She was walking where her father had told her not to when it happened. She remembered the conversation they had together while roaming the garden one night. “Do you trust me my dear?” “Yes father, with all my heart,” Bethany answered. And she did trust him. After the death of her mother, he was all she had known and he had proven himself completely trustworthy. “Bethany…you must be careful while walking the garden. I will be back soon and the fence is secure, however roaming far from home into the world is not wise. Remember no matter how pretty it may look, other gardens can eat you alive! Be alert so upon my return home I can be filled with joy.”
And Bethany wanted to bring him that joy. He had taught her all she knew, and reading was the thing they loved most. They had rooms full of books and he often quoted from their favorite, Utopia. They had never been separated and Bethany wanted to prove herself to the one she loved most.
She woke early that morning to find her father gone and Utopia on the pillow next to her, opened to the first delicate page where she read, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.” It struck Bethany’s heart like an arrow and she remembered the talk with her father in the garden. “Today, I will be careful where I allow my feet to take me” she thought. Upon dressing, she would begin her day as her and her father always had…in the garden.
She walked taking in the sounds of the birds and the smell of the flowers. As she ventured the south end of the garden, she noticed something she hadn’t seen before. Looking over the fence into the hillside beyond she spied a beautiful wild rose gardem. It was in full bloom with every color rose a mind could imagine. “How have I not noticed that garden before?” she wondered. Even though the wind was sweet that morning it did not give her what she was longing for…a smell of those beautiful flowers. “Surely this is not the world my father speaks of. This is so close to home. What harm can be done in touching that beauty that is right here beyond our border.” But a warning pierced her heart as spoke it and she walked back toward home.
Later that evening Bethany felt heaviness in her heart she could not understand. “ I didn’t cross the fence. I have obeyed my father. Why do I feel so weary and sad?” But the subtle thought of crossing the fence to be near the strange garden traipsed through her dreams all throughout the night, so that when she woke early in the morning she once again went to the garden, this time not walking but running to the south end. The words of Utopia echoed in her mind…”Blessed is the man who walks not…” But even as Utopia spoke the warning, her feet were already on the fence, and her eyes on the roses. “I will just catch a faint glimpse of these beauties and pluck just one for the keeping. I will be back before anyone even knows I have gone.”
The words of her father penetrated her heart as it beat wildly with delight and fear. “Other gardens can eat you alive!” Ignoring the warning she walked slowly toward the roses. She gazed upon one whose beauty far surpassed any she had ever seen in her own garden and just as she reached out to take it, the garden began to growl and instead of touching the stem of a beautiful red rose, Bethany realized she had placed her hand inside the very red mouth of a lion. She was completely surrounded. Where roses had once stood, now there were hoards of lions. She screamed, “Father…!” And all went black.
I woke soaking wet and cold to the bone, realizing it had all been a dream. The thought of the affair I had almost taken part in gripped my throat like a hungry lion. “ I understand Father. No matter how pretty the flowers may smell or look, if I wander from your warm embrace I will be devoured. I trust you!”
Be sober; be vigilant because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5: 8)