Hi ya! Here in CT (and all over New England) the youth groups all participate in the same activities and learn the same material. Lately I have been participating in a competition called TI or Teens Involved, it’s all about learning how to best use our talents in ministry, whatever they are. I entered a short story, one I started in an essay for school paper about our “laws of life.” I just extended it, added more, and turned it into a story of redemption. And here it is a tale of Tears, Blood, and Love.
There stands a woman of breath-taking youth, elegance, and beauty. A thin circlet of gold adorned with a single opal rests upon her veil of deep blond, red-tainted, waist length hair. A dress of purest white, threaded with gold and beaded with amethysts, sapphires, and emeralds falls over her slender, curved body. She has no equal. She is the daughter of a long line of great kings. She stands in a grand hall, a hall huge and cavernous. But instead of graced by the glory of a living king, draped in silks, banners, and decorated by gleaming weapons the hall is dark, dank, and reeks of fear and oppression. Instead of silver clear laughter lifting up a glorious sound unto the heavens, death whispers curses from every corner. Yet, the woman stands strong. An expression of utmost loyalty, defiance, and determination holds her face still, keeping at bay the flood of tears that yearns to pour forth. She is brave and proud. A gleaming sword intricately designed with blooms of flowers long forgotten wind their way up the blade that is pressed firmly against the flesh of her throat.
“Deny, your king. There is no hope for you. You are wretched and alone. Conform and obey, and you will live to see Lady Dawn wake again.” A voice declaring the very definition of evil and resonating with the sound of contempt, pierces the flesh of the girl in a way the blade could not. The word “alone” sang a hopeless tune straight through the maidens heart, but still a defiant fire smoldered in her dark brown eyes. “I said, deny him.” the voice, dripping malice, once again commanded her to surrender.
“You know there is no point in living a life like the one you lead. It is trying, unrewarding, futile, and fruitless. Why do you run from the chance to leave it as if some nameless beast were on your heels; as if it were trying to devour you?” A silence thickened by the silent war fought inside the tender heart of the girl hung over the once glorified hall.
“Deny him!” The voice whispered sinisterly.
“I’ll never deny my Savior!” her clear voice echoed in firm, beautiful tones throughout the hall. Instantly the cold blade against her throat danced with fatal twist and the lovely woman fell to the ground. Her hair framed her face and shoulders in pretty ripples as she lay upon the cold stone floor. Her tiara fell and skidded to a halt a few feet away. Her eyes shone in victory even as the light faded from them. A crimson stain more pure in color than any other, dyed the white gown she wore. The wielder of the cruel voice that had commanded the girl to surrender stepped forward and sheathed his sword. His uncommonly handsome face wore a tortured expression. Gazing at the pale, lifeless face of the princess, he found horror in the triumph in her now dim eyes. This unsaved child turned to retrieve and pocket her tiara, but found he could not. He could not perform such a task; could not dishonor such a girl any more than he already had. That seemed a trick so lacking in honor that even Satan’s slave couldn’t carry it out. He had killed the maiden his master had seen as a threat, and that was all he had been asked to do.
The man felt like a monster, he knew he wasn’t living right. How could that girl, so young, and yet so bold believe so completely? She died for whatever it was, he thought bitterly, as he gazed at that pure face. His internal argument continued in lost desperation. His master was cruel, powerful, and strong, it was out of fear and his own selfish quest for power that drove him to be the hound of Satan that he was. But the girl’s master seemed to be different. She seemed to have died because of the love her master offered her, not because he had commanded her to do so. The man snarled in conflicting confusion. The fine cloak on his back and the sword at his side and the high-ranking title he’d soon own in payment for this deed was love, wasn’t it? Somehow he thought it wouldn’t have qualified as love in the girl’s book. Not the love she’d known. He grimaced again, what caused such actions? What could she receive from her master, that he was deprived of? What made her surrender her life like that? He closed his eyes, and in the tide of confusion, regret, hurt, and crave for true love, a single tear fell down his weather-beaten and scarred cheek. That single tear, filled with unfathomable luster and beauty, watered the bloom of doubt in his heart until it flowered, full force. Standing in the eye of that storm, his eyes flew open, darted back and forth as if in realization that all the answerers he needed were sitting on the edge of that cavernous hall, staring at him with laughing eyes and taunting faces. But they weren’t there, and suddenly he was seized with the human instinct to run. With his cloak pulled taunt at his throat and his scabbard keeping time with his left foot, he ran like he had never run before. He ran from fear, ran from the incomprehensible, ran from the unknown, ran from the dead girl’s master, that love mystery called Jesus.
Out of the hall and through courtyard he ran as if he could outrun everything. It was running at full speed that he stumbled into a water well. He gasped, and hit the ground hard. A string of oaths on his tongue that normally would have gushed forth at a time such as this, died and rotted in his mouth. He had not the heart to utter them. He lay on the cool grass and dirt with his long, dark, sweat-matted curls peeling away from his forehead and his eyes shut against both the physical pain in his shin and the internal pain that threatened to shatter his heart and send him back to a time when he could, and often did, weep with abandon. Tears seeped through the frail flesh covering his eyes, the flesh he hoped might have shut out all the hurt he now felt pouring over his heart like molten metal.
He brokenly opened his eyes and tipped his head back far enough to see his horse. Head bent with fatigue and desertion the jet-black, once majestic beast seemed to mirror what the man felt. He whistled softly and obediently the animal walked over to him. “Good boy,” he whispered. Sitting up he tugged at the pant-leg covering his injured shin. He drew a long breath in through his teeth. His green eyes glittered in pain through the darkness of night as he took note of the thick, sticky blood flowing down his leg into his brown leather boot.
Gingerly he stood and limped woefully over to the well and reeled up a bucket full of clear, cool water. He washed off his fingers in the silky liquid and then proceeded to dribble water softly over the cut with his foot propped up on the edge of the well; stemming the flow of blood with a strip of cloth torn from an old shirt found in his saddle bag, he straightened up only to collapse in agony of heart. In this dark hour he called out, screaming as the dam inside him broke, and the torrent tore loose. He cried out, condemning himself, his master, and all of creation with his words. He then fell silent and a strange feeling stole over him and covered him. He was utterly silent, and a still, small, voice was heard in his heart. He listened intently. It spoke of love, forgiveness, and all things new. Of a master who had surrendered his kingly flesh to be tortured, beaten, and slaughtered for him. He clung to the words as a lost and tear-stained child clung to a father. He drunk all this in and thought and pondered. Then pushed it all away. He stood up throughly ashamed at his frailty. He bottled everything inside a dank prison with iron shackles and made to mount his horse. He grimaced in pain as he hoisted himself into the saddle with his hurt leg. He brushed all ideas of affection and fatherly love aside with a mockingly care-free hand.
Digging his heels into his steed’s sides, he and his beast made a course past the well and towards a place he tried everyday to call home. But as he passed the still mostly full water bucket, he paused and looked into the water. To his surprise he could not see his scowling reflection. With eyebrows cocked in curiosity he stared into the depths and tried to discern what was in there. Dismounting with a grunt he wandered closer. He saw the blood he had washed off his fingers lingering at the bottom, and in utmost perplexity he could also see a small light. A light that seemed to be trying to embed itself in his blood but couldn’t; as if some invisible barrier was keeping it from doing so. The light was so pretty. It moved through the water with grace and rippled it with a seemingly joy-filled dance. The water waved and moved around the shoddy, wooden, bucket with elegance, as if it lived. The man backed away and wiped his hand over his eyes, living water? This was absurd.
Taken by the enticing orb he realized that the bucket was reflecting what was going on inside him, not outside. So as a last resort in desperation he took down his guard, surrendered, and let the Light in. He reached out and touched the Living Water and let in run down his hand and over his arm, through his sleeve and over his muscled chest. The light in the bucket then vanished, reality came thundering back and everything was as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. But, that still, small voice echoed, again, in his soul. “Take it away,” the tortured man called, “take it all away.” Seizing all the strength he had left he screamed out, “Take it all! Forgive me my sins! Love me in my wretchedness! Make me new! Love me, just love me, forgive me, love me. Jesus. Yeshua. Savior.”
A feathery wind enveloped him and it began to rain. He stood in the storm with his arms thrown out and his heart exposed in abandon. He felt free. Everything from his life-time was now his past and it was a shadow. A mere shadow, and he was new. Forgiven and loved, oh, so loved! All his burdens gone stolen away from him. And the man wept. He wept with the purest joy, if ever there was such a joy.
He then remembered the girl. He remembered her and knew. This is what it was. This is how she did it. How she lived, and how she had died, for the Redeemer. For the love mystery called Jesus. He limped back to the castle with the water bucket, and entered the hall. There she lay, still as stone. Quiet and emitting emptiness. Seeking to right what little he could, he crossed the floor and knelt gently beside her. He closed her still open eyes, he washed her face and moped up the blood from the floor with his bare hands. He retrieved her tiara and placed it on her head. He folded her hands upon her breast, and leaned down close to her cold face. He kissed her softly. Her cheek was left damp from the rain and tears that lingered on his.
The man sat back on his heels, cloak splayed about his feet, head tipped back, eyes shut gently, and he prayed.