by Jennifer Pellegrino
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Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Angelina with a light in her heart. Angelina lived in a garden guarded by a gate. She was exuberant, on the brink of life with the beauty of a blush on her cheeks. But a curious spirit stirred inside her and loneliness edged her toward the gate. One night when she thought the Gardener would not see, Angelina left the garden and ventured out into the perilous forests the Gardener warned her of. At first, it seemed lovely, safe and free. However, soon there came a day when all the paths, rocks and trees appeared to be the same. Frightened she was lost and not sure of the Gardener’s name to call, Angelina made her own path. For years she traveled this path on her own, trying to recreate the garden as she went, but unable to truly do so. The years wore on her, and the light in her heart began to grow dim. She tried to keep it burning with whatever she found. Alas, she knew only the Gardener could ignite the flame again. So, she decided, she must find who it was. Who was the Gardener who once gave her such joy?
The forest grew darker with every step she took. Voices, they echoed her helplessness and loss. The memory of the Garden, the only hope she had, was fading away with every torrent of rain. Then one night, with anger in her heart that the Gardener could leave her like so, Angelina forsook her search and settled in a grotto, deep below. Oh, if she had only known what lurked below! With darkness pressing upon her eyes, she fought to see. A voice told her, “Close them, and follow my lead”. Too tired to care, Angelina obliged, the voice sending a familiar chill up her spine as it lulled her to sleep.It wasn’t until she was deep in a slumber that Angelina saw clearly just what bound her, but by then it was too late to escape.. Within a fortnight, Angelina was sure, the figure before her was anything but good. He called himself Edward, but his name was illusive. She knew he was death; by the way he’d chained her and used her. By day, she cried for the Gardener to save her. Yet, by night Edward’s charm appealed to her giving her a fleeting purpose and reason. She needed a savior, someone to come and rescue her heart. This evil and death, the sadness in her chest left her breathless and worn. Yet, for all of Edward’s woes upon her, Angelina knew her heart was meant for more. She knew her heart had a place and a home.
She prayed for Edward to die, but knew then she must too. She knew his death was in her the moment she had touched him that first dark night. The chill of his voice, oh yes, she had heard it before. It was the same voice that led her out of the Garden; the same chill she had felt when lonely as a small girl. She had known Edward her entire life; he had been luring her to the darkness since her first sunrise.
If Edward and his death were to be annihilated once and for all, she must die too. Oh, but she wanted to live! The dichotomy in her heart left her gasping in pain, Edward cackling with delight. She was going to die, and it was nothing she could have avoided, she knew. Edward had her in his grasp from the moment she was born. Her attempts to re-spark that light in her heart had been in vain. She could never do a thing to avoid this impending death. She offered one final cry for the Gardener to hear and bring her back to the garden. His was the only pure light she had ever known, surely he could redeem her from Edward’s hands..Then she allowed herself to fall into a deep sleep. For what more could she do? Only life can defeat death. And who has ever out won death?
All the while, not so far away, the Gardener heard Angelina’s cry amongst a valley full of others. His body ached with pain as he looked into the mirror hanging on Angelina’s cottage wall. A tear spilled down his face; he knew it was time for the war. Since Angelina left her garden, and many others like her, the Gardener had set into motion a battle to wage over Edward. Finally it was time, for Edward felt the strongest. The Gardener went to the grotto and fought Edward once and for all. But it was not at all the war anyone expected it to be. For with much blood, He simply laid down His life and died so Angelina and the others did not have to.
Then, seeing the Gardener asleep, Edward thought He had won. He thought, What a fool! He’s dead and she’s still mine! Yes, I’ve surely won! But oh, no, three days later when the Gardener walked out of the grotto, He defeated death after all and disarmed a blundered Edward forever! And the whole forest gaped in wonder.
The battle won, the Gardener, stepped inside of the grotto, cold and damp. Angelina was still asleep; over her frame, He wept. He stroked back her hair, “Wake up Angelina, I’m here.” She stirred, but was not aroused from the deep slumber she was in. The Gardener walked out into the sun and stood, in the company of those who had seen the battle ensue. Whilst the others, like Angelina, still laid sleeping in the dark, the Gardener told everyone they must spread the good news. He had won and was calling sleepers out of their slumber to live life in His love. He said that whoever should call His name would be saved- from Edward, from Death. He would remove the stain of death and evil and every impurity from their hearts forever. They would not die, but truly live. Only by His name.
With eyes wide and mystified, those who had seen quickly spread His name like a wild fire throughout the forest. It was whispered in the brush, shouted from the cliffs, and one day echoed into Angelina’s cave. With a gasp of breath, she awoke at last, with a name in her heart, and now a path.. The journey was long, arduous and all. That name in her heart pushed her on; made her strong. It was not long after Angelina arrived at a gate; she peered inside, heart fluttering in her chest.
“Jesus?” she ventured, using the name she had heard and a man turned around.. Her eyes grew wide and tears fell now. She drew her hand to her lips as recognition set in. “You’re the Gardener, you are. You loved me, but I left.”
Jesus stepped toward her, His eyes locked on hers. “I made you and I love you. Angelina, will you come home?” The flame reignited, in her heart. Was she home? She had to make a decision to stay or to go. Outside of the gate, she was lost and alone, with Edward lurking behind trees to try again and make her his own.. Angelina chose to stay. And though the temptation seized her many times to go back to Edward, Angelina was forever marked by the Gardener now, by His name, Jesus. Edward had no power over her.
Many have tried to kill Edward, or Death, though is already dead Some have tried to save themselves, tirelessly gnawing at the rope binding their hands and feet, cursing at Edward, Death, but to no avail. Some have numbed themselves, disillusioned themselves or settled into his ways. But alas, not one human soul has ever killed him or escaped his grasp. Many still lie asleep in his lap deep within their own grotto. Even now, though the Gardener has conquered death, Edward still tries to keep as many as he can asleep in his grottos, manipulating souls into thinking there is surely no life, but only death.
But the sun is shining, so wake up, you sleeper and hear the good news of what was done for you while you lay asleep! Rise from the dead and Jesus will shine on you! Death has lost and life has won. Throw off your chains and be free to run. That’s Easter. Now you’ve heard His name; seek and you will find.
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