“Let Me carry you.” He offers.
There is no pressure, no demand, just compassion and understanding. I know He will not press, but wait for me if I say no. But I do not want to. I genuinely do want to seek His correction, to change this pattern. “Please,” I whisper.
Carefully, He lifts me; I rest against His shoulder as He carries me out to the garden. I am surprised that we do not go directly to the grove. Instead, we stop at the bench by the water or the opposite side of the garden. He gently sets me down on my feet near the bank of the moat. I sit down to remove my sandals and dangle my feet in the cold water. The colorful koi nibble at my toes playfully.
“It has become beautiful here.” I murmur to myself.
“Yes.” I hear His voice close by, over my shoulder. He is crouching beside me. Slowly, deliberately, He reaches to touch my face. Without thinking about it, I lean into His touch. I love His touch so much more so now that I do not fear His hand the way I once did.
When He finally lays His hand upon my shoulder, I reach down to cup water into my hands to drink. It is cold and sweet and refreshes me. I remember a similar time not so long ago when we paused for me to drink on the way to His correction. Then, I was deeply afraid and could not go on for my fear. Today though, I am numb and empty.
Finally I realize there will be no further refreshing here so I rise to my feet. He stands beside me. His hand, still on my shoulder, speaks His concern for me. “Shall I carry you?” He asks mildly, once again not pushing.
I think for a moment. “May I walk?” I need to do this, to walk there myself. I need to choose this, to know I am doing this.
He nods. We walk silently for a few moments. “You know this will be difficult to teach your heart not to embrace pain, not to reject love.”
How do I respond to such a statement? “How can I respond? What can I say? No. Don’t, I’ve changed my mind?” My voice is shrill, venting the frustration welling within. “I know it will not be pleasant, but You tell me it is the way, so I must. I so long to get this right , only to be able to feel rightly. I want to receive what You give to me. I want to get this straight!”
“I am pleased.” He replies softly, undisturbed by my frustration.
“That’s just it! I want my heat to thrill, to fill with joy when I hear that. But right now it doesn’t. It’s dead, numb, and I am tired of it. I want change.” I pause a moment in my tirade. “Why do You warn me it will be difficult?”
“Because in this place I will not force you. You must ask for this change. I will offer and invite. I will tell you of what can be different if you will allow change. But I will not override your will.” It is quiet again between us.
We pause in our walk as He shows me a small patch of strawberries with fruit already ripening. “So soon?” I ask, surprised at the new fruit.
“Fruit grows up quickly in good soil.” He turns slightly and lightly touches my heart. “This is good soil. You need to know there already is fruit here and more soon to come. You need to know this is real and your heart is really changing.”
We arrive in the grove with the magnificent magnolia tree that I know so well. I feel weak again, but determined. I want what He is offering me, even at the cost He reminds me will be there.
“Daughter?” He asks, saying nothing more, leaving it all to me.
I wish He would not. I do not want to ask for change, I wish I could just let it happen to me while I sat by and watched. But that is not His way. “Papa, I want change.” I feel numb, empty saying these words, but neither do I feel any fear now. I collapse on the branch, knowing my strength is not sufficient to sustain me. “Papa, change my heart. I want to change, I do not want to be like this any more. Please change my heart! Forgive me for holding on to this pain, for taking it in, for centering on it.”
As I speak these words all my hurt comes flooding to the surface wrenching my guts. Still though, my hands are clenched tightly. I need to let this go but I cannot release it. “I want to let this go! I want to let it go! But I’m afraid… “ I am surprised at what I hear myself saying. “I’m afraid there’ll be nothing left -- I’ll have nothing left! I’ll be empty and have nothing. I’m afraid.” The truth is devastating to hear. The emptiness scares one more then the pain. The aloneness terrifies me – yet I must let go! “Papa, change my heart -- I want to let this go!” Over and over I cry these words until my belly aches, my back burns and my hands are raw, until I am exhausted and can hold on no longer hold on.
Finally my hands slip and I release my grip. I feel something pouring out of my hands until there is nothing left. “There is nothing! There is nothing!” I cry. “I am empty-there is nothing left.”
I hear His voice over my sobs. “No, there is something.”
I look up with horror, seeing the idol I have made out of this pain. I have made this pain into an idol, becoming a martyr to it and claiming piety all the while! “Papa! Forgive me! I repent! I tear down this idol!“ My heart though is wrapped around it, I must tear it free.
I tell my heart to release this idol, but it is difficult. Ripping it away is so painful! Finally I see it topple and shatter before Him. I cry out in the emptiness of my heart. “There is nothing, there is nothing!”
Suddenly I see myself again as an infant in my mother’s arms, crying and empty. I see Papa God come beside her and take that baby in His arms to fill and comfort.