Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: First (as in original) (01/10/05)
- TITLE: The Mangled Tree
By Robin Wisch
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“Where are we going, old man? asked young Matthew. The ancient mystic didn’t reply.
Nearing a cave entrance, Matthew thought back to a few hours before. Sleeping fitfully, he’d been abruptly awakened by the old sage standing in his room. Startled by the white-haired figure before him, Matthew heard, “fear not, your prayers have been heard.”
Matthew had struggled recently in his newfound faith. His nights were riddled with nightmares: gruesome dreams and past sins. Guilt ruled his days. That, and doubt about God’s love. The enemy was strong. Recently, Matthew had even questioned his Lord’s power over the Evil One. Consequently, Matthew prayed earnestly for God to remove the Dark One…and to show His love.
“Your prayers have been heard, young friend. The Creator has sent me to you. Few have this opportunity. Get up. We must travel far tonight.”
Dumbfounded, Matthew climbed off his bed, gathering his clothes.
“Who are you,” he asked, courageously.
“I am the recorder of the thoughts and deeds of humankind. That is my purpose. But this night, my Lord has sent me on another mission, since I am the only one in creation to ever have seen it before. All other creatures: both men and angels…saw it the second time. I saw it the FIRST time. It was given to me to record …and seal.”
Suddenly, coherency returned to Matthew as the two men entered the cave. Stepping through, Matthew was suddenly greeted with blinding light.
“Here, you will need these,” commented the aged one who handed him a pair of odd-looking goggles. “Put them on,” he stated. “They will give you spiritual eyes. Without them, you are blind.”
Placing them on, Matthew saw that the old man now seemed vibrant and strong. He gestured to Matthew’s right. “You must take that path. I will go with you…at least part way.”
The Recording Angel led Matthew down a descending trail. Suddenly, all light disappeared save dimly lit torches on the rock walls.
“Where are we going?” pleaded Matthew.
The Angel replied, soberly, “Before.”
“Before what?” asked a frustrated Matthew.
“Before Time,” the ancient one responded.
Matthew watched their flickering shadows dance upon the rock walls.
“This is as far as I go,” stated the old sage, solemnly. “Once is enough. I needn’t see it again. But, you must go. It will answer all your questions…transform all of your doubts. Just remember this though, Matthew, if the Hideous One had seen it…he never would have slain the Lord of Glory.”
With that, the old man vanished.
Tentatively, Matthew moved forward as all light fled away. He moved on, stumbling every now and then over rocks in the trail. Peering through the darkness, he discerned a muted light, which hung in the air illuminating a strange looking form beneath it.
Suddenly, he heard the distant sound of a lamb baaing in the darkness. Stopping, he listened intently, but heard nothing more. Rubbing his eyes, he glimpsed the mangled outline of an old tree. Heaviness engulfed his legs and back as his feet moved a half step at a time. Nearing the old tree, he saw that it looked almost hideous. Briefly, he felt pain emanating from its gnarled branches. Now within yards of it, he noticed an old stone. Engraved on the top, he read, “How deep is the Father’s love?
Stepping forward, Matthew froze in his tracks. On the ground near the trunk, he saw three long reddish wooden spikes. Glancing at the trunk, he gasped. Three large drops of blood dripped slowly downward. As one drop met the ground, another would ooze forth from the tree.
The branches formed a wretched cross-like symbol. Taking another step, immediately, he fell to the ground horrified at the sight before him. At the base of the tree, Matthew saw a large pool of blood filled by droplets from the tree. Most shocking though, was the sight in the center of that crimson puddle. Barely, able to hold his gaze upon it, he saw …a blood-drenched, snow-white lamb…lying on its side.
Still more shocking, Matthew winced as he caught the passing reflection, in the bloody pool: a lifeless Carpenter hung from the branches above.
Above the lamb, Matthew read, “He was a Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”(Rev. 13:8)
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