We continue on, walking now, heading toward the doorway. The very real pain in my knees leaves me limping and clinging to Him for support. My labored breathing hands heavy in the hot, stuffy air.
Finally, we reach the door back to the foyer. Cool air and bright light rushes in as He opens it. While the cool air is easier to breath, it feels cold now in the foyer. The change is a shock to me, leaving me feeling ill. He helps me to a nearby chair.
“Let Me see your wounds.” He directs, peeling away the robe from my knees as I wince in pain. My knees are torn and bloody, bruised and aching.
“ I do not understand, Papa, what happened?” I ask as He removes the debris from my wounds. Deeply imbedded stones make the process very painful. “What is all this?”
“The criticism, condemnation and self consciousness has penetrated deeply, child. They have cut you in ways that debilitate you, keeping you from that place of worship. There is great power in that place, so there is great struggle in getting there.
“You have been wounded getting there before, you dance before Me wounded. You serve before Me bleeding. Let Me heal those wounds.”
“Please, Papa! I am so tired of this pain!”
He opens a jar of salve and straightens my legs. Taking a handful of the ointment, He spreads it liberally over my knees. It burns! I bite my lip to keep from crying out. I was not expecting this!
“I want to burn away the criticism that is infecting these wounds that makes them fester and poisons you. Some of it has been around so long you cannot distinguish it from the truth.”
I hear old voices from the past raising up from the shadows. “Not good enough” “Stupid, stuck up, uncaring” “Not like us, different” “Too hard, wrong, does not fit” “That’s not the way it is done.”
I know these voices well. They have haunted my heart, kept me from intimacy with Him. But in ways they are also a part of me, a part I must now give up. “I release these to You, Papa.” I whisper, biting back tears. “I want to hear truth, not this any more.”
“Yes” He says, “it is time not for truth.”
I do not even begin to understand what He means by that.
“Remove your sandals.” He directs. I obey, handing them to Him. He helps me to stand, then walk through the foyer and out the front door.
I remember how afraid I have been in the past, walking with Him. I realize I am not afraid now. So much has changed.
As we step outside I hear myself thinking about how much I hate being barefoot.
“Why?” He asks, my thoughts are not hidden from Him.
“It hurts. Either someone is stepping on my feet or I am stepping on something that hurts or I stub my toes on something. I always seem to hurt myself when I go barefoot.” I explain hurriedly.
He does not reply.
As we walk across the courtyard, I notice how warm and soft the sand feels underfoot. It tickles my feet, but does not hurt. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a small green plant growing up near the gate in the same place where we planted a seed not long ago.
Still without speaking, we cross the bridge into the garden. I am taken aback as I realize how the wood is softly smooth and warm underfoot, feeling almost like silk underfoot. As we cross the bridge and step over to the grass I am awed at how velvety soft the grass is beneath my feet.
“What have you felt?” He asks.
His question surprises me and I cannot find an answer.
“You have closed yourself up to much that is good in trying to protect yourself from what is bad. Trust Me instead. You have excused it, but it has been selfishness and sin.” Gentleness and love infuse the challenging words He has just spoken.
His words are heavy in the air between us, placing something before me that I had never realized. Yet I cannot deny or argue what He has said. And what He offers is so hopeful. “Please, Papa, correct it.” I finally whisper.
“I knew you would say that.” He leans down to kiss the top of my head and He takes my arm. Somehow it seems like is has been a long time since we’ve walked like this to the grove. I am surprised though, when He turns to the right into the sunny side of the garden, toward the bench by the mote where we have sat to watch the koi. The garden is blooming and beautiful.
I am seized by the urge to run. Not to run away, but to run like a child for the sheer joy in running. He takes my hand suddenly and we begin to run together, laughing for the very joy of it. We run full out until I finally collapse from the effort. Tumbling down on the ground I realize that my feet do not hurt! I see our footprints in the grass and the small stones laying in that path and wonder why I did not seem to step on any of them.
“Because you are holding My hand.” He replies. “You have been guarding yourself for a long time. Now is time for you to begin to take risks, holding on to My hand.” He helps me back to my feet, taking my arm once again. Coming upon the shaded bench, we stop to rest in the coolness of the refreshing shade. “This is how you are to labor now, holding My hand and being refreshed in Me.”
I look up at Him for a moment and see a solid strength like no other I have known. He is so different from what I had been taught to expect, so safe, so faithful, so truly worthy of my trust. His hand in mine does not force me nor hurt me, but freely gives me strength and comfort.
Silently, we move to the water’s edge, sitting on the bank to dip our feet into the cool water. Although a bit shocking, the coolness of the water is reviving nonetheless and we sit quietly, resting there.
Chapter 27 to come