“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
Just as the weekend snow storm brought back the memory of the short story I posted yesterday, today’s sermon at church brought to mind another story I wrote years ago. I had written it shortly after God reminded me of the power of His salvation–and the freedom that comes with knowing Him.
God Himself promises me and He promises you “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). So sit back, read the story, and embrace the truth it conveys–the truth of God’s love and God’s salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). Yes. All. Including you.
Shadow of Turning by Me
A soft tapping could be heard in the background as I relaxed on my bed. Although it was August, a cool breeze rustled the trees outside my window, causing a soft, yet soothing sound. I closed my eyes to take in the peacefulness of solitude. I always loved the days when no one but me was home. I’d always do what I was doing just then: lie on the bed, listen to the quietness, and pet my cat Teddy. I loved the feeling of his warm, soft, longhaired body leaning against mine. Even now my fingers mindlessly stroked the silky smooth black hair that overwhelmed his little body. A low rumbling could be heard deep within him, voicing his approval of the affection.
The peace overwhelmed my soul with the feeling I was alone in the universe—no one to perform for—no one to be responsible for—no one—no one but me. I focused on my breathing as I developed and contemplated this thought.
In and out. In and out. In. Out.
I sensed a sudden heat on my face and opened my eyes to catch a glimpse of a beam of sunlight protruding through the trees, shining through the window, and shedding its light on the opposite wall. My once dull crayon yellow walls became a soft yellow like that of a newly blossomed daffodil. Intrigued by this streak of light’s ability to dispel darkness, I sat up and took notice of what I saw.
A shadow. Although the light had removed much of the darkness occupying my room, it also revealed a shadow. As I stood up, facing the shadow, it too appeared to reluctantly rise from its position of concealment behind my dresser. Was that my shadow? It was a person with whom I had never openly conversed or met, yet it was one of my height, size, stature—nevertheless different.
I slowly, cautiously, like a child approaching a relative her family says she should trust but she is not quite sure she should, drew closer to the shadow. The closer I got to the blemish on the otherwise spotless wall, the more its enormity revealed itself.
I stopped a few feet from the shadow. It had no eyes, yet I sensed I was peering deep into the invisible—yet so real—soul of this shadow—this person.
A gasp escaped my throat, cutting through the ghostly silence that had invaded the room. I had seen the shadow’s soul. She was fierce. Angry. Melancholy. Alone. Her eyes looked similar to those of an unloved basset hound. Yet I only saw the eyes for a moment, for her insecurity forced them toward the floor. She was hurting.
She was I.
My inner self, with all its hurts, anger, sadness, pain, was staring back at me. She was exposed in the light, no longer hidden within. I stared helplessly back in awe. Was that really all within me? What would I do now that I was facing my inner—the real—me?
My shadow left me no chance to answer, for she moved. I stood for a moment in shock as my shadow moved toward the door of my room. She slid along the wall behind the bureau, around the corner toward the entryway, and, right when she reached the doorway, she stopped. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she seemed to turn. I saw the silhouette of a finger beckon me to follow. As if to refuse would be to deny myself, I followed.
I followed my shadow down the hallway that led to the living room. The pictures of my family were still scattered along the walls. I smiled as I saw my favorite of my mom sleeping on the couch as George, our first family cat, a main coon, slept stretched out beside her. I loved that picture because it showed how gargantuan George was; he was almost as long as my mother as she lay on her side. I took notice of the changes evident in the hallway, however. Instead of the two doors that opened to my sisters’ rooms and the door that led to the bathroom, the hallway was all wall; it had ceased to have doors. The end—that end that I would expect to lead to the living room—was only a speck of light that seemed interminably distant from my room.
Nevertheless, my shadow and I proceeded, drawing nearer to the light. The light actually forced me to squint, for its very presence pierced the darkness, leaving my eyes fighting to adjust. It was like someone was waking me up from a deep sleep by shining a flashlight in my eyes.
When we reached the doorway, my shadow took a step behind me. All that was between me and the light on the other side was the threshold. Unsure of whether I should continue, I turned to see what my shadow was going to do; yet she was gone. All that was behind me was darkness. I stood motionless for a moment, contemplating whether to enter back into the darkness or proceed forward into the light. Deciding that I had come this far, and out of sheer curiosity, I shielded my eyes and entered.
Once my eyes adjusted, I found myself standing in a meadow. I was alone, yet loneliness did not envelop me. My feet, bare, were hidden in a lush, green field of grass. The cool, tickling feeling of freshly cut grass on my skin sent a childlike joy throughout my body. The music of spring birds also began to take note. I closed my eyes for a moment and opened my ears to drink in the beautiful songs of spring. When I opened my eyes, a monarch butterfly, with magnificent colors fluttered just in front of me and gracefully set itself down on a honeysuckle. I breathed in deeply the scent of wildflowers and honey.
As I looked around to take in more of these Eden-like surroundings, I noticed a figure walking toward me. He drew closer, and I could see the figure was a man. He looked about a six feet tall with a medium build. I could tell he was in shape, but he was not overly muscular. His hair was a sandy brown color, straight, and loosely fell at his shoulders. Something about the sight of him forced me to desire a closer look, so I began to draw near to him.
At the sight of his eyes I stopped. I was mesmerized. They were blue, yet like none I’d ever seen. When I peered into his eyes, I saw this peace, this love, this inexplicable well-being. Compassion seemed to emanate from his eyes. I felt transparent, like there was nothing hidden from the man—from his eyes. I tried to look away, but I couldn’t.
When he was a few feet away, he reached out his hand. In the same way I followed the shadow and left the hallway, I took his hand and allowed him to lead me. As we walked I noticed the strength of his hands. They looked soothing and felt like satin, yet his grip was firm, controlled, sturdy. It was like he was bold, yet gentle; a contradiction, yet one.
We stopped at the base of a small hill. While one hand was still holding mine, the man lifted his other hand and pointed to the top of a hill. On the hill stood a solitary cross. At first I didn’t see the significance of the cross, but then I caught the sight of slight, almost imperceptible, movement.
My shadow was hanging—dying—on the cross. Watching my shadow gasp for breath, I myself began to gasp for breath. Yet, as I attempted to take in, I felt myself becoming more and more empty. I was pouring myself out, yet making room for more. My body began to tremble and I collapsed, landing on my knees in the grass.
The smell of the grass refreshed my senses, and I realized that I had lost touch with the man’s hand. I lifted my head to seek an answer for what was happening, but he was gone. I immediately looked up to the cross, horrified at what my eyes were now witnessing.
My shadow was gone. Yet the cross was not empty. The man, the man with the strong yet soft hands—the man with the piercing blue eyes of love—the man who saw right through me—was on the cross. He was dying.
I couldn’t move. I just kneeled there on the ground unable to change position, yet unable to take my eyes off the man on the cross. I watched him as he struggled to push up with his legs in order to gain a pinch of air. I watched as blood trickled down his face. I watched as his chest heaved in exhaustion, starved of precious life-giving oxygen. I watched when he looked at me with those eyes—those compassionate, piercing eyes—and gasped, “I love you.”
I watched him, as he died.
I continued to stare in disbelief at what I was witnessing, but then I noticed a group of men approaching the cross. They proceeded to take the man from the cross and carry him away. I was horrified at the thought of what the men were possibly going to do with the stranger who having never met me seemed to love me, so I ran after them.
“Stop!” I tried to yell as loud as I could, yet my cry seemed to go no further than my lips. The men continued to take the unknown man and place him in a tomb, rolling a rock in front of it.
I hid behind a tree until they left, then attempted to roll the rock away. I just wanted to get another glimpse of the man—of his hands—of his eyes. If only I could have what he had. It was to no avail, though. The rock would not move.
Exhaustion finally overwhelmed my body and I collapsed at the foot of the rock. I had been poured out, emptied of so much, yet I needed something. I knew that man had it, yet he was dead in the tomb, and I was out here. The thought of being so close to an answer yet so far devastated me, and I wept. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It was like someone had released the dam that held back the tears of my entire life—and a flood was coming.
I don’t know how long I was there on the ground, my face buried in my hands. Yet, in the midst of my weeping, I felt something touch my shoulder. A hand. This hand, however, seemed familiar. The hand conveyed strength, but the hand poured out tender loving kindness as well. The realization of the only hand this could be sent chills throughout my body. I whipped around in joy to see the man I had been mourning and longing for. I gazed into his eyes—and they were still eyes of love, of peace, of care, of strength.
Just as he had done before, he held his hand for me to grasp. I immediately gripped his hand, and he pulled me up from the ground and began leading me to the tomb. The tomb no longer had the rock covering it, and I wondered how I never heard the rock being rolled away. It didn’t matter now, though, for the man I thought was dead was indeed alive.
When we reached the opening of the tomb, I peered inside expecting to see nothing but an empty space, for the man was now with me outside. My eyes widened, however, as I lay hold of a figure in the tomb. My shadow. My shadow was in the tomb, lifeless, dead. The man had risen, but my shadow remained dead.
I was beginning to piece things together in my mind that something in me had died today, but I was still unsure, and I still felt like something—a piece of me—was still missing. The man, most likely understanding my confusion, pointed to the far corner of the tomb. There, standing behind and to the right of my dead shadow, was another shadow. This one, however, was different. Actually, it did not shade the tomb; it brightened it. This new shadow illuminated light instead of hiding it. I again peered into the soul of this new shadow, yet I didn’t see anger or hurt or pain; I saw love, peace, compassion, joy, freedom.
“Is that my shadow?” I asked the man beside me, hoping it was indeed.
“It is My Spirit,” the man, whose voice was a spiritual elixir, replied. “All you have to do is invite Him in.”
Shocked yet ecstatic at the simplicity of it, I beckoned His Spirit to come, and I began walking toward Him, He drew closer to me. As I reached out and embraced Him, the Spirit disappeared. Immediately I sensed a warm feeling within me, a newness, a refreshing. I sensed His Spirit. I sensed completion. What had been poured out on the cross with the death of my shadow and that man had been filled back up with the risen man and my new shadow—the new spirit within me.
I was whole.
I opened my eyes to the sound of trees scraping against wood. I was in my room. The soft purr of a blissful cat reminded me that Teddy was also by my side. Groggily, I sat up, contemplating what I had just witnessed. Was it a dream? Yet it was so real. I looked at my wall where the shadow once was. I looked at the door to the hallway. And I wondered. My curiosity piqued, I rose to my feet, headed to my door and started down the hallway. This time the hallway had doors, and I could see clearly the living room at the end. I began to walk towards the living room, glancing at the pictures that hung on the wall. Again, I smiled at the picture of my mom and George. I stopped, however, at the sight of one that I had never really paid attention to before. It wasn’t a picture really, but a painting. It was the man from my vision. I knew it because of the eyes and the hands, but also because of the cross. He was on it; he was dying.
My eyes then fell to the verse written below the portrait: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)
At that moment I knew that my vision was real. The man was real. The shadow was real. My salvation was real.