Remember the man I told you about – the one who took me up on the mountain and told me about Jesus Christ and His gift of love in exchange for Pride and Self-pity – that would set me free?
I chose love that day.
I was afraid, but somehow I could trust him – he spoke the truth. I hated what I had seen in that mirror, and I wanted to be different. Being with him, I felt (for the first time) truly, wonderfully happy. I received the love by simply asking, and when I had finished, a wonderful peace flooded my soul. I was free!
The man reached for the mirror again – I winced – but as he held it out to me, I caught my breath. “This,” he said with great joy, “is what you look like when you are robed in the righteousness of Christ. As long as you walk in the Spirit, you will always look like this. But beware – your old enemies will try to take it from you.”
I was worried. “How will I fight them?” I said, my voice trembling. “The power of the Holy Spirit will enable you to do all things through Christ Jesus.” He reassured me. “Come now, it’s getting late. We must go on.” I got up to follow him, I wondered where he was taking me now. The scenery was still beautiful and I was enjoying my newfound contentment. But as evening drew near, we began to descend into a valley. It seemed to grow gradually darker until at last, I realized I couldn’t see the man anymore, nor could I see my own hand when I held it in front of my face.
It was then that I heard a familiar voice…it was the voice of one of my old “besties”, Self Pity. “What are you doing down here?” Her voice was almost soothing. “You are all alone. See? The one you were walking with has forsaken you! You will probably never see him again! Go back!” At the same time, I heard Pride’s voice and immediately, a nervousness welled up in my heart. “This is not the life you deserve. A life of darkness and loneliness? You were better off with me for a friend!” His voice was scornful. They were right…weren’t they? I was alone, and I probably never would see the man again! Where had he gone anyways?
I got up to go back, though I don’t know how I would have – it was too dark to see – when suddenly I heard a whisper, but only a faint one. I froze, straining to make out the words. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” It was a voice I recognized, but not because I’d heard it before. I wondered at the sweetness of them. No one had ever said anything like this to me. Yet this was what I truly wanted: to be always with someone, never forsaken.
“You have changed your mind so quickly? If you stay, you’ll wind up dying down here alone. No one will even know you’re gone.” Self-Pity’s voice jerked me back. Where had the whispering voice gone? There it was again…”Call unto me, and I will answer…” Call? My heart raced. This stranger that was speaking so wonderfully to me had invited me to call upon him? I opened my mouth, but in the instant, a lantern was whisked to my side. Pride flipped open a familiar mirror. It looked like the one the man had shown me earlier that day. “Look at yourself. You think anyone would help you if they knew what a wretch you looked like?” I gasped. What had happened to me? It must have been the long day of travel. I was dirty and smudged, cut and bruised, and my face – it was sad. I snapped the mirror shut. I couldn’t bear to look. It was then that I became aware of the presence of all the ones I had walked with formerly…some closer, and some not so close…but all were there. There was Pride, leaning on Anger who had Lust by the hand. Self Pity was standing in a tight circle with Greed and Envy. I felt overcome by filth. I was torn. Where should I go? What should I do? Who would truly help me?
It was then I remembered the man’s words from earlier in the day:
“He loves you just the way you are.” If he loved me before I even chose Him, would He not love me now, as I was struggling between what seemed like life and death? I turned away from the mocking crowd of old friends and raised my voice to call for the One who had whispered in my ear only moments before. As the words left my mouth, He was by my side. I felt a warmth rush over me. I was at peace again. He took my hand and began to lead me out, and as we walked, these words escaped my mouth: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
I could see the path now, dimly, swirling up, up, up into the next mountain. The light grew brighter, and soon we were on a firm path. I could not see the One I had called out to, but I was sure His hand was still in mine – He was still leading me. And then I saw the one who had told me about him in the first place. He was sitting not far off up the road a ways, waiting for me. I ran eagerly towards him, and seeing me coming, he made room for me to sit.
Then I began to tell him all that had happened to me, and as I finished, I tilted my head curiously. “The mirror…” I said, almost afraid to ask. “Why did I look so different last night?” He smiled, almost knowingly. “You were not walking in the Spirit.” He said gently. “When you are in the dark valleys – and there will be many of them – you must always know the truth in your heart, and you will remain pure and spotless.” I think I understood. I had wandered back to my old life…lost faith in the One who could really help me, and waited too long to call out to Him!
“Some of the valleys before you,“ the man continued, “you will have to walk through alone. But in your heart, you must trust the love of Jesus Christ. Come, I want to show you.” I went with him, my heart beating in my chest. I wondered what he wanted to show me. There was a door ahead, through which we walked. We were inside now, a palace of sorts. We stopped, and he motioned for me to be quiet. “Listen.” He whispered.
I saw a young girl, beautifully dressed. She stood in front of two more doors and waited. Her head lowered and her eyes closed. I knew she was praying. As she lifted her head again, I caught her words to an elderly man sitting nearby. They were simple and honest, and they tore my heart in two: “If I perish, I perish.” The doors swung open wide. Everyone inside froze as she began her long, slow walk towards the man at the other end. I wanted to wait and see what happened, but the one with me motioned for me to follow him. We went out another door and now I was watching an old man and a young boy. They were standing at what seemed to be an alter. The old man was tying the young one to the wood. I realized in horror what was happening as his trembling hands raised a knife over the helpless figure on the platform. Again, the one I was with moved on. I had to follow. We were in a rocky wilderness now, and I could see a middle-aged shepherd with a rod. He was leaning heavily on it, and it looked to be something very dear to him, but then I heard saw his lips moving and realized he was talking to someone, and then he did the strangest thing: he raised the rod in his hand, and cast it onto the ground. As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone, and I was sitting with the one who had first led me into all of this, on the same rock I had met him on only an hour before.
“What were those three people doing?” I cried, wanting to go back and see what became of them.
He smiled and thought for a moment. “Esther…a young queen, forbidden to enter the court of the King, but required by God to do so. She laid down her life that day for her people who were condemned to die.” I was shocked. “He killed her?” I could not hide the surprise in my voice. He shook his head. “No, but she was willing to die.” He continued, “Abraham – waited for a son for 25 years. God gave him Isaac in his old age, and ten asked him to sacrifice his son. Abraham believed that God would provide a better sacrifice, and he did. Before the knife came down, the angel of the Lord stopped him.” I let out a sight of relief. “And the man with the rod?” I asked. “Moses. Yes – a man who made his living by shepherding. He was called to Egypt to deliver God’s chosen people from slavery. God asked him to cast down that rod that represented his entire life, to the end that those in Egypt might believe in the one true God.” He paused, and then looked me squarely in the eyes. “The path ahead is full of many difficulties for you. All who receive the Lord Jesus Christ must choose to trust Him even when they do not understand. What will your choice be, even if your life is required?”
I thought about that one.
It was a hard decision. As I sat there, the man slipped the mirror into my lap. “Keep it.” He said softly, and then he left me there to ponder. My fingers wanted to open it, but I was afraid. Slowly, ever so slowly, I lifted the lid – but it was not me that I saw this time. It was a cross, with a torn and bleeding man on it, and somewhere out across the valley, I heard a cry, and I knew it was His. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And I knew in my heart – His father had forsaken him, so that I might never be forsaken. I chose to trust in that moment, and when I looked back down at the mirror in my lap, it was me again, clothed in a scarlet robe, and I knew the blood of Jesus had cleansed me, never to be removed, for the rest of eternity. The path ahead would be hard, and there would be times that the ragged outfit of my past would be thrown over top of the righteousness I now wore, but by the grace of that One on the cross, I had an unshakable faith that He would never leave my side.
And with that, I got up and continued down the road, and I though I could not see him, I knew his hand was in mine.
What is your choice?