These thoughts attack me out of the silence. "You are a FAILURE! You will never amount to anything; you just can't stay on your feet."
"Where are you, God?" I cry out, "Why do I keep falling when I am trying so hard to walk with you?"
"My son," He answers, "it is because you are learning to walk that you fall."
The truth is, I have come quite far. I used to live my life crawling naked in the filthiness of the ground. All I knew was dirt and grime, wriggling around on my belly like a worm. Then one day, a Man walked up to me. He WALKED up to me! I had never seen a person walk, and I wanted to learn! He picked me up onto my feet, those feet that were atrophied from disuse; He cleaned me off, purified me of all the dirt sticking to my skin, the stains from years of crawling on the ground. Then He gave me clothes to cover my shame, bright, shining, pure clothes, as radiant as his own.
He looked into my eyes and asked, "Walk with me?"
"But how, Lord?" I replied, "I don't even know how."
"One foot at a time," was His kind answer.
And so I tried. I took a step. My foot slowly, falteringly, rose from the ground. As I lowered it, I thought triumphantly, "Aha! I am walking! This isn't hard at all." Distracted by my pride, I slipped on the trash cluttering the ground.
Bang! My head thudded onto the concrete. The pain from the fall slowly receded, and I found myself back in the filth of the earth. Regret washed over me, followed quickly by condemnation. I had failed. This walking thing was hopeless. I would never get it right. I might as well give up. But then the Man came alongside of me, "Take my hand," He said, "walk with me." I reached up, anxious to try again.
He helped me to stand, brushed off the dirt, and said, "This is how we learn to walk, beloved. You must always get back up."
And so I did. As the years slowly dragged by, I grew to know the pain of failure. My head developed bruises from cracking against the ground so often. At first I eagerly got back up, he would cleanse my clothes, "Try again," he would say.
And so I would step again, focusing intensely. Cautiously I would lift my foot forward, careful to avoid the slippery refuse on the ground. As I placed it down I would begin to put more weight on it. At first the leg would give out and I would fall. Back on the ground the thoughts would attack me.
"HA! You are a loser. You can't even stand on your own two feet." The laughter rang out all around me.
But the Man would always be there to help me back up. For some reason, He didn't care about my failure. He didn't care that I kept getting these new clothes dirty, in His hands they became clean again.
"Aaaaaugh!" Crack! And down I go again.
"I just got back up!" I thought, "How could I fall again so soon? It hurts so badly. I don't know if I can take this any more. Every time I get back up, I fall again. I can only walk a few steps at a time before Wham! back down I fall. It hurts so badly."
Ever so slowly, I began to rest more on the ground. I would wait longer to get back up, making excuses to the Man. The ground offered no pain, it was only a little dirt, and on the ground I couldn't fall. So eventually, I refused to get back up. I just stopped caring.
But then it all changed.
"Ugh! What is this?" Someone had defecated in the middle of the road, and I had crawled right through it. The reality of my situation suddenly crashed in on me. I had abandoned the only one who ever cared for me. I was crawling around in human waste, and what was worse, it didn't bother me.
Tears sprang to my eyes, I couldn't believe it. How could I have let myself fall back so far? I had been walking! I could take several steps before I fell. But now I was so caked with garbage that I could barely see. The Man had probably left me when I refused to get up. He must have gone on to find other, better people.
Curled up in the fetal position, my body shook with sobs of remorse. The anguish of my failure once again threatened to crush me. Hope was gone and I felt totally alone, worthless even in my own eyes.
Then, all of a sudden, pressure started to build up on my eyelids, as if someone was pushing in on my eyes. The caked dirt covering them became mud, and slowly dissolved away.
It was the Man! As his hand came away from my face, I could see he had been there all along. He was there! And He was reaching out once again. "Walk with Me?" He gently asked.
"But Sir, I gave up. I don't deserve to walk anymore."
His eyes were full of sorrow and love as He looked at me, gently holding out His hand, and I realized, I wanted to walk with Him again. This Man who had first believed in me; He was the one I wanted to be with more than anyone else. And so I reached out, grasped His hand, and He pulled me onto my feet.
But what was this? The dirt from my hand had moved over to his. By reaching out to me, He had soiled Himself. I watched, horrified, as the slime started to spread. It crawled down his fingers, growing and spreading like a mob of hungry ants. His eyes gazed deep into mine, filled with a resolute sorrow, as if He had known this would happen. Then, suddenly, excruciating pain gripped the Man's face as the grime began to coat His body. It moved from His hand, searing up His arm, across His shoulders, and spreading across his chest. Wherever it moved, the white of His clothes began to lose its luster and an acrid smoke rose off of Him. As the mess reached His heart He bared His teeth in a contorted grimace, and let out a howl, full of agony, loss, and Holy rage. His voice embodied all the pain, all the shame, and all the frustration that I had felt, all in that one, long, gut-wrenching scream. I mashed my hands over my ears and clenched my eyes shut, trying to block out the pain, but His anguished cry cut into the core of my being. The pain flew through me, rending my body and soul, reverberating around inside me. It felt like it would tear me apart if I didn't let it out. So I began to scream as well. This pain that the Man was experiencing radiated in my heart, and I knew then that it was I who had killed Him. By choosing the ground, I had killed Him. That revelation only added to our pain, the noise rising to a crescendo of agony and remorse. Then, in the chaos of the noise, a voice spoke in my head. It was unnaturally calm, but immensely powerful.
"Open your eyes" it said.
My eyes sprang open. To my amazement, the crust of dirt that had covered me for so long was melting away. The weight of a hundred bricks was flowing off of me like water!
I looked, and indeed, it was flowing. But to my horror, it flowed not to the ground, but across my hand, and over onto the Man. He was no longer white but covered in oily green, black, and brown. All of my filth was now on Him. Only His eyes could be seen now, burning with an intense passion beyond the threshold of human capability. Those eyes bored into mine as more and more muck piled on to Him, weighing Him down. He stumbled and fell to His knees under the weight as a demonic cackle broke out around us. It seemed to be coming from the slime itself! Still the filth continued to pour off of me and onto Him. It felt as if my entire being was draining. The maniacal laughter echoed around as the Man writhed in pain, now thrashing on the ground, shuddering, His body wracked with obvious pain. His back went rigid, arched in an impossible curve, as the scream got louder and louder. I wanted to escape. The sorrow gripped me then and my wail took on the realization of my real failure. The mocking laughter reached a crescendo when, fighting through the pain and caked slime, with His last breath, the Man’s scream morphed into a word, a single word imbued with all His majesty and power, louder than anything before, the triumphant shout, “TETELESTAI!”
Then, as quickly as it started, it was over. The Man lay still. The laughter had stopped. Silence reigned.
I looked down at myself. I was clean. The Man had transferred my filth onto Himself. I was still wearing the clothes He had given me so long ago, but now they were as pure as the driven snow. Tears began to well up within me. "What have I done?" I screamed at the sky, but there was no answer. I knew the only one with an answer lay dead at my feet.
Suddenly, the sludge on the ground shifted. Steam started rising from it once again, and it began flowing together. Then, it started creeping forward again, only this time, it was headed back toward me!
I tried to turn, tried to run, but fear kept me rooted to the spot, and the slime was closer. This evil creature that had killed the only Man ever to believe in me was now coming to finish me off. Closer, closer it came, bubbling and popping as if intent on smothering me. I didn't want to go back to that life! Hadn't I been cleaned? But now the one who could protect and clean me was gone. Closer it came; it had almost touched my feet!
But then it stopped. It flattened out, as if it had hit some unseen wall. The muck spread along this invisible barrier until it completely surrounded me, but it couldn't come any closer than a few feet. Puzzled, I took a step forward. The barrier moved with me, shoving the filth aside. I took another step...
...And instantly the world around me exploded in a flash of light. Everything was gone, drowned out by an intense, throbbing explosion of blinding white light. I fell back onto the ground in shock, dazzled by the light. And suddenly there was laughter, the beautiful, joyous laughter of a thousand children ringing out in ecstatic pleasure. The liquid emotion of the moment tugged at my heart, begging me to join it. As the light slowly faded and my vision returned, my tearstained eyes saw a hand reached out to me. It was Him.
It was the Man that had always been there for me, who had stayed with me even when I rejected Him, Who saved me from myself, who had taken on death for me. He was back, and the Man I had killed was offering me His hand in reconciliation.
Hesitantly, I took it. His solid, familiar grip reassured me that this was indeed my friend of old. His skin felt different, somewhat rough where the slime had burned Him, but nevertheless, the same love was there.
"Walk with Me?" He asked.
A smile lit my face and tears ran freely down my cheeks as I responded, "Yes my friend. You are all I need. You are all I want. I will walk with you."
We have been walking for a while now, and I am growing stronger every day. I still fall regularly, and still have doubts, as you saw earlier, but I get up, walk on, and fall less. Now I can fellowship with my Friend, instead of focusing on staying on my feet. But this friend of mine does not want anyone left in the dirt. That means you too. He wants to teach you to walk and one day to walk alongside you. He is reaching out His hand asking,