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Many years ago, a young girl wandered aimlessly in a land called Lost. She was searching for her family that she did not know. At night she hid in the shadows and by day she searched. Many times she was attacked and beaten by the Dark Men, a gang of wayward souls. Every time she felt she could go on no longer, someone would always come to her with food and water, they would bathe her, provide her clean clothes and send her back on her way. The years went by and her determination came and went with them. She grew tired and weary and unsure about her desire to find her family. Maybe she was not meant to be loved. As she wandered through the darkness, late one night she fell into a pit where she would stay for some time. It was too deep to climb out on her own. Maybe her life had no meaning. Maybe this was where she would go to sleep and never wake up to wander again. Years ago she had heard of a King in a land called Peace. This King loved His people beyond reason. He gave them things they had not earned and always made sure they were fed and cared for. As she slept one night, near starvation, she dreamed of the land of Peace. She saw the King in her dream and she asked Him if He was real to send some one for her. She explained that she was lost searching for her family and had fallen in the pit and was about to die. In her dream the King touched her cheek gently and said, "I will never leave you."
She woke the next morning hungrier and more tired, but found herself smiling from the dream she remembered. As she closed her eyes and thought about the King's promise, she heard a voice. She opened her eyes and looked up and there on the edge of the pit was a shepherd boy. He was facing away from her, totally unaware of her presence. At first she couldn't speak, she stared, wondering if this boy had been sent by the King she had seen in her dream. She barely pushed her voice from her lips, "Will you help me?"
He spun around to look down at her, "How did you end up in there?"
"It was dark and I couldn't see where I was going."
"You will not survive down there you silly girl. Let me help you out and I will take you to my Father and He will care for you." He threw down a rope, but instead of waiting for her to climb out, he climbed down into the pit and carried her out. He led her to the creek to bathe while he prepared a meal for her over the fire. As she let the water take the dirt from her body she wondered about this boy's father. She had been hoping for the King, but maybe she was not worthy.
She liked the shepherd boy instantly. He was funny and he was kind. His words were not harsh, like the Dark Men and she found herself trusting him as she felt safe. She followed him with only an occasional wave of fear that maybe this was a trick. The fear that maybe he was one of the Dark Men would grip her throat, but his kindness would free her again.
After many days of following him the shepherd boy brought her into a land so beautiful it brought tears to her eyes. He pointed to a castle far in the distance and said, "There, there is my Father's house. He will be so happy to see you. He will adopt you and love you like He did me. I had fallen in a pit when He found me." The boy stood still, looking off toward the castle and tears filled his eyes as he remembered and told her about the day the King himself had reached down and lifted him out of his pit.
"Your Father is a King?"
"Yes. He is your Father too. He adopts anyone who comes to Him and asks with an honest heart. He loves each one as much as the others. He will change your life and make it better. He made me a shepherd and I watch over many of His sheep."
She was afraid. She felt that if the King saw who she really was, He wouldn't want her. She had nothing to offer Him. She thought many times of turning around as she followed the shepherd boy toward the castle, but something kept drawing her so she moved forward. When they arrived at the castle, the shepherd boy seemed to walk faster, excited to see his Father, but she found herself holding back. When he disappeared around the corner she panicked. She slowly peered around the wall to see the shepherd boy standing in front of the King. The King was so beautiful it took her breath away. She could only stare as she recognized Him from her dream.
When the shepherd boy noticed she was no longer following, he waved at her to come closer, "He want's to talk with you."
She shook her head "no" in fear. He was too magnificent for her to approach. She wanted to turn and run, but something held her there.
The King handed the shepherd boy a box and he brought it to the girl, "Here, our Father wants you to have this. He has many other gifts for you. He told me He adopted you many years ago, but you ran off. He has forgiven you and wants to start over new, with a clean slate."
"Okay, but I am too afraid to go near Him. He is so big and beautiful and I am so dirty."
"When you are ready I will take you to Him."
The shepherd boy took the girl to the room where she would stay. Each day she would get a little closer to the King, but she always kept a safe distance. The King would write things on little pieces of paper and hand them to the shepherd boy and he would give them to the girl. The messages were all about how much he loved her and wanted her to stay with Him and be His daughter. He promised to never leave her. She would take each note and hide it away in the box He had given her the day she arrived. The shepherd boy called the notes, The Truth.
One day, as the girl came around the corner of the King's throne room she saw the shepherd boy talking with their Father. When he noticed her, he got down on one knee and motioned for her to come closer. "It's safe. He wants to show you how much He loves you. Come closer."
She decided to risk it. She began meeting with the King everyday. He would tell her things that explained her past and who she was. He asked her one day what her name was and she began to cry. "I don't know who I am. All I know is that I was lost and it was dark and people hurt me. All I ever wanted was a family. All I wanted was to come home. I just never knew where home was."
The King reached down and took her face in His big hands, "You are home with Me and I will call you, Beloved. That is who you are and it will never change."
They spent every day together. She learned to laugh. She learned she could tell the King, her Father anything on her mind. He taught her many things. Eventually she worked up the courage to climb into His lap and He rocked her for hours while she let go of the tears she had been holding onto for many years.
The relationship she had with the shepherd boy changed. She saw him less and less. When they did see each other, anger rose up in both of them. No matter how they tried, they seemed to only hurt each other. He spent many hours in the fields with sheep and less and less time with the King. When He did come to the castle he only talked with the King about his sheep and listed all the good things he was doing in the fields. As, Beloved sat in the King's lap she wondered why the shepherd boy would never join her. He seemed angrier every time she saw him.
One day when she was talking with the King, she asked, "Why is the shepherd boy not happy? Did I do something wrong? I don't understand why we get so angry at each other."
The King's eyes filled with tears. "He has never sat in my lap. He gets very close to me, but he doesn't know it's okay. I invite him, but he is afraid."
"Why is he afraid?"
"Because long ago when he was very young there was a group of boys who were very mean to him. They used to call him names. They were jealous of his gifts. He used to fight often, trying to prove his strength. He was not born to fight. I gave him wisdom, compassion, empathy, and many other gifts, but he still feels unworthy because those names the boys called him scarred his soul. He protects that part and won't let me touch it."
"I didn't know he was so wounded."
"Yes. He keeps himself so busy with his flock that he doesn't take the time to eat and rest like he should. I have sent a messenger many times inviting him to come, sit in my lap and let me heal that deepest wound, but he always has a reason why he can't come. It's always a wounded sheep, a lost shepherd or a wolf he is fighting off that keeps him from fully joining me."
"That's sad." The King wiped her tears from her face and began to rock her, but on her shoulder, she felt the warmth of her Father's tears falling for the shepherd boy.
Time went by and Beloved struggled as the Father showed her more and more Truth, but she knew she was healing so she moved forward. When the shepherd boy would come to the castle to report to the King all he was doing, she avoided him. Occasionally they would see each other and it would usually end with her screaming at him. He would tell her that she was doing things wrong, that he knew the Father longer than she did and he knew the ways to talk with Him and spend time with Him. The shepherd boy rarely said kind words anymore and on top of it, she caught him flirting with the maidens in the garden. She knew the King would not be pleased, because he had told the shepherd boy not to even step into the garden. Beloved didn't tell the king what the shepherd boy was doing, because her behavior would not please Him either. For she had been flirting with the shepherd boy. She also knew that he was being mean to the sheep. He would yell at them and shove them and then feel bad. Because he felt so bad after, no one wanted to tell the King. The turmoil she was in kept her from climbing into the King's lap and soon she was interacting with the King like the shepherd boy. She would only talk with Him about other's behavior and the things she wanted to do.
One day the king called for her. He invited her to sit on his lap and she wanted to desperately, but she was afraid. She was tired of the secrets and hurting from the fights with the shepherd boy. She finally surrendered and climbed into His lap. "I've been bad. I can't stop fighting with the shepherd boy and I think he hates me now. He yelled at me like never before and I was scared."
"I know. I know everything that has happened between you. I know your pain and I know his and I love you both today as much as I did the day you each came to me. Now, go and get the box of Truth I gave to you."
Beloved ran to her room and got the box. The tears came with the fear that the Father was going to take it from her. She was afraid He would send her back out into the Land of the Lost and she would never know the feeling of sitting in His lap again. When she returned to the King with the box she stood at His feet and held it out to Him. He took it from her and set it down on the arm of His chair. Then he reached down and picked her up and set her in His lap.
"I want you to go to the shepherd boy. You will go to the field where he tends the sheep."
She burst into tears. "Am I not allowed to live in the castle any longer? Do I have to go out and live with the mean shepherd boy?"
"No. You will always be welcome in the castle as long as it is where you choose to live. But, the shepherd boy is in trouble and I have sent many messages to him, calling him to come back to me so we can heal the situation, but he only send messages back avoiding the topics I want to discuss."
"I am afraid of him. I don't want to see him. I am just a young girl, how can I be of any help to you?"
"I chose you because you are like him. Your temper runs the same, because your hurt is the same. You share weaknesses and strength. You see the good and the bad in each other. It is through a person of the same wounding that the healing begins. That is why I sent him to get you out of the pit."
"You sent him?"
"Of course I sent him, just like I am sending you to him now. He is your brother. You are his sister."
"I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say." The fear was rising up in her and she felt overwhelmed and out of control. "I am in no position to discipline the shepherd boy. I am as guilty of bad behavior as him. I don't understand. Did you forget who I am?"
"Did you forget who I Am? I see you forgot who you are. You are my Beloved. The nights in the darkness, the attacks of the Dark Men have prepared you. It is the Dark Men who are tormenting the shepherd boy. He doesn't see them. They come in the night and tempt him. They come by day and stir up his flock. He believes he is the bad one, so he puffs out his chest and works hard to prove he is not. He cannot prove what he does not know. He should have come to me long ago. I see what he is doing. There is nothing he can hide. As he found you in your last day in the pit with death finding it's way to you, you will find him. Though he does not realize how close to death he is. I cannot allow him to shepherd any longer in this way. He has to be brought back to the castle, climb into my lap and confess, so that I can heal his wounds. You must bring him to Me."
"But we have been fighting. How in the world would I ever convince him to follow me back here to the castle?"
The King reached over and picked up the box of Truths. He lifted the lid to show Beloved that the Truths had been turned to Living Water. "Beloved, I want you to wash his feet with the Truth as he did yours when you were brought from the pit. He will only follow you if you show him love. Anger and hate will always turn others away."
"I can't. I don't know how."
"Do you love me?"
"Yes, and I want to obey you no matter what. I... I want... I will."
"He might hurt you, he may be angry Beloved, but he cannot take your life. Your life belongs to me. You must walk in love."
"Okay. I will. I am his friend and I do love him." She felt sick and her hands trembled. She cuddled up to Him and He wiped the fear from her.
"I enjoy our time together as much as you, but nothing good is done for the Kingdom unless you step out. Beloved, I go with you and I can hear your voice when you cry out to me. If you listen, you will hear mine and I will instruct you."
"Why don't you send someone who is bigger and wiser?"
"He knows your heart. He knows you. You both care deeply for each other or the anger wouldn't get so big."
"Are you going to take his sheep from him and not allow him to be a shepherd anymore?"
"If I have to, but it is his choice."
"Why do you give him a choice?"
"I will not force him to love me and trust me or it wouldn't be real."
"What will you do to him?"
"He is like a withering tree, no longer producing fruit, barely any green left on him and I have placed a rain cloud above him that will bring life back into him and he will grow bigger and stronger than he ever was. I will give him flocks he did not earn. But, their is a web of lies reaching up from the ground that the Dark Men have planted around him and they go clear up to that cloud and hold it hostage. Once you wash his feet in the Truth and he rises up to walk in it, the lies will be destroyed and the favor will rain down on my shepherd boy."
"You love him don't you Father?"
"Very much. Now you must go. The Dark Men will try to stop you, but you know them and in the land of Peace you have authority over them. You tell them to go in the name of the most High King and they will have no choice but to leave."
Beloved scrambled down off her Papa's lap and gathered up the box. As she headed for the door, she hesitated and slowly turned back to look at the Father. "What is the shepherd boy's name?"
"He is my Beloved also."
"What do I do if the Dark Men try to take him with them?"
Just then a loud clap of thunder startled her and she looked toward the door in fear. When she turned her attention back to the King she saw anger in His eyes for the first time and in a booming voice He said, "You tell them, the shepherd is MINE."
With her box of Truth the King had transformed into Water, Beloved set out to find the shepherd boy. She hadn't spent much time outside of the castle and was enjoying the sun on her skin. The land of Peace was such a beautiful place, she couldn't hold back her smile. After a short time of walking something caught her attention. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of a shadow ducking behind a tree. That old familiar spirit came to her and she knew in her heart it was one of the Dark Men. She continued on her way, though now she kept an eye out for the enemy. She hadn't realized they were allowed so deep into the land of Peace.
She was getting hungry when she finally came upon the shepherd boy's fields. She could see him in the distance laughing with a group of people. They were eating together and the smell of the food made her stomach rumble. She was hungrier than she had realized. When she approached, she expected the shepherd boy to be upset, but his reaction was the complete opposite, as he seemed pleased to see her. She soon joined in with the laughter and the meal, feeling like she had known the people for many years.
The sun was going down when the guests left her and the shepherd boy alone. He was preparing a bed roll for himself when he began to question her.
"Why have you come out this far?"
"Our Father sent me."
He looked at her as though He was very confused and continued preparing for the night. "I assume you plan on spending the night here, because it is too dangerous for you to walk back in the dark."
"I guess I will have to."
The shepherd boy walked over to where she was sitting and spread out a bed roll for her. "What is the reason for your visit?"
"Our Father has asked that I would come and wash your feet."
"You are telling me that the King sent a defenseless, scared girl out into the darkness to sleep on the ground?" He spun around looking over the land. "You are saying that He sent you here to be with me in the dark all night with no one around for miles? That, my dear Beloved, does not make sense. I don't believe the King has sent you at all. Why, I believe it was the Dark Men."
Beloved watched him, wide eyed. He was right, it didn't make sense. If she were the shepherd boy she wouldn't believe it either. She could not find any words to calm his fears. "I don't know what to say."
He stared at her with anger in his eyes, "I don't know why the King sent me to pull you out of that pit anyway? You have caused me nothing but grief."
Just then it dawned on her, "Shepherd Boy, you know the King sent you to get me out of the pit. You heard it with your own ears. He trusted you all those nights in the woods as we traveled to the land of Peace. Why wouldn't He trust you now?" She watched as the realization of the truth covered his face. "Remember? He told you not to hurt me. And He always tells me He is looking for a people He can trust. He trusts you."
His face softened as he looked at her. "Do you trust me?"
She was hesitant, but said, "If the King trusts you, then I will trust you."
He chuckled as he made his way back to his bedroll. "I just don't know about you." He smiled at her as he sat down.
She returned the smile, "Would you like me to wash your feet now?" She immediately regretted asking. Maybe it would be better to wait until morning.
The scowl returned to the shepherd boy's face, "No."
Beloved was relieved when the shepherd boy said goodnight and she could allow herself to find sleep. Of course the King would not have sent her out here to be alone with the shepherd boy if he was not safe. Sleep found her almost immediately.
She hadn't slept long when something gently woke her. She could hear the sheep stirring in the field and was drawn to go see what was happening. She could see by the light of the fire the shepherd boy was still sleeping and thought only for a second about waking him. She followed a well worn path to where the sheep were. A few of them lifted their heads to see her coming and moved toward her, almost as though they found comfort in her presence. She sensed right away though that something was stirring them. She could barely see from the light of the moon as she wandered in amongst the sheep looking for whatever was causing unrest. Then she saw it. There were three of the Dark Men and they each had a sheep flipped over onto their backs. Something rose up in her and she picked up a handful of stones and began to throw them wildly at the Dark Men. Just then she saw the shepherd boy's lamp light fall over the scene.
"What are you doing to my sheep?" he screamed at her.
"I'm trying to get the Dark Men to leave them alone." She turned back to where the Dark Men had been holding down the sheep, but they were gone. There lying on their backs with blood dripping from them were the three sheep.
The shepherd boy walked over to where they were and swung his lamp light as he turned and lit up the whole area. "Dark Men?"
"Yes. They were here attacking the sheep and I was throwing stones..." She could see by his expression that he did not believe her.
"Go back to your bedroll and do not leave it until first light. Then I want you to go back to the King, our Father and tell Him what you have done here. He will deal with you. I have to tend to these wounds."
Beloved tried to argue, but the shepherd boy only pointed back toward the fire where they had been sleeping and motioned for her to go. She hurried back to lie down, angry at the Dark Men and angry at the shepherd boy. There was nothing she could do or say, for again it looked like she was doing the work of the Dark Men. Why had the Father even sent her? She wanted to be back at the castle in His lap, far from the darkness she was in.
She tried to find sleep, but it was impossible. She stared up at the sky and wished for morning to come. Soon she heard the shepherd boy making his way by the fire and she pretended to sleep. Instead of crawling back into his bedroll he walked off toward the woods. Before Beloved knew it, she was following him, hiding from tree to tree so he would not see her. He walked to the creek that separated the land of Peace from the land of the Lost. He knelt down and took a drink. Across the creek she could barely see a group of Dark Men laughing and dancing. It caused a chill in her spine, but even more chilling was the smile on the shepherd boys face. He seemed to be enjoying watching them.
Beloved noticed the shepherd boy examining a log that had fallen across the creek. It seemed he was thinking about crossing over it. She could not hold back her fear and jumped from behind the tree. "Don't do it. Don't go over there."
He was angry. "I was not about to go over there. I don't know what you think you saw, but just because you think it, does not make it real."
"I'm scared for you."
"Don't be. I know what I am doing. I told you to go to sleep and prepare to leave at first light."
She made her way back through the darkness with the shepherd boy's presence clearly behind her. She wanted to run all the way back to the King, but knew she had been sent for a purpose. She curled up on her bedroll and tried to find sleep.
In the morning, Beloved woke to the shepherd boy preparing a meal. He was obviously still angry from the nights events. She crept around so as to not cross his path and put away the bedroll.
The anger dripped from his words, "I will feed you and then I want you to go. You must tell the King what happened. You can also tell Him that I would rather you never return to this place."
She looked down at the box of truth. "I cannot return to the King until I have washed your feet."
He huffed at her and handed her a plate. After they had eaten he sat on the ground near her and exposed his dirty feet. She didn't want to wash them anymore than he wanted her to. She knelt on the ground trying not to make eye contact with him. As she slowly opened the box to pour the water over his feet, the shepherd boy asked, "What is that?"
"That is not what truth looks like. What happened to the written words from the King?"
"He turned it to water."
The shepherd boy slapped the box from her hand, "That is not truth. You go now. I know what truth looks like and that is not it." he jumped to his feet.
"Truth doesn't only come on paper. Many truths the Father has given me were not written words."
"The Dark Men sent you with that potion, didn't they? Didn't they? Admit it. You are here to destroy me."
She picked up the empty box and stood to face him. She screamed in his face, "The Dark Men don't need to send anyone to destroy you. You are a stupid shepherd boy and soon they will lure you to the other side and you won't even see it until it's too late. I feel sorry for you shepherd boy. You think you know everything, but you don't." Without looking back, Beloved ran all day until she reached the castle.
She washed her feet at the door and tried to sneak off to her room, but the Father's voice found her. "Beloved, why have you returned without washing the feet of the shepherd boy?"
She entered His throne room and knelt at His feet, "The shepherd boy knocked the Water You gave me out of my hands and it all spilled out. See?" She held the box open for Him.
The King said, "You are very angry with him?"
"Yes Father. He doesn't see. He refuses to believe the Dark Men are out to get him, not me."
The King stood and gently touched the top of her head, then He walked over to the far wall where a mirror was placed between two burning candles. "Beloved, look in this mirror."
Beloved stepped up in front of the mirror and looked at her reflection. "Why am I looking in this mirror, Father?"
"Tell me what you see."
"I see a dirty face, streaked with tears."
"Look into your eyes, Beloved and tell me what you see."
"I see pain and frustration. I see hurt."
Just then a gentle breeze swept through the room causing the candles on either side of the mirror to flicker. Beloved watched them, ready to relight them if they blew out. When the air stopped moving she looked back to the mirror. Startled, she took a step back, because there in the mirror was the shepherd boy's face staring back at her.
"Now, what do you see?"
"The shepherd boy."
"Look into his eyes and tell me what you see."
She fought back tears, "I see anger."
"Is it the same anger you feel toward him?"
"I don't know."
"Why is he angry?"
"He thinks I am doing the work of the Dark Men. He thinks I was hurting his sheep and he won't believe me that the Dark Men were there."
"Beloved, love and truth are what I sent you with to give to the shepherd boy. Love and truth are the most important and valuable gifts we can give each other. The Dark Men are going to come against love and truth with hate and lies. They don't want you to be friends with the shepherd boy, because if you come into agreement, you may expose them. They want to break you down to take over and destroy My Kingdom, but they first have to start by taking over the Land of Peace."
"Now look into the mirror and tell me what you see. Look into the heart of the shepherd boy."
"I see pain and frustration, hurt and fear."
"Always look at the heart, Beloved. The heart is where the truth is. Even a smile can hide the heart. Let's walk in the garden."
"But I am so tired."
"You may sleep, but I want you to choose to walk with me." With that she watched Him disappear from the room. She began to weep, but hurried to catch up with Him. "I'm happy you decided to join me Beloved."
"Father, even though I see what is truly in the shepherd boys heart, how can I speak to it if he keeps it hidden? He was so... so ... he was so filled with pride and arrogance and thought he knew what happened... he didn't see... he thought I..."
"Pride? Pride is a mask to cover insecurity. The wearer cannot see it." He stopped to face her, "Beloved, you wear one now."
"What? I don't understand."
"The Dark Men come in the night and feed insecurity. They slip a mask over the head of their victim and that mask is called pride."
"Do You mean they put one on me when I was sleeping?"
"You returned before you had completed the task I had sent you to do, to wash his feet. You believed you knew what was better at the time. That is pride, thinking you know better than I, what should be done."
"I'm sorry. Will You forgive me?"
"It's already done." He smiled. "But your purpose hasn't change, just because it seems impossible to you. You will need to return to the fields."
"I will need more truth before I can return to the shepherd boy."
"The box is filled." They continued to walk.
"Papa, I am afraid to go back. He doesn't see what the Dark Men are doing."
"When I sent the shepherd boy to get you from the pit, you did not see clearly what the Dark Men were doing in your life. All you knew was that people hurt you and your life was full of confusion. Nothing seemed to be going well and you were unsure of the cause."
"That's all I speak, Truth." His smile broke into laughter. "Beloved, I enjoy my time with you. You try so hard to understand, but you make it complicated. It's simple. Let it be."
She was smiling though she wasn't sure why. "I had to learn to think to survive in the land of the Lost."
"But here, all you have to do is follow and you can even enjoy the warfare against the Dark Men in my rest and in Peace." He sat on a bench located at the center of the garden and motioned for her to sit next to Him. "The shepherd boy wanted to give up on you too when you were blind to the Dark Men, but he persisted. You were afraid and didn't always listen to him. He had the truth and many times you knocked it out of his hands."
"Okay. I will return to the shepherd boy."
"Maybe the reason you find this so frustrating is because you see yourself in him. Like standing in front of that mirror."
Beloved thought about her anger, her weaknesses, her strengths and her fear of trusting. "Yes. Yes, it is."
"What if I told you that the shepherd boy was not the intended mirror?"
"I don't understand."
"What if you are the mirror?" He watched her expression change from confusion to wonder. "What if the shepherd boy needs you more than you needed him? Maybe his pit is deep and he doesn't even know he is in it?"
"Is that true?" She thought for a moment.
"I have something for you." The King held out His hand and opened it to reveal a heart shaped locket. "This goes with a gift I have already given you."
"What is that?"
"Like the shepherd boy, I have given you a shepherd's heart. This locket is where you will keep the hurts, sins, and concerns of the people you meet. Then you will bring them to me." He got to His feet. "Come with me."
They entered the throne room and He led her to a box located behind the throne. "This is where you empty the locket. You place the hurts, sins, and concerns in this box for me to take care of."
"Father, if these things are so important to you, why do you keep them in a box behind You and not where You can see them? It just seems you might forget about them back here."
"The location does not represent importance, it represents time. It is finished. I have already addressed these things and it is behind me. The reason you empty the lockets into this box is a reminder to you that I am the King and only I can solve these issues. I have given you a piece of my heart that is not easy to carry and to keep these things in your locket would become more like a ball and chain than a gift."
"It's time for you to sleep. You will eat with me at dawn and then return to the shepherd boy."
Breakfast was quiet, even though Beloved tried to hide her fear and her desire to remain in the castle instead of returning to the shepherd boy. Afterwards the King invited her to sit on His lap for a while before she left. After some time He asked her, "What is your fear?"
Beloved knew that the King's questions were lessons for her, because it seemed He already knew the answers. She thought about it for some time before she answered, "He hates me."
"Do you think he is capable?"
"Of hating me?"
"Yes, that is your fear."
"If he is capable of hating you, then his heart is not right with me. Is your friendship more valuable than his heart?"
She thought about the King's question and she thought about the times she told the shepherd that she hated him. "Well, I... no. I guess not."
"I know how it feels to be hated. Hate is from the Dark Men. You must separate your hate for the Dark Men from the one they torment. You must keep the two separate or it will destroy you. Once the shepherd boy's heart is healed it will not be capable of hate. Neither will yours."
She reached up and wrapped her arms around the King's neck without even thinking. He returned the hug and she felt more complete than she ever had. As much as she did not want to see the shepherd boy, she did want to see him held by the King.
As Beloved approached the fields, she saw the shepherd boy throwing stones at the sheep. She hurried toward him wondering if he was trying to scare off an attack by a wild animal or if maybe he was finally seeing the Dark Men.
"Do you see them?", she hollered. "Do you see the Dark Men?"
He turned to face her and she saw the anger in his eyes. He pulled his arm back and threw a stone at Beloved. "You are nothing but trouble."
Beloved had learned to lower one shoulder and let the stone roll down and off her back. Many years of living with the Dark Men had taught her this. All it did was frustrate the shepherd boy and he threw more and he threw them harder. She picked up a handful and started throwing back, catching him in the chest with the very first one. She bent down to pick up more and when she lifted her head, the shepherd boy landed a stone in the center of her forehead knocking her to the ground.
"You are not wanted", he yelled.
His words pierced her heart. She had never felt wanted before. When she felt the sting of tears she quickly covered it with more anger. Their eyes locked and they stared at each other for several moments, before she picked up her things and walked toward the fire.
The shepherd boy followed, "If you think you are going to stay here, you are going to do things my way or you will leave. I have told all my friends that you are trouble."
This was like another stone to the face. She had never felt like she belonged. She fought the tears, refusing to let him know he had hurt her to the core. "Fine. I am here to do what the king asks and then I will be gone and we don't ever have to see each other again."
The next few days dragged by. Occasionally they would share a few civil words and she would find hope that maybe the time would come when she could wash his feet and leave. But, every time something would be said that would throw one of them back into a pool of anger.
One night as Beloved slept, the King came to her in a dream. They were standing beside a stream when He turned to face her. "Beloved, you have done all that I asked. There is no more you can do here. In the morning you will return to the castle, for we are leaving soon. We will go to the Land of Heaven where my Father is the King. We have much to do to get ready. The shepherd boy has been washing his feet in the lukewarm water of the creek between the Land of the Lost and the Land of Peace. Leave the box of truth next to his daily supply of bread and pray that one day he chooses to wash his feet with it."
When Beloved woke the next morning, she remembered the tears in their Father's eyes as He gently touched her head before walking away. The very first light of morning was only beginning to shine across the fields. Beloved rolled her bed and put it away quietly, occasionally glancing over at the shepherd boy as he struggled in his sleep. She moved closer to watch him. He tossed back and forth, though the weight of the locket around his neck made it nearly impossible. There was no peace in his sleep, but he continued to struggle to stay there.
She placed the box of truth next to his bread and his own box of written messages from the King. She thought briefly about tying him to a tree so he could not be tempted back to the lukewarm creek. She would leave the rope just long enough that he could reach his bread and the boxes from the King. But then she remember what the King had said about free will.
As Beloved made her way up the hill to the main road, she heard a scuffle back at the shepherd boy's camp and turned to see the Dark Men covering his supplies with a camouflage blanket. She started back down the hill in anger, but stopped when she heard the King's voice. "Return to the castle Beloved. They will only find another way to cover it after your gone."
When she arrived at the castle she found the King in the garden by the brook. When He saw her he began to dance for her and she found it uncomfortable.
"What are you doing? You are the King, we are supposed to dance for You."
"You are special, Beloved." As He turned and swayed, he laughed, "Who made up that rule anyway? If I am the King, shouldn't I get to dance for whomever I please?"
"I guess so."
He came to a stop and took her hands, "We have lots to do but there is always time for dancing."
"I don't understand how you can dance while the shepherd boy is so miserable and not seeing the truth."
"What would you have me do, Beloved? Worry? Waste a beautiful day? I know the ending to his story."
"What is it, Father? Does he finally see..."
The gently placed his fingers on her lips, "Shh, if I were to tell you it would change your actions. You must trust me and obey if I call on you, otherwise, you must leave it in my hands."
"But... what if...?
"Dwelling in the past will cause depression, worrying about the future will bring anxiety, but staying in the present is truly living. I brought you from the pit to give you life. We have much to do."
"When are we leaving for the Land of Heaven?"
"Soon. Until then, I have left you more truth and I want you to take it out and wash the feet of everyone you meet. I will go ahead of you and when My Father is ready, I will return to get you."
"What if I am not back yet? I don't know how long it will take to bring truth to everyone."
"When I come back, I will find you wherever you are. I will not leave you behind."
"What about the shepherd boy? Is he coming with us?"
"I have him in my hand and I will not let go. You have other things to do. Go now into the Land of the lost and tell them about Me. I have given you all the tools and training you need."
"Fear not, I will always be with you. I will never leave you or forsake you."
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