But wait. There’s another voice. The sound calls you back to the nightmare, “There’s a price to be paid, human. I own you.”
The accusation is correct. You earned your sentence. You don’t deserve another chance.
“Don’t worry” the voice of love whispers in your ear. “Come and see.”
The jailer cringes back into the shadows when the light of your companion hits him. The walls of your hell-hole are exposed, but that’s not what commands your eye.
In the very place where you used to cower in fear and despair stands a wooden structure. On it hangs the figure of what must once have been a man, now no more than the blood-covered, mutilated aftermath of cruelty run amuck. You’re horrified and yet compelled to stare. “What horrible crime did he commit to deserve this?” you turn to your new friend, curiosity overcoming the urge to flee this nightmare.
“He decided to save you no matter what.”
“Me? But I’m worthless.”
“Oh no!” He points back to the suffering form on the wooden beams. “You are worth every pain, every humiliation, every drop of blood I shed.”
“That’s you!” you exclaim in amazement.
In answer, your companion holds out a hand displaying a horrible scar. “The jailer would accept no other substitute. He got his way and I got what was mine—you. You don’t ever have to fear him again.”
To remain in that state of astonishment as you blink in the sunlight, absolutely free, as you look back at the confines of your horrid prison cell, is to exist in a state of humbling gratitude and dazzling abundance. This Prince who brought you out into the fresh, sweet mountain air of freedom and washed away all your filth, is the very one whose sacrifice still stands, whose grave remains empty.
I am speechless before the beauty of Jesus.
Beautiful. Made me cry.
Hugs to you, Leslie. My 11 yr.-old said (in a bored tone of voice when I finished reading it aloud to him) "And he lived happily–ever–after…."
Ah, well. 🙂