We rest a moment as He lets me regain some strength before turning back to the pit. We stand facing it, staring at it. “This place no longer has the power to hold you. You never have to return here again, never have to listen to those voices again.”
“Can we leave now?” I ask, exhaustion tingeing my voice.
“In a moment.” He opens the lantern and removes a single coal from within. Taking a step toward the pit, He drops the coal into the darkness. I watch it glow as it falls. It seems to fall a very long time, but that is not unexpected. I have been in that pit too many times; I remember too well its depth and the difficult climb out of that place. Finally it hits bottom. I am surprised to see it continuing to glow even at the bottom.
“In time the coal will light this whole place. But for now, it is right to seal the door and keep this place empty.” He explains.
I try to think of what He has said as He guides me back to the stairs. The air is so heavy and foul that I am barely able to breath. I dread this climb. I have climbed this stair too many ties and I know it will be difficult. In the past it has even taken multiple attempts, getting part of the way back up and falling back down, only to have to try again to get out.
“I am here,” He reminds me, pressing me once again between the wall and His strong shoulder, making sure that I will not fall. There is no railing to these stairs, if He is not there beside me, there is nothing to keep me from falling back into the depths of the darkness.
We begin to climb the stairs. Step by step by step we ascend, but it seems there is no progress. My thighs burn, my knees scream in pain. I cannot get enough breath. I do not know if I can make it further.
“Use your sword to support you.” He instructs.
I would have never considered using such a weapon as a mere walking stick. It seems absurd. I am uncertain, but not willing to disobey His instruction. Unsheathing the saber, I plant its tip in the step above me. The blade cuts deeply into the warped wood of the tread.
“I can do all things with You!” I whisper, pulling myself up one more stair, bracing against the strength of the sword ahead of me and His presence beside me. Over and over again I repeat the effortful process until finally we reach the top step.
I half fall through the door way back into the hall, hungrily gulping in the cool fresh air of the mail floor. The last of the muck from the abyss drips from my robe onto the floor, leaving no stain on me. I feel relief hearing Him shut the door behind us.
“Papa, please, may I rest now!” I cry out, surprised again by my boldness with Him.
“Yes.” He guides me the short distance to the private dining room and helps me sit down. Graciously, He hands me a large glass of cold, sweet water. I gulp at it desperately at first, then slow a bit to savor its fresh sweetness. As I catch my breath I become aware of a terrible sense of uncleanness covering me.
Before I can ask, He responds. “That comes from breathing the air of that place. Rest a while, it will pass.”
I am so weary I have no difficulty in obeying this instruction.
Finally, though I must ask, “Papa, I have heard that call before and could not resist it. How is it I did not lose grip on You this time?
“It was the oil, the second anointing of it, that allowed you to withstand that place, to be able to breathe that foul air and still cling to Me.”
That is why He anointed the tip of my nose! I suddenly understand now and am unable to suppress my laughter. He smiles warmly at my amusement.
“What now, Papa?” I ask a little while later.
“It would be good to seal and block the door so that in a moment of weakness it will not be easy for you to go there again.”
He is right of course, I know the temptation, the solace found in the known and familiar even when it is hurtful and damaging. “What is the best way?”
“Nail the door shut and then block it with heavy furniture.”
“All right, Papa. Will You help me?” He nods as He helps me rise from the table.
Silently, we walk to the door. He hands me a hammer and long, heavy nails. The process of nailing the door shut is a slow one. The wood of the door and frame, though plain, is very hard and the nails large. My shoulder and arms already ache from pulling myself upstairs. The hammer’s blows seem to ring off the nails, barely moving them into the wood they seek to penetrate. I have to rest numerous times before I am finished.
When finally I turn, finished with my task, I see Him as a short distance down the hall, bringing a large bookcase this way. The bookcase is a deep mahogany matching the paneling in the dining room in style and color. With authority, He places it firmly in front of the door I have just pinned shut. The shelves are large enough to completely conceal the doorway behind them. I am relieved that I can no longer see it, no longer to have a constant reminder of what is there. The bookcase, for now is empty, but it is a sign of what will be.
“You will fill this—won’t you, Papa?” I ask shyly, but with hope.
“Of course, child, if that is what you desire.”
I catch His hand and press it to my cheek, unable to give voice to the thanks that overflow my heart. He says nothing, but smiles warmly at me and carefully takes my arm again. We head back down the dusty corridor. I notice the hood I now wear is made of the finest, lightest silk I have ever known. White, like the robe, it is almost weightless, yet I do not doubt its capacity to protect me.
Soon we are in the foyer. Instead of going down the opposite corridor to the study, He stops at the long formal stair case arcing gracefully to the upstairs rooms.
“It is time to go upstairs,” He announces.