My journey began in the meadow, with flowers and laughter dancing on the playful breeze. There were others like me Ė all children at heart - carefree, frolicking, skipping along, but always moving toward our purpose.
We had a mountain to climb.
As we neared the woods, our laughter ceased, and playful meandering was replaced by a brisk walk. We stepped into the hushed quiet of the forest, so different from the happy meadow. It was not merely the surroundings that had changed, but my companions and myself. We were silent, separated by the tree trunks, each in our own world. It was exciting and frightening and dark.
Gradually, one by one, those that were with me veered off into their own paths. I was now alone. Trudging ever upward, I gained the crest of the first hill and searched the horizon.
The mountain seemed just as far away as before. But it was still there, waiting, and within me rose a strong desire to conquer it. I marched down that first hill, one of many to come, feeling proud and confident and invincible.
Then I fell. Hard. And my pride suffered greatly. Examining my scrapes and scratches, I brushed away the leaves and dirt, took up a more humble posture and plodded on.
Deeper into the forest, the wild animals grew braver. I protected myself, carrying a long, sturdy stick to beat them off. I didnít fear the animals, though. It was the other beings who posed the greater danger, and their threat was not physical.
My darkest experience began innocently enough, when a woman appeared on the path beside me. Her eyes were hypnotic and her voice was soothing. I found her most pleasing, so when she offered me food, I ate. As I grew dizzy and stumbled, I saw that her eyes had become malevolent. Her teeth sharpened and gaped open toward me. Her craving was to devour me, body and soul. At that point, my vision began to blur, but I saw her fling her arms up, as something greater than she overtook her.
When I woke there was no sign of the woman-creature, nor of my protector. Feeling strangely refreshed and calm, I began climbing once again.
After that, I would sometimes sense a benevolent presence near me, but never did I see anyone.
At the top of every hill, I was always reassured when I could see the mountain, looming nearer, its peak growing ever closer. It meant that I was still traveling in the right direction. But one day, when I reached a crest and searched for my faithful landmark, it wasnít there.
Tired and hungry, I lay down and wept. Even after all my tears had been spent, I couldnít get up. I had no hope. I was lost.
Thatís when I saw him standing there, waiting patiently for me to invite him to approach. He had the kindest eyes. Somehow he understood everything. He let me ramble and whine, listening intently, as if it mattered a great deal to him. Finally, I ran out of words. For a long time, we sat there until, breaking the silence, I asked him about himself, and I got to know him.
He became my constant companion. Occasionally, my miserable pride would send me stomping away, but always, I would yearn for his comforting presence, and soon we would meet up again, he, with a forgiving smile, and me, with a contrite heart. And so we went, singing, constantly singing!
After he joined me, I was not afraid. Walking with him, never was I lost. I would have been content to stay on the mountainside always. Until the day we reached the summit. Then I knew there was something better ahead, something even better than the climb.
The ascent had become terribly steep and the path was narrow. I held onto the hem of his cloak, and let him pull me along. Sometimes, he had to catch me and bear me up, to keep me from falling from the precipice. Finally, from his stance above, he reached down and pulled me up the last long leap to the summit.
Then I saw it! Like an endless feast for the eyes, the heavens and the earth lay spread out before me, declaring, with their magnificence, by their very existence, the glory of our God! I took it all in, filled with awe and reverence, my heart overflowing with joyful life.
It was worth the climb.
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