Bethany’s heart sank. The path had disappeared into a quagmire stretching before her, obstructing her quest to reach the Kingdom.
“Eeww! Now what?” she said, pinching her nose in disgust.
Kai-ell had perched on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the swamp, his golden feathers ruffling in the breeze. Sniffing the air in silence, the majestic creature looked towards the horizon. Finally he turned towards her, sadness in his eyes.
“The Kingdom is ahead,” he said.
“No way! I’m not going through there! It’s a cesspool.” Bethany’s eyes flashed wide in horror.
Kai-ell stretched his wings and leapt off his perch.
“You must …” he called, his voice trailing as he rose. “… Follow him. … Trust the King ...”
Kai-ell! Don’t leave me.
Bethany yearned for the King, but why would he want her to walk through that? Perhaps she had misunderstood. Perhaps the King would return and show her a different way. She waited in vain for an answer. Kai-ell was gone.
Bethany sucked in a deep breath and gingerly stepped forward.
“We could go to Mama’s for Christmas …,” Bethany said between mouthfuls of toast. “We could stay a few days with Judith. I’m sure your sister would love …”
Greg’s face darkened into a scowl. “Don’t you go making any plans behind my back!” he said, slamming his cup on the table.
“I’m … not making plans, Greg. … I just thought it would …”
“Shut your mouth!” he yelled, “I can’t stand your voice!”
Bethany’s eyes filled with tears. “W-what?”
“Bah! You’re just like your mother. Why don’t you go live with her?”
When Greg finally left, Bethany sat crushed, alone and empty. This was not how it should be. Greg said he loved her; why did he treat her so bad? He was becoming a stranger she didn’t like.
Bethany was grateful when Connie popped in at lunchtime.
“I’ve had enough, Connie,” she said, “I don’t want to do this any more. … I want out!”
“Bethany, why didn’t you tell me? I had no idea.”
“I don’t know why he hates me.”
“Remember, Beth dear,” Connie said, her voice softening. “Greg doesn’t feel the same as you toward the King. Perhaps he resents your service.”
Bethany thought for a moment. Greg often mocked her allegiance but the King’s answer to that was always the same: trust me.
“I’ll intercede with the King for you, Honey,” Connie continued. “I’m sure he will give concession …”
“I know what the King wants, Connie. He’s told me many times to stay. But I can’t do it. I just can’t. You don’t know what it’s like.”
Later on, Bethany sought an audience with the King.
“My Lord,” she began, “I know you want me to love Greg, but he hates me. I’m his wife; what am I supposed to do?” Though Bethany’s shoulders drooped the King let her continue. “I feel dead inside … like I’m worthless to him … I don’t want to feel like this anymore. … I’ve had enough.”
Bethany, you are not worthless in my eyes.
Bethany bowed her head before the King who knew her better than she knew herself. A faint stench drifted to her nostrils.
“Ohh … it’s me, isn’t it? Self-centred, as always … My Lord, what can I do?”
I loved those who hated me.
“But I don’t have any love …”
Give him mine.
"He wouldn’t know what love is."
Show him my love.
Bethany’s voice grew quiet. “ … D-deny myself?”
The King could be trusted. He had walked this path himself.
Three days later, Greg stormed into the kitchen. “Can’t you do anything right?”
Bethany cringed, pierced by the hurt.
Follow me, a faint whisper echoed.
Biting her lip she replied: I choose to follow.
Over the next few months, Bethany found many opportunities to follow the King’s example. Each time it hurt, the King poured more of his spirit into her.
The King called to her one morning as she sat contemplating her journey. Bethany was filled with joy in his presence.
“You were right,” she said. “It’s not worth holding on to hurts. I feel free. … It doesn’t matter if I am a scrag on the scrap heap – I belong to you.”
The King drew her attention to the path behind her. There lay the quagmire of self centeredness.
“Ohh … you did it, Your Majesty,” she said bowing low, “I never would have known my own heart.”
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