"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

My New Eyes, and What I saw with Them

Dear Readers,

I've been sorting through all my old junk and papers in my bedroom, and for several days was anticipating the discovery of an old manuscript of a short story that has been lost for several years. Yesterday I stumbled across it and typed it into digital format. I had surprisingly little to revise, and now I think it is good to share it with you. By genre I will describe it as thick Christian allegory, owing much to George MacDonald's style but doubtless not approaching the caliber of his work. I warn you that I had to read it twice before I, the author, was sure of everything I was saying! My apologies for leaning so much on your imagination and reading skills as interpreters of my prose, but I do rather like it the way it is. This story was hand-written on July 13, 2006.


Once upon a time, I, a young boy desiring great pleasure, wealth, love, and accomplishment, became aware of a set of eyes I had never opened. Voices spoke to me, and I wondered at my talking to myself.

“Dear me,” said a voice much like my own, “if you kept those eyes shut so tight you didn't know they were, there must be something terribly unpleasant outside the lids. There is much pleasure to be taken outside the eyes you've always used. Pity to scare yourself needlessly, spoiling that pleasure.

“And really, there's nothing to be afraid of, if you think about it. Nothing has ever harmed you from there, so why bother looking at it? It's probably just black, a figment of your imagination (or someone else's) anyway.”

“Yes,” I said (at least, I think it was I said it, and not the voice) “far too much going on here anyway; why take on these new eyes' burdens.”

For a while, I believed, and told myself I was satisfied, and my faith was strong.

And all was silent.

Then, in the blackness that these new eyes saw, came a voice I had only heard echoes of before. At first I thought it was a fire raging. Then, I believed it to be a song I had heard. Finally, I decided I must have a light head brought on by a slight fever. On I went with my work.

I think I know now what the voice said. At the time, I was convinced it was not a voice (and was only an evil but harmless one if it was). But, after a time of ignoring it, a great weight came upon me, as if the world were leaning on the closed lids of those new eyes. And, at the same time, I saw evil shadows silhouetted against the lids. Horrified, I tried to hide in my other eyes, but the voice became clear, and I heard it, even as the shadows deepened.

“My burden, is light,” said the voice.

“Light shines in the darkness.”

“Darkness is as light to me.”

“I am.”

“Open your eyes.”

“Help me,” I replied. “There are great shadows! They hurt me, and crush me! Make them go away!”

“Yes,” said my voice, “what horrid things. They will pass, though. Think not of their weight, but of your real eyes. You see enough shadows with them.”

“Satan, you are bound by His blood and the Father's will.”

“He is not covered by the blood,” retorted my voice, startling me.

“Oh?” cried the voice.

The light burst into a flame, and the voice into a chorus. As it sang, it gave a command.

“Open your eyes, newheart.”

I saw a world of light and darkness, the same as ours, in that aspect. Evil figures, some of them familiar, some of them demons, were before me, more, vague and impossible to identify, crested a dark hill before me. I realized that the only light came from just behind me. The sky was full of stars, yet they showed me not the world around. I knew that I would stand staring in horror at those before me forever.

“Yes, so sad to be stuck here,” said my voice.

I turned around, surprising myself, and met the source of the light.

He was glory.

He was love.

He was holy.

He was holy.

He was holy!

I fell and worshiped Him, and He did not stop me. I knew for sure then, that I had met God.

Great songs sounded about Him, but I believe I heard only a part of them. I knew then I must have not only new eyes, but new ears.

“Look in your right hand,” He said.

There I saw a short, light sword, of beautiful make, and I was glad of it.

“It is my sword. Learn always to wield it better. A beautiful truth! With this sword you can make dead men live. Let your arm never grow weary, for I am at your side to strengthen it.

“Why?” I dared ask, for He was so kind. “Why would you strengthen me?”

“Because I love you,” He said.

“The Father sent.”

“The Son came.”

“Lived.”

“Died!”

“Rose!”

And I have come to lead you to them, your Father. Your Brother, who died that you might come without your punishment or burden, and with new eyes, ears, heart.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“You are welcome,” He replied.

“Look on your left arm,” He said.

There was a shield, broad, round, and light.

“Many a blow it must stop before you reach the end of the road.”

“What is it?”

“Faith in Me.”

“Where did it come from? My faith is strong, and it is in itself.”

“I gave it to you.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

“You are most welcome.

“These gifts are from above. Wear them always, use them well. See, what is that covers your chest?”

A great breastplate was there sturdily and perfectly fitted to my thin torso.

“It is Your Brother's righteousness.

“Later you will add to it, and believe this is your own, but all your righteousness is His. It will never let a blow through; wear it always. Look behind.”

Behind me I saw a pile of broken darts. The demons grimaced, the familiars beckoned.

“Who are those?” I asked, pointing out the familiars. “They stand in just the same places to these eyes as my pleasures to my old eyes.”

“Do you not know, then?”

“Oh, dear, are they really that ugly?”

“Need you delay to ask?” He whispered.

“I am sorry,” I said.

“You are forgiven.

“But why wait?”

“Oh, dear, how foolish I am.” I started off at once, and cut down one or two of the nearest with the sword. He followed beside, before, behind, and within me. He laid his loving hand on my shoulder, and I wept for the evil I had grown and raised.

“I say,” my voice interjected, “oughtn't you pay some attention to your old eyes now? Things may go to rot if your crusade takes all your attention.”

My voice caught me by the arm. It was one of the demons, and I had not struck it, for it spoke with my voice.

“Oh. Hi! Let go!” I said as it dragged me off the path.

“Look, how close I'm getting to those good pleasures,” said my voice. “He can't blame you for sampling what He's made available as you pass, since you're passing against your will.”

“Delicious,” I murmured through a mouthful of sin. Then I choked and coughed it out, along with part of myself. I felt full, but I think I had just coughed out the part of my stomach that was empty.

I was full but hollow.

I was reaching for more to stuff in the hollowness when the demon screamed and ran. Suddenly I heard His voice again.

“You are bound, leave him.”

“Oh, good job,” I applauded. “You chased him right away.”

I plopped down on the hot sail, and ate some more in the twilight.

“I was speaking to you,” He replied, repeating Himself till I finally took notice.

“Oh, I'm fine now, the grimacing one has fled.”

“Look above you, o man!”

I could not disobey. Above me were the stars, and I saw there was a pattern to them. Some were farther, some nearer. Some were brighter, some dimmer, with no relation to distance. Above me were a great many. Most seemed to be flowing away from the road, though a current or two was always slowing, turning, and going back. A few were moving parallel to the road, though far off it. At every moment, one or two of the whole would leap off to the horizon. A few burned still, and returned. Others, burning only on the fuel of their own flesh, expired in the dark there. I saw that those over the road marked it, moving steadily along, some faster, some slower. Some of the moving ones drifted off, but all those that stopped in the road began to drift to the horizon.

“Learn from these,” I heard Him call from the road, where He waited.

But I was very afraid. What if I, too, drifted to the horizon?

All I had were gifts. Nothing was my own! How weak and lonely I was. I wept.

“Do I see?” I asked. “Do I see with my new eyes, for it is almost dark?”

“You must see to know it.” He replied, after a time. I was afraid He would forget me, or, worse, I would forget Him.

“If I go on,” I asked myself (and my voice echoed, and the familiars beckoned, and the demons grimaced), “shall I ever make it, or only be found to be burning on my own flesh, and turn to smoke in the dark, or even at the very gates of my destination be turned away, and my Comforter leave me there to perish in my fire?”

“How is it you do not know of your helmet of salvation? I told you of it.”

“I...you did not tell me loud enough.”

“You ears were stopped up.”

“Still...”

“Peace.”

“My Lord, forgive me, for when you spoke I must have been listening to my false voice rather than yours. Can you forgive me?”

“Doubt no more,” said He who bled for me, and I desired Him in my heart, and longed to be with Him.

“Yet, how do I know it is on my head?” I asked, after looking around for it for a time.

“Ask the stars,” He said. He said something else, but I did not hear, because I was staring at a passing familiar.

“Ask the stars,” he repeated as I daydreamed after the sin, and this time with power.

“But, I can't see their helmets,” I protested. “Do you think they can see mine?”

“Ah, wisdom and foolishness mix. Well seen, son, and poorly thought and spoken. Think you I told you to ask for no reason?”

“Oh...” I thought for a good while. Yes, I supposed most of the stars that moved ahead, parallel to the path, and drifted to rather than from it for the most part, would be true. And, now that I listened to them, I could hear their songs. Most were beautiful, longing, hopeful, pained, brave, weak, delicate, dependent. These I loved, though their poorer qualities aggravated me. Some sang mockeries of them, and I turned from them in disgust; none of them were on the road, though some of them moved generally parallel to it.

Others sang to themselves, and the songs had no sound, being only to be seen by the stars. I gazed at these, as they desired, but could not believe them true.

Others followed close behind companion stars, singing echoes of their fellows. These it was hard to tell, for some of them sang, I thought, from their hearts, simply using their companions to keep them on tune. Others it seemed sang only from their skin, and it was a true, physical echo. I could not easily tell these by their songs.

However, as I watched them, most were eventually separated from their companions (this was because of the thick flow of stars over the road bumping and swaying and changing speed). Then, though their songs might falter, those singing from their hearts (or, rather, I wondered, was it God's heart?) either found a song of their own, or a new companion to sing with. Those singing from the skin might attach to a new companion, I saw, but often drifted away, and, if once they heard no song, burnt up quickly.

I loved all these imperfectly, and feared them, for I did not understand their glorious though tiny lights.

“Do you see me?” I called. “Am I wearing my helmet?”

“We see you,” answered many, “you are drifting out, not moving forward. You are in grave danger, but may yet persevere by His grace.”

I thought on this.

“Oh, God. They weren't much help.”

“I told you they alone would not be help,” He replied. I was surprised He was still there; His voice I barely remembered.

“Lord, I am sorry I did not speak or listen to you for so long. Will you forgive me?”

“Think you, my son, that I needed you, or was forced to save? How is it now you doubt My willingness? I have given you my Son,” said the Father, “His blood is your answer.”

“Well, what should I do?”

“Get back on the road, my Son.”

“How shall I know my helmet is on?” I asked, getting to my feet. Oh! They were tired. I began forward, and followed the stars, but it was easy to get lost in a current breaking off from the road, and I could not find the path.

“Follow the light, not the enlightened.”

I looked to the light, followed it, and drew near the road. But still I feared traveling it without my helm. The evil things were thickest there. I struck down a few easily as I walked, but those I saw ahead were deadly.

“How shall I be sure?”

“What?” I said after a moment, not understanding His words.

Then I saw a deadly figure ahead; corresponding with people and ideas in my old eyes. It came at me, scaring me dreadfully, for it was so enticing. It made me stand still while it hurled a great spear at me. The blow knocked me down, and I thought my new self was done for, and my light extinguished. How could I stand?

“Why are you crying?” asked a star. I looked around, a painful thing when flat on your back in armor, and saw the spear shattered at my feet.

“But it struck my head, and am I not dead?”

“Perhaps you were wearing a helmet,” He said gently.

“Oh. I wish you hadn't let him knock me down like that.”

“My dear one, it was I who planned his path. The test was for your good and my glory. Know you yourself better now?”

“Yes, Lord. I am sorry. And thank you.”

“You are forgiven. And anytime!”

“Now, to get up,” I thought.

I got to my feet slowly under my armor, and brushed myself off.

“How smart of me to think to get up, and do it all by myself,” I said, admiring my muscles.

My pride became material and clung to me like fat. Under the weight, the broken ground opened, swallowing me to my waist.

“Bother! How dirty my trousers will get! Help! Help!”

“While you are in this hole of discipline, my son, listen. I give you all-prayer, powerful as the trumpet when there are millions following its call. For through my Spirit and my Son I hear. I am power! And so you, my son, are safe.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, so you will see your foolishness and remove the weighty pride that has made you a plug in the ground, know that it was I gave you your strength, and what little wisdom it took to stand.

“Finally, I will help you with your helmet. My son, have you no hands? Can you not feel for it on your head?”

“Father, I am ashamed.”

As I apologized, I put down my sword to free my right hand. As soon as my fingers left it, my sight was broken. The stars became a whirlpool, with no order, the center of the pool hurling away those on the outside as it spun. The road, not far from me, twisted and forked, shooting off to join roads that led to the horizon, and all these roads intersected the hole I was in. I could feel and hear nothing and fear took me by the feet and began to pull me down. I screamed in panic, and no noise came.

“He cannot hear me, cannot hear me; cannot hear me!” I cried.

“Why don't you pick up your sword? Asked a star swirling in rapid circles at the center of the whirlpool.

“With it you give me glory, and I am pleased.”

I was so glad and happy. He speared fear with His love for me, of quality that led Christ to die. I was free. I sprang up and ran to His light. After so long, His arm was on me again, keeping me from running past Him. He was before, behind, beside, within. With my left hand, whose arm held the shield, I reached up and touched my helmet.

“I am sorry, Father.”

“I forgive you in Christ, son,” and “in Christ” did not get in the way, but made it perfect, and in the perfection I was jubilant.

I looked up, and saw the road marked by the stars. I began to advance on those waiting ahead. His light followed.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Spring Break Serial VII: In Which Almost All is Explained

Benjamin marveled at Belian's people skills. With a serious face, a small grin, and a gentle touch of two steel electrodes together, the not-lord had inspired such confidence in the prisoners that they had gladly told him everything about themselves and their mission. They were not, as might have been expected, from some baron or minor liege-lord who had caught wind of the adventurer's plan to steal the spice and made a bid to get it for himself. No, the name that was given was that of the King Terryl of Lox.
"Why?" Belian asked quietly, and set a wet twig on fire with a spark from the two electrodes. The machine hummed and thumped behind them.
"Suppose he wanted the spice for 'imself," murmured one of the prisoners, rubbing at his burnt hands but casting nervous glances at the metal tips and the heavily bandaged jaw of one of his compatriots.
"But he had it!"
"She had it," said Benjamin. "I don't recall her putting any on his food. But why wouldn't she, though? Lokely told us she shared with her father's family."
"Aw heck." Belian looked at Benjamin. "She's probably headed back to the castle, you know.
"Yeah."
"The king wanted the spice for himself. Isn't that right?" he stood suddenly and leaned over the prisoner he'd been questioning, eyebrows knit, sparking a beat with the two electrodes in his hands.
"Y...y...yes," murmured the prisoner, trying to look anywhere but at Belian and the electrodes. "What was he going to do about the queen?"
"K...k...kill her."
"How?"
"D...d...don't know...hired someone."
"And how," asked Benjamin, "did he know to send you to track us?"
"One of your men squealed to us."
"For money?"
"Y...y..yes."
"Let's wake the others," said Benjamin. "We've got to get back to the castle before the queen. If we don't she's dead and who knows if we'll ever have a chance of getting the spice again."

Two hours later

Grizzly Bear was asleep behind Enoch, Belian and Benjamin flanked them on their own trotting horses; Enoch's men were spread thin in a wedge behind them. It was still dark and still raining, but the searchers were desperate, and the closer they came to the castle at Lox Summa, the better chance they had of intercepting the queen before she could re-enter that fortress, intended by her new husband to be her tomb. The inevitable occurred just as the lights of the city outskirts began to resolve themselves. A body of horsemen bearing the gold-flecked blue markings of Lord Lokely's hall swelled up out of the rain before them. Horns trumpeted, steel sang from sheaths, and the two parties found themselves intermingled, glowering at each other from their horses.