I couldn't help but laugh. Sour laughter, a dusty chuckle clogged with scars. The steel door lay open again, forty-five degrees from the latch. As my bruised and twisted back leaned against a rough concrete wall, the slightly less-gloomy hallway beyond was inviting, calling me to come out from the harsh enclosure and find freedom. But I knew better.
Ten years earlier, my life was a crackling wire. Despite a younger confession, Jesus was a distant idea, unneeded. A "good man", I walked confidently, though it was fašade; an
attractive, colorful portico fronting a burned out hull of fear. I walked because I had to. This was the path to success. After all, who pursues defeat?
Devastation struck from a purported friend, my source of strength. My own body betrayed me! From nowhere, it unveiled long-mildewing sores that erupted hideously and sparked a lusty, acrid blaze that shriveled my desires and dreams. Powerless, my impressive veneer was stripped away and I was dragged off to a place of torment.
Everything in my prison cell balanced on the blade of seduction and disillusionment. A grimy bulb filled the twelve foot square space with twilight. Unintelligible murmurs
suggested unseen company. Obscure but striking murals covered the walls. Shock faded over days, and curiousity led me to study the brighter shapes on my right. I was surprised at their beauty; in fact, the depictions took my breath away. These were my dreams! Yet, they dangled in my prison, only pictures, out of reach. That was the first day the
door was left open.
Somehow, the latch was left unsecured. A sliver of light invaded my cell. Escape! I quickly stood and peeked out. Warmth glowed from an opening down the hall. When my fingertips touched the cold metal door, it slammed shut, startling me into stumbling back hard against the concrete.
Over many months, the scene repeated. The light above grew dimmer, the murals duller. Eventually, I ignored the door; another manipulation, some perverted puppeteer enjoying my suffering. Years chipped at me.
Exhaustion and humiliation drenched my will until, like a bursting old wineskin, weeping broke from my blackened heart.
Then today, a wisp of fresh air; the door creaked open. Sour laughter quickly merged with fury.
"Not again!" Enraged tears fell. "Why? Why are you doing this?" I fell silent. Something powerful and hidden tickled my mind. A whisper just beyond hearing.
Sardonically, I grunted, "What?", and stunning my defiance, the whisper answered.
Do you want to be free?
Is this real? "I do...but where are you?"
I am in your heart.
This is it--I'm nuts. "Yeah, right. Why did you bring me here?"
You were not brought here; you've always been here. I've never left you.
Always? My spirit sparked. Jesus.
Look at the murals.
"I... why? My dreams are gone. They'll... never happen."
The other murals.
Confusion, then realization: I'd only ever studied the right wall's paintings; the darker others were ignored. Warily, I stepped to the left wall. Colors were less vibrant and shapes difficult to make out. I squinted from picture to picture. And ice gripped my flesh. Perfect renditions, in graphic detail, of my sin. I wanted to turn away, but a wave swelled that would not be slowed. A searing moan climbed from me and my limbs started quivering.
These keep you here. Stop drinking poison and find living water! See!
I felt like vomiting. Collapsing, I closed my eyes and hugged my body, but the images continued. Days passed. Exhausted, I rocked and slept, then woke to further trespass and agony.
Abruptly, like a nightmare's welcome end, grief subsided. I uncurled and stood slowly. The air had brightened, and the left wall was... bare. Astounded, I rubbed my eyes and felt the smooth surface. Not one fleck of paint. I apprehensively turned to the right wall. What of my dreams?
Incredulous, I raced over gasping, as even more gorgeous and vivid scenes had been added during my season of anguish. The colors were so brilliant and alive they filled my cell with light! I walked along the wall, caressing my deepest dreams with rejoicing fingers. I wanted to climb, dive, fly into the painting and never return to this horrid place. Oh God, please, please take me there!
Behind me, the door swung open all the way now, light streaming even brighter from the hall, and a smiling, warm breeze curled into the cell.
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