That I can do! I am relieved to obey Him. I sing to Him, focusing on Him, not what He has asked. As I do though, I find that there is a shield in my hands. It looks like a police riot shield made of a dull grey metal. This is the independence He wants me to sacrifice.
I know I have used this many times. It protects me, keeps me safe from the intrusion of others. I can be in the midst of a group and still be safe and protected from them. This is what He wants me to lay down before Him.
I do not want to obey. At the deepest core of my being I do not want to let this go. I do not understand why He asks this of me. He has said that this is not disobedience, that this is not sin to correct, so why does He ask this?
I stand for a long while before I finally realize that the consequences of not doing what He has asked me are more dreadful to me than the consequences of doing it. I think so at least, but my heart is still unsure.
The heavy shield is strapped to my left arm. I try to remove it, but am unable to. “How do I get this off, Papa?” I ask genuinely puzzled.
“Use the sword,” He instructs.
How I wish He would just take it from me! With my right hand I reach for the sword. It is difficult to reach and hard to maneuver. It takes me a long time to cut the sheild free. 1CO 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" …  … But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
Finally the shield clatters to the ground with a dull thud. I stare at it a moment but then act quickly before I lose my resolve, quickly picking it up and placing it on the fiery altar. The flames flare as I do. I find I cannot watch, though. I step back and turn away from the offering. The intense heat threatens to burn my back and neck. Shadows dance wildly on the cave walls as the flames crackle. Finally, they die down once again.
I do not want to look. I feel torn, empty and afraid, almost angry. I do not understand what is being asked of me.
“Turn back and look child.” He firmly directs me.
Unwillingly, I obey. The flames have not consumed my offering, but have purified it. In place of the large body shield, there is now a small gold shield. He gestures, inviting me to take it. I try to pick it up, but it is still hot from the flames. Startled, I juggle it a bit until I can set it down and step away from the altar.
“Come to Me.” He says.
I stride over to Him, but cannot look at Him, the turmoil in my heart is great. We stand in silence for a long time. Finally, He reaches out and takes hold of my chin, turning my face to look at Him. Still I cannot meet His gaze. “What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid?” He asks pointedly cutting to the heart of the matter. I am indeed afraid.
I hesitate to answer, the honesty it requires intimidates me, but I find strength in my frustration. “I am afraid of disappointing You, of displeasing You. I truly do not understand what You are asking of me. I will obey You! I will! But I just do not see, I do not understand what you are asking of me! I do not understand how to do this. How can I obey what I do not understand? “I am afraid You will turn me away because of this!” There is a shrillness in my tone that even I do not like.
“Who do you think I am? Do you still not know Me?” His voice is sharp.
I feel like I am caught in a no-win situation, not knowing how to obey yet being expected to do so none the less. And I suddenly realized that this is not of Him. “I am sorry Papa,” I whisper, though still not at ease.
Gently He releases His grip on my face. “Go get the shield and bring it to Me.”
I do so, the metal now cooled enough to hold safely in my hands. He takes it from my hands, holding it out for me to examine.
It is much smaller than the old one, large enough to fend off a specific attack but not large enough to truly hid behind or to separate me from a crowd. The brilliantly polished surface reflects the glow of the coals, uninterrupted by unneeded decorations. The edges roll slightly to soften them so they will not cut the user. The metal while thin and light, is very hard and strong, much sturdier than it looks. He turns it over to show me two leather straps for my left arm and a longer one to sling it across my back when not actively using it.
I know what this is, faith; but still I do not understand. Silently, He fits the shield across my shoulders, on to my back. “Now look at the stone.” He instructs.
I try, but the glowing coals are too bright and I cannot see anything. He scoops the coals back into the lantern, containing the light so I can look on the altar stone.
Finally, my eyes adjust to the dimmed light. I can just make out how the altar stone has melted. In its place is a flow tone, shaped like a tent with soda straw formations forming a fringe at the top edge. At first, I think it is a tabernacle, a tent of meeting, but then I see, it is a wedding tent.
“Papa, I do not understand this, I do not understand what you are asking of me.” I plead, shaking my head, despair threatening to overtake me.
“I want you to love my church. You have grown cold and distant. I want you to fall in love with her again.”
“But how do I do this with this church? What more do You want me to do? What else can I do?” I feel like a failure. If all I have already done does not satisfy, then nothing can.
“Come sit with Me.” He invites, sitting down to lean against a large rock by the water’s edge.
I sit at his feet, my back to Him, not even leaning on Him. I can feel myself closing in and shutting down.
“You are pulling away from Me.” He observes as He lightly rests His hand between my shoulders. “Why?”
I can not cover it up, it is pointless to try hiding from Him. “Because I do not even like the church! Sometimes I hate it!” The words tumble out from me along with tears.
“Come share your heart with Me.” He draws me closer to Him, putting His arm around me to pull me to Him.
I bury my face in His shoulder to tearfully whisper, “I am afraid to, afraid You will be upset with me.”
“I already know, child. It is safe to tell Me.” He strokes my hair to reassure me He means what He says.