Once upon a time, in a lush land filled with all the beauty and goodness a person could ask for, there lived a little girl. She was a delightful child, and her heart was filled with a deep love for all that surrounded her. She took special pleasure in all the good gifts of that land; she found great joy in the smallest of things and was filled with uncontainable excitement at the greater blessings. She was loved by friends and family, who wanted nothing but her good.
Yet, for all of her joy at the goodness that surrounded her, she often wandered into the dark caves that dotted the landscape of that land. They were places of pain, where all the blessings of the world above were taken away and replaced by heartache and tears. There were times when she would stand at the entrance to one of those caves, and those who loved her would call to her, “No, please don’t go in there. It is a place of pain, for you and for us. We love you – listen to us! Don’t go down there.” Sometimes she would turn at those warnings, though not often. Usually she would begin her decent into the darkness, spurred on by her pride – by her unwillingness to listen to others and her desire to do what she wanted. She doubted the counsel of others and was deluded by the depths of the cave into thinking that going her own way was better than rejoicing in all the life that surrounded her above ground.
Those who loved her would stand at the cave’s mouth, seeing the sparse sunshine reflecting off her slowly hardening face. They would call out, “Come out now, before you go too deep! You are only going to hurt yourself! There is nothing but death in that cave. Come back to us!” And sometimes she would return to the sun at that warning. Yet too often she would simply turn and go deeper, and the consequences of entering the cave would soon take over. The sharp rock walls would cut her hands and bare feet. The darkness around her would bleed into her heart, changing its love for the beauty above into love for self. The blackness would cloud her eyes, making her forget the light of the sun and the brightness of the flowers.
Those who loved her would call out, “Come out now! You have hurt yourself, yes, but if you return to the light now there is forgiveness!” They would call now from inside the cave, entering in and being cut by the rocks themselves, but embracing the pain because of their love for the girl. And often she would turn and know the grace of restoration. Yet there were times when her stubborn heart screamed loudly above the loving cries, commanding her, “Go deeper still! Don’t give in!” and she would listen to those dark words.
Down she would go until the floor of the cave would turn to thick mud, engulfing her feet and then her ankles and calves, until she was unable to move. Fear would begin to set in, and those who loved her were now near, hands extended, longing to pull her from the muck and take her home to the place of kindness and restoration. Seeing her own hopelessness, she would at times reluctantly take their hands. But at other times she would grasp the mud that trapped her and throw it at her would be rescuers, crying out, “This is all your fault! You caused this! Why are you so mean!”
At that, those who loved her struggled to keep pleading. They wanted nothing but to save the young girl, but the depths of the cave had worked deep into her. They watched her sinking further and further, the mud slowly swallowing her, reaching to her neck. Tears would stream down her face as she fought anger and sorrow, pride and repentance, until she finally took the mud-soaked hands of those who loved her. Silently they worked together to pull her from the mud and slowly ascended back to the surface, wearied by the struggle. With bruised hearts, they would lay in the grass, as the little girl’s eyes filled with wonder once more. She would wonder why she had left this place to begin with and why she had not heeded the warnings of those who loved her. She regretted all the wounds and mud she had brought on herself, and she was ashamed of the cuts and the mud she saw plastered on those who loved her. Yet they continued to come to her with words of forgiveness and words of love, as well as with words of warning, begging her to not go into the caves again.