“If you want it, come and get it, for crying out loud. This love that He has given you was never in doubt. Let go of your heart, let go of your head, and feel Him now…” From I Love Your Presence, Jenn Johnson
It’s dark in here. All I feel is cold and tense. All I see is blackness. All I hear is my breath as if I’m inside an empty bottle. All alone, tossed aside and forgotten. I’ve been doing so many things to pass the time, things I thought I had to do to survive, things that were expected of me. But I’ve stopped for a second, and I realize…
I don’t know where I am.
I place a clammy hand over my chest. Is my heart even in there? Where has the rhythm that once sparked my mind gone? I look up into the blackness for a moment, hoping to see some form of light, something that will at least tell me how I got here. But there’s nothing. Despair sets in. Will I ever get out?
I’m alone with my thoughts, and suddenly I remember something I once heard. That you don’t really know the light until you face the darkness. But I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be here!
I’m aware that I’m yelling it now, and the words echo back to me in mockery. And then finally there is something I do know. Walls. I’m surrounded. I walk forward slowly, willing my stubborn eyes to adjust so I won’t run into one of the walls. But I’ve got to know—I’ve got to feel them for myself to make sure that echo wasn’t a trick of my muddled mind. I keep walking forward, my breath thick in my chest and immediately smothering my face in its warmth as soon as it leaves my lips. My feet stop midstride when my elbows bump into a hard, rough surface.
Like I just woke from the dead. How long has it been since I’ve been touched? I let out a breath of disbelief. And then I think, why did my elbows reach the walls first? I realize I don’t even know the position my body is in so I try to open up my brain to make myself conscious of my nervous system. In my mind I focus first on the top of my head, intending to work my way down. All I know is that my eyes are shut tight, so tight that it feels like my eyeballs might fall into my head. I’m trying so hard to feel, to find meaning in this madness.
But nothing comes.
I stop, overcome with frustration and exhausted. I’m breathing deep and hard and then I feel myself drop to my knees. The ground is rough and hard, much like the wall that my elbows collided with. Bone and skin meet rigid earth, and pain shoots up my legs then encompasses my hips and torso until finally it grips my heart. I catch my breath because my lungs closed in the moment my knees hit the ground. My body is pulsing up and down as if it’s matching the wild beat of my heart. This hurts. This hurts so bad, is all I can think. But yet I feel as if something has been returned to me that was stolen a long time ago.
I still can’t see, but I can feel all these sensations that I forgot even existed. And I’m convinced for the first time in forever that I’m still alive.
In my next breath, my forearms are enveloped in warmth. This is not the hard rock-like surface that my elbows and knees have encountered. This is not merely an inanimate object, either. This is something altogether different. Something much like my own skin. Soft, but with a firm hold, as if the touch itself is trying to communicate something very important to me. My mind searches for the name of the things that have grabbed a hold of my arms, but before the word comes out of the shadows onto the tip of my brain, I hear something sweet. So sweet compared to the familiar noise of my cavernous breath.
“Daughter,” a rich voice says, almost a whisper. “You are mine.”
Tears pool in my eyes and it feels like dipping my grime-caked body in a clean river. And then, something soft lands on my forehead, and I crumple in sobs.
I’ve been kissed.
The man who spoke the words still holds my forearms tightly, and I don’t want him to let go. I feel pressure like he’s trying to move each of my arms outward, and I decide I won’t resist. I let him pull, focusing on each breath because to be honest, there is a part of me that is terrified. Suddenly, wind strokes the sides of my head. It is free and light. I open my eyes because I realized they’ve been closed.
I suck in a sharp breath. Light! All around me is light! If I was surrounded by walls before, I’m now in a bright, open place. It’s been dark for so long that I’m overwhelmed. My eyes narrow in on a figure kneeling before me. His deep greenish-blue eyes swallow me whole. I look to either side and see that he’s still holding my arms. My fingers are splayed, shooting out from his fists.
“Let go of your head, dear one,” he says, gently. And then I realize that all that time my hands had been clasped to the sides of my head, my elbows coming together at a point in front of my face, blocking all light from reaching my eyes. I look into the man’s eyes again. They are so full of love that I never want to go back to that cave I was in. He speaks again.
“You’ve been trying so hard to do all these things with parts of your body that were not made for such arduous tasks. Your feet cannot do what your empty hands are able to do. You’ve exhausted yourself. It’s time to let go. Free your heart and your mind so you can again use your hands for their designed purpose. No more striving. Trust me.”
Peace washes over me like that clean river again, but this time I’m floating on its surface and I feel so free I want to laugh.
“Now, I have a much more secure form of protection for you if you’ll embrace it,” the man says.
He slips his hands into mine so that the tension in my fingers relaxes into his grip, and he draws me to my feet. “Keep your eyes on me,” he says, looking intently into my eyes. I obey.
Instantly something strong and sturdy clamps around my forearms, and then my biceps. Piece by piece I am covered with this strong substance that clings to me like a suction. As my chest and torso are covered, I hear a swish followed by a ka-klink! as the armor fits securely into place. My eyes don’t wander from the man’s face. This girding does not restrain me like the walls of my cave did. It feels both safe and empowering. Finally, after my feet are covered, it ends. He releases my hands but I still feel their lingering warmth. Slowly, he moves to the side so I can see the expanse stretching out before me. I’m standing on a level, wide field full of vibrant colors. Wisps of color swirl over the ground and leap into the air as if dancing. And out of the dry, cracked earth brilliant flowers have sprung.
I narrow my eyes to look toward the horizon and notice shadowy figures. They are coming closer.
But for once, I am not afraid of the darkness.
The man weaves his fingers through those on my right hand and holds tight.
“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?—the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.” Psalm 18:31-36 ESV