Looking back at the puddle, I felt drawn to it, as if my rightful place was sitting in it. As I heeded its beckoning, I heard nothing but the soft drizzle of the rain. I sat dejected again, more so now than before her visit. Presently, however, I heard some faintly approaching footsteps. I knew this visitor also. He was even more persistent than she was. He’d been there, leaning against a modest fence under a distant streetlight, all during her visit – while she had loudly announced her coming, as she tortured me, and even after she left. He’d even been there as I had been visiting, and then as I was beaten up by, Life. Not only that, during both episodes He had been consistently calling to me, softly inviting me as He did now, having stopped a few feet behind me:
“Come to Me.”
I heaved a bitter sigh before responding. “How can You still be here? After I have refused and disappointed You so many times…why do You keep coming back?”
He knelt down in the puddle and began to clean the mud off me, dirtying Himself in the process. “Because I love you,” He replied simply. It was His reason for everything. Ask Him why He always stood watching on the wayside, why He was always there for me in my hardest moments, why He wiped the tears from my eyes and the mud from my cheeks and the blood from my wounds, why He bade me come to Him, why He stayed true to me even after I had declined His countless invitations, each of which was calm as a lamb when compared to the lion’s roar of Sin’s rude announcements of her empty appeal – the answer was the same. No jilted lover could ever take “no” for an answer as resiliently as He.
This time, though…I thought to resent His hospitality. True, I couldn’t clean myself; I knew only He could – but I felt I wasn’t worth the effort. I brushed off His kindly efforts. “Please…You have better things to do. I’m not worth any of Your time…or anything, really,” I murmured.
He stopped. “Did she tell you that?”
“She never fails to remind me. But it’s true, anyway. What difference does it make?”
“Have I not told you otherwise?”
He had, many times. Sin was a liar, and I knew it. She didn’t care for me at all. She could never make me happy. She didn’t want to anyway. She would come to me with gala and fireworks when I was down, spewing forth countless empty promises of instant recovery, supposedly to be rewarded on the condition that I appease her demands, claiming it as my destiny. But she would only ridicule me and steal all sense of purpose from my consciousness, making me her slave, and her ‘medicine’ would do nothing but rub the salt into my wounds. Yet despite my knowledge of all this, why should it be so hard to run from her, even when I see her coming from miles away, as it were with pots and pans banging at her side?
“Why didn’t You stop her?” I complained.
“Did you not hear Me calling for you?” Of course I had, and He knew it. “Whom would you rather be with, Me or Sin?” He asked this earnestly, not to rub it in, but His words still irked me.
I stood up and walked a few steps away. With my back to Him, I asked, “How am I to know whom to believe? Her, with her promises of instant gratification, or You, with Your hard-earned peace?”
“Don’t be deceived: My yoke is easy. My burden is light. Take My yoke upon you.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“My way is easier than you think. It seems difficult to most at first. But don’t forget that I will walk the path with you. If ever you are tempted to detour from it, you need only look to Me for help.”
But wasn’t there still something else? I spun around to face Him and raised my voice. “Why must everything be so hard? Why did You take my sister – so pure and joyful, bringing happiness to everyone she met – in the prime of her life? And why did You also take away the girl of my dreams? Why do I suffer so much insult, illness, injury and depression? But worst of all…why do I have to continually suffer at the hands of that wretched villainess? It’s not just when I’ve been beaten up by Life…she’s there even when Life has treated me handsomely, and I’m out on the town. She shows up in the most obvious situations, and then when I haven’t heard from her in days. Why can’t I be rid of her, once and for all?”
Throughout my tirade, His gentle gaze remained fixed upon me. Of course, I knew the answers to my own questions. I knew His unflinching dedication to each person’s right to choose for himself. So dedicated, in fact, was He, that He was willing to allow Life to strike me again and again with his worst, to allow me the choice to yet come back to Him. I had always wanted to. But this…surely, now, I would not be able to continue on anymore. How could anyone?
“I will never allow you to suffer beyond what you are able to bear,” He finally said, as if answering my thoughts. Perhaps He actually was.
Though still upset by the thought of picking myself up again, I calmed down. “But…does it really have to be that hard?” I muttered, more to myself. And for the third time in a matter of a few minutes, I was beaten. I knew He was right, and He had won me over. He continued to comfort me, first by reminding me of my infinite self-worth. “No matter how many times you think you’ve failed,” He reassured me, “I want you to come back to Me.” He told of the innumerable things I could do to help His other clients, and that He would pay me riches beyond anything I could imagine for doing so. I questioned when I would begin to receive them, and He gently reminded me that He’d already begun to give them to me, and that I just needed to think a little about all that I’d received from Him to recognize it. “Look at how far you’ve come!” He exclaimed. “And think of how much more you’ll be able to do, and become! I promise that I will be there with you, every step of the way…if you’ll just have Me along.”
Braced by His enthusiasm for me, my spirits were lifted, but I hesitated at the thought of facing Life again. Many hard knocks were surely waiting for me. “But what about…?” I finally began.
“We’ll handle him together.”
“He’ll beat me up again.”
“I know how hard he hits you…I’ll take it for you if you’ll let me. Isn’t it easier to take when a Friend is with you? Let’s go in to deal with him now, both of us…will you have Me?” He stretched out His hand, as if waiting for me to come along.
I still felt uneasy; it seemed some loose ends still needed tying. And I recoiled at the unknown future ahead of me. He saw my trepidation:
“O thou of little faith, wherefore dost thou doubt? Doubt not, fear not. Come to Me!”
Could I have refused His invitation again? Yes, of course; I had so many times before. And yet, patient as He is, He wouldn’t curse my name or forsake me – perish the thought! He would have waited for me outside Life’s doors, as He always had despite my rejection, or inside, when I had gone forth in His strength. Nothing could separate His love from me – not Life, not Sin, not even I myself.
Slowly, timidly, finally, I stepped forward to Him, and He put His arm around my shoulder as we walked up the steps to Life’s door. He whispered in my ear, “stay with Me. We’ll beat both Life and Sin together once and for all someday. And then – glorious day! – you will enter My kingdom.”
A delicate smile flickered on my face at the thought.
“As You say, Lord.”