(from a dream)
I leaped over a fallen tree covered with poison vines, trying to keep my bare feet from scraping the leaves as I cleared the obstacle by a hairsbreadth. The distant sound of the baying hounds lent me speed.
I knew they wouldn’t catch me. I was so far ahead of the others, I’d been running alone for miles. The last runners I’d passed were relaxing in a hot spring. They shouted at me as I flew by, “you should soak those sore muscles - you’ll be faster if you stop and rest.”
I wondered if that were true. They said he’d be waiting at the end. He was the prize. Somehow, deep down in my gut, I knew there was only one way to get there; to give it everything I had, right to the point of death. So I did. I wanted that prize.
I’d lost my shoes miles ago. My clothing was in rags, ripped to shreds by the thorns and vines in the path. My skin was cut and bruised. But I was amazed at my own strength. It must be that he wanted me to win—he was giving me strength so I could reach him! I laughed aloud. It was the only sound in the dense forest. Everyone and everything was so far behind, only silence was my companion now.
Suddenly I broke out of the dense greenery and stumbled onto the open sand of a beach. Had I made it—already? I staggered with the surprise and my own momentum. The sun was setting over the deep blue of a vast ocean, and a golden pathway reached the beach. I squinted into the light and saw a figure standing there, waiting.
It was him! I ran unsteadily across the sand, eager joy fairly bursting my already thundering heart.
It wasn’t him.
I came to a stop and felt my strength draining, leaving me limp and weak. I fell to my knees, staring at the bright messenger who appeared to stand on the water’s edge.
“Where is he?” I gasped. “I made it.”
“Yes, you made it. A remarkable race!” The messenger said, glowing brighter as he spoke.
“Well, where is he? They said if I got here, I could see him. I could be with him forever.” I looked up and down the beach, and craned my neck to look beyond the messenger, and into the sinking sun. For the first time, I saw something else in the water, silhouetted by the sunset. But I was completely focused on my goal.
“Where is he?!” I repeated, almost angry at the delay.
“Yes,” said the messenger warrior. “You made it. You can see him and be with him forever. Nothing can prevent you now. But—“
“But, what!” I exclaimed, staggering to my feet again.
“It’s not time yet,” he explained. “You can wait here, and rest until it’s time.”
“When?” I cried in terrible dismay. “I ran like crazy. . . When is it time?”
“When your life is passed,” the bright figure replied. “It usually takes a lifetime. I don’t know how you got here so quickly—a remarkable race! When your life has passed, then you’ll be able to see him.”
“No!” I shouted. “What’s the point? Where is he?”
The warrior turned and looked behind him, and I saw standing in the ocean two very great pillars. At the top, some 80 feet up in the air there was a great door standing on a threshold. There was nothing that I could see on either side of the door. It stood in space above the vast ocean like a portal no one could reach; unless they could fly, or stood at least 80 feet tall.
The messenger saw my terrible disappointment. “Rest,” he urged. “It is very nice here on the beach. You will feel better tomorrow.”
Then, as though he were avoiding further conversation, the angelic being turned quickly and walked across the waves. When he reached the great pillars standing in the waves, he began to ascend as though he were in an invisible elevator.
At that moment a plan began to formulate in my mind. Through the night I sat on the beach and looked at the pillars. I watched the tide come in, and marked how high it got. I watched it begin to go out again. Maybe that invisible elevator would work for me too, if I could just swim that far.
Before the tide had reached it’s lowest point, and when the sun was high in the sky, I started my long swim out to the pillars. I knew it would be further than it looked, but I was still surprised at the strength of the water. Long before I reached the pillars, I was exhausted.
But finally I was there. I clung to the side of one pillar, trying to find a moment of rest. There was nothing to hold onto. Where was the elevator? I swam around and around each pillar, and dove under the water, searching for a secret mechanism. There was none. At last I realized the truth. I’d have to swim back to shore or drown.
Drown. Well, that would answer my quest as well. The warrior said to wait until my life was over. Instinctively I knew that drowning myself was not what he had meant. Would it disqualify me? I couldn’t take that chance. But, I could keep trying until I did drown!
I judged the circumference of one of the pillars and swallowed a mouthful of water in my excitement as a new idea hit me. Taking off the ragged tunic I was wearing, I wrapped it around the backside of one of the pillars. It took several minutes of struggling against the waves to finally get one end of it in each hand.
With the ends of my sling secured in each hand, I began to work my way up out of the water like a native climbing a coconut tree. My naked body shivered with exhaustion and cold but still I worked, inching my way higher.
I had scarcely cleared the water when I lost my grip and fell back with a splash. But I wasn’t tired enough to drown, so there was nothing to do but try again.
This time I made it twenty feet into the air. My skin had completely dried. My hands had stiffened into permanent claws around the fabric. The tide was coming back in, and a stiff wind began to blow as a storm darkened the horizon.
I went back to work, inching my way up higher and higher. My whole life’s journey played through my memory as I climbed, a reminder of how difficult the path had been at times, how unlikely it was I had even made it this far.
I didn’t look down again until I had reached the top. The threshold loomed above me like a ceiling with edges that could not be crossed. I clung to my sling, which was now dry and significantly weaker because of that dryness. How was I to get over the lip of the threshold?
I needed to leap outward and grab hold of the edge without falling or slipping, and then manage to lift myself over the edge and onto the threshold. Once there, I must dress back into my tunic and figure out a way to open the great door.
Wait. How could I do all this with my tunic in hand? There was no way. I’d have to leave it behind and go through the door (if I made it over the threshold) stark naked.
For a moment I hesitated. Then, suddenly I saw myself, clinging to the pillar, eighty feet in the air above a stormy ocean as the sun set in the west. I laughed aloud: naked was the only way to go!
With a desperate leap, aided with a defiant shriek, I sprang away from the pillar and toward the overhanging lip of the threshold.
It’s always the unexpected that gets me. This time, it was the fact my hands had been clenched for so long, they would not easily unbend. Yet, somehow I hung precariously from the edge by my curled fingers, my weight resting on frozen knuckles.
There was no earthly way I could have had the strength to catch and hold myself in such a way. The assurance he wanted me to make it—that he was helping me make it—filled me with joy and determination once again.
A moment later I was lifting myself over the edge.
Completely spent, I laid there on the threshold breathing deeply and nursing bruised knuckles until a crack of thunder and lightening stretched across the sky. Sharp, cold blasts of rain served as motivation.
I scrambled to my feet and stood in front of the door. It wouldn’t open. I was sure of that. Some password or super power was surely required. With boldness rooted in the absence of expectation, I shoved the door, and lo, it opened enough for me to peer inside.
My first impression was of light, color, and size. Everything was bigger and bolder and brighter than the world I knew. There were living beings standing around talking and doing various things. I glimpsed a road or path leading from the door. He was probably at the end of that path.
I felt a surge of excitement again. Then I looked down at my small, naked body. It was blue from the cold rain. They would never let me near him. I would have to go fast. Run! Just like all of my life—I had to run until I reached him.
So with the persistence that had gotten me thus far, I threw open the door and began the last lap of my race. I heard a living being, much like the messenger that had met me at the beach, exclaim, “What is she doing here?”
Another cried, “What is that?”
And yet another, “She’s not supposed to be here!”
I leaped and sped past them all. The light was so bright I could not see clearly, but the path before me was defined enough to follow, and so I chased it to the end.
It was not long before I arrived at a long line of people standing in queue, many of which seemed injured or in need. Yes, he was at the end of this line! I stopped at the end, feeling obliged to wait in turn.
Growing noise and confusion told me a crowd of my pursuers was approaching. That pesky messenger was going to throw me out into the stormy sea—after all I’d been through to get here! I hesitated a moment longer, dancing from one foot to the other with anxiety.
“Sorry!” I called to the people in queue as I stepped out of line and began to sprint past them all. “Sorry, so sorry. . . I have to. . . sorry. . .”
Then I saw him. He sat on the steps of a dais below a throne, receiving the people who had come to see him. Each one went away healed or answered in some way. I felt a moment of pain, seeing myself as I must look at that moment; so pathetic, unkempt and bare.
The queue of people I was passing fell back from me, as though to maintain a safe distance while the strong warrior chasing me swiped again and missed. I dove, as though for home base, at the feet of him I had been seeking all my life. My fingers groped at the hard steps, trying to find a good hold.
“I made it!” I gasped. “They said if I got to you, I could stay forever. That’s what they said: if I got here then I could stay. Please!”
My head was down. I was afraid to look at him. Now that I was actually here, at the feet of my life’s pursuit, I couldn’t look into his eyes. I was afraid I wouldn’t be enough—that he wouldn’t want me to stay.
The messenger pursuing me was the same I had spoken with on the beach. He bowed and addressed his master. “My Lord, I apologize. I don’t know how she got here. It isn’t possible. I’ll take her away.”
“You said when I got here I’d never have to leave again!” I cried, cringing at the feet of the King. He had not spoken yet. Why had he not spoken?
A brief moment of silence, then, I heard laughter. Forgetting my fears, I looked up into his face.
He was laughing. Not just smiling, but laughing, deeply, and with genuine enjoyment of the situation. Brown eyes twinkled in a face I already knew. There was nothing restive or worried about his brow. Nothing pensive or hesitant about his generous mouth. Nothing reserved or deceiving in his eyes. Just looking at him took away every last bit of my anxiety and fear over being thrown out again.
I was home. I had made it.
“She’s here,” he said simply to the frustrated messenger. “It isn’t the common story. But it is a good one.”
“I can stay?” I asked in a low voice, turning away from all the staring eyes of people watching us.
“Yes. You can stay.” He answered me directly, smiling. (Oh, that look! Oh, that smile!)
“Right here?” I persisted. “I’ll be quiet and still. If I can just sit here for a while, close enough to see you and hear you. . .”
“You can stay,” he repeated patiently. Then he looked back at the next person waiting in line.
The messenger backed away and left me there.
I don’t know how long I must have sat there, just watching his face, and listening to his voice. It was like being recreated. Everything in me grew strong, bloomed and bore fruit as I soaked him in like rain and sunshine.
At last I became aware of the people in line again. I watched as a limping man walked away with a straight leg, and a bent woman stood up strong. Sometime later I saw the same people in line again. The same ailments were back and had to be healed again—although they didn’t seem quite as crippled as they had been before. I watched long enough to see that the ailments came from their own perspectives, and that it took some time for that to change. He healed them again and again, patiently waiting for their understanding to grow.
Then I saw a man in line who had no ailment. He was strong and bright. An enormous beard fell to his waist. When he approached the King, I saw that they were old friends. They laughed together, and shared a conversation. The strong man had been around for a while. Then he looked at me, and nodded,
“Who is this child of light?” he asked the King.
“She ran the race, and couldn’t wait,” the King answered with a smile. “She climbed the pillars and broke through the door.”
They laughed heartily together, but I was perplexed. Did he mean me?
“Who?” I asked. “Who is ‘the child of light?’”
“You,” the King answered. “Look at yourself.”
So I did. I was glowing like a lamp, too bright to even see my own nakedness. I appeared as a flame, sitting there at his feet.
“Why?” I asked, “How can this be?” But even as I asked, I knew.
“You’re full of me,” he said. “Full of my words and my thoughts. Empty of everything unclean or fearful.”
“I want to stay like this. Will I stay like this if I’m not with you?” I asked him.
He shook his head, ‘no’. I knew he could not explain all the facets of the truth to me at that moment. I’d seen others go away healed, only to return again with the same needs. There was so much to learn. He knew my thoughts and at that very moment, he nodded, agreeing with me: “there is so much to learn.”
He knew my thoughts! And I heard his thoughts as well: “Other things will distract you. It’s hard, but you will learn. . .”
“What if I hear your voice?” I asked aloud. “Can you speak to me even if I’m not with you?”
He was pleased, “Yes. If you listen, I will.”
“I’ll listen!” I proclaimed eagerly and then corrected myself, “I’ll try to listen.”
“Like you tried to get here,” he suggested.
“Like I tried to get here!” I cried with joy.
“So, then,” he said, “you will always be a child of light.”