Hey guys, this is the first thing I've written like this. I hope you like it. It's pretty self-explanatory, so I'll let you get to it.
There's no air. I thrash and struggle to pull myself out but to no avail. It's got such a hold on me that I stand no chance. Things are getting hazy and my heart races in fear... could this be how I die? Face down, struggling in a trap I walked headfirst into?
Strong arms seize me around the waist and pull. A sickening slurping sound accompanies the lurch upwards to sweet air. I gasp like a dying fish, taking in delicious oxygen and looking down at the pit of mud I'd fallen into. Or at least it looks like mud. Whatever it is, the muck still holds a vague imprint of my body. For a short second I swear I can see a leering face looking back at me. My thoughts on this are cut short by a firm slap on the back, dislodging the bile that had worked its way up my throat.
"Thanks," I gasp, still struggling with that simple task called breathing.
"It's nothing. You were in it bad this time," my Guide says to me with a slight humor to his voice. "Remind me again exactly why you felt the need to run off the path?" His tone had lost all humor now. I knew I was in for it, and I knew I deserved it.
"I... I thought... I saw something..." I stammered, looking at my feet. It was true though, there was a glinting something and I know I saw it, just mere feet away... My Guide sighed and shook his head.
"You've never traveled here but I have," he reminded me for at least the millionth time. "I told you there was nothing there. These woods are deceptive, and if you don't stay on the path they'll take you before you can think twice."
'Tell me about it,' I think morosely, still standing covered in filth. I should know this by now, I mean I've only had things like this happen for every one of those million times he's reminded me to stay on the path. I wish I could stop, but I was just so sure there was something there...
"Let's get you cleaned off," my Guide says, extracting the crimson handkerchief I've seen so many times from his pack. I've asked where he got it from more times that I can count, and what it was made out of even more, but every time he'd just smile that cryptic smile and go about his business. Arms, legs, torso, face, everywhere. It seemed to lift the muck off like it wasn't even there. I look at his hands as he finishes and puts the beautiful cloth away. Seeing the scars there always leaves me with a twinge of sadness. I know he has matching ones on his feet; I've seen them when he takes off his boots at night when we set up camp. I think back to when he got them. I remember the day I had met this man, long after I had given up hope.
Days seem to run together in prison. No sun, no moon, no room to move, no people. I stare through the bars every day looking for death, but it never finds me. Perhaps death didn't know about this place, perhaps he couldn't find it. Or maybe it was his home, for inside I was already dead. A door clanged open at the end of the row in front of me. A bobbing lantern. It was dim, but the first light I'd seen in... Ever, maybe? It no longer mattered; I had forgotten what light looked like. The man with the lantern stopped in front of me. I had to squint to look at him.
'Why are you here?" he asked without preamble.
'I don't know anymore,' I said without thinking. Not speaking to this man seemed out of the question. I felt as though he already knew the answers anyway, he just wanted to hear me say it.
'Do you trust me?" he asked. I didn't know this man, I didn't know what he wanted, but I looked into his eyes and told him with my heart:
'Yes.' The man smiled sadly.
'Good. Wait for me, I'll be back for you in three days time.'
I couldn't believe what I had heard, but nonetheless I spent the next three days in irrational hope. Could this man get me out? On that third day I had my answer when the doors positively CRASHED open and he strode purposefully down the hall to my cell. Something about him looked different, and I saw the scars on his wrists reflected in the glowing lantern light. A hot flash of shame passed through me when I realized what exactly those marks meant. Without a word, but with a kind smile, the man extracted a massive key marred with a grotesque skull and opened the door.
'Come,' he said. 'Everything has been taken care of. We're leaving this damned city, you have no place here. Let's get you some clothes and buy our supplies, we have a long road ahead.' That was how I met my Guide.
We had been walking again for about an hour without speaking. I stopped in front of him. I just couldn't take it anymore.
"I'm sorry, okay? I know I shouldn't have run off like that. I really thought... well it doesn't really matter, does it?" I ask, mostly to myself, with a slight chuckle. "The point is I screwed up and I'm sorry." No response for a full minute. Had I really done it this time? I then feel a hand on my shoulder, and turn to find myself engulfed in a brotherly embrace. He pulls back and says to me, "You haven't left me yet, have you? If you still walk with me then there's nothing to forgive."
Some time later I really looked around at our surroundings. We'd have to get out of here before we could make camp, that much was certain. The trees, if you could call them that, were black and twisted. There was no grass, just ashen dirt. We were in a forest, a land of dead, I guess. There was no life as far as I could see, which wasn't far. A sickly mist shrouded almost everything, though sometimes I could catch a flutter of movement in the woods out of the corner of my eye... NO! I'd made that mistake already! I wanted OUT of that horrible place! I looked back to the path, then questioningly to my guide. There was a split not far ahead. One led directly to our destination, barely visible through the mist ages ahead. The other seemed to lead off away from it. After several minutes my Guide began walking along the path leading away.
"Hey, wait!" I exclaimed, "This path over here goes straight to where we need to go! Are you sure about this?" My Guide looked at me disapprovingly.
"Have I been wrong yet?" he asked with a smirk. And he was off, leaving me chasing after him. He had a point. I looked off into the distance at the sunrise. That was our target, yet we were walking close to parallel to the horizon. Not that I could see the horizon, mind you. The dark forest saw to that... Hunh?
It was such a contrast my brain temporarily lost function. We were standing on a high hilltop, and below us for a great distance were gentle rolling hills. There were huge living trees smattering the landscape and soft, green grass as far as the eye could see. The path made a sharp left and headed off more-or-less straight for the sunrise. I looked back, seeing a veritable wall of mist right behind me where the forest ended. Had we taken that other path we'd still be in there... We started down into the countryside we'd encountered. In a few days maybe we would hit a town where we could rest and recharge with other people. Sometimes this journey could get lonely, even with someone as wonderful as my Guide. He was really all I needed for this trip, but even so one needs more human interaction, you know? A hot meal and some fellowship in a village sounded great right about now.
"Tell me again," I said, "about where we're going." The Guide just smiled.
"You ask me that so often I bet you know it by memory."
"So?" He burst out laughing, and such a beautiful sound it was. I mess up so much, yet at least I know he still loves having me with him. "I like it better when you tell it," I said simply. His eyes grew soft for a second and he smiled brilliantly.
"Okay then. See the sunrise?" I nodded. We always started like this. "That's our destination. I know the way to get there, so just stick with me and you'll be fine." He always said that too. It brought me comfort though, knowing that someone knew that way. "Now, you'll know were close when we get to the gorge. We could reach it tomorrow, or ages from now. I know how much farther, but it'll spoil the surprise to tell you. It's a huge gorge. It's so big that it makes the Grand Canyon look like a cut on your arm," we said the last part together and burst out laughing. I loved that line, he always used it when he got to that part. "So, when we get to the gorge you'll know it's the one because you won't even be able to see the other side. And there won't be a bridge. None of the troubles that are tailing us will be able to cross it. Those guys that hunted us for days after leaving the city can't. Those bad men posing as travelers can't. The monsters that set those traps for us in that cave can't. The monsters living in the forest can't. They'll all come out and try to get us when we get close, but you're with me. They won't be able to touch us," he said smiling. At this point I say my line. We've done this so much it's almost a routine.
"But how will we get across?" I ask with a big, cheesy smile. As if I don't know the answer by now.
"Well," he said, returning my big goofy grin, "You'll just have to wait and find out!" We both laugh and lapse into companionable silence. I'm pretty sure I know how we get across, and I bet he knows that I know. He's the Guide, after all, and if he's not the one to get us across the gorge, then who will? He's never said what's at the bottom, but I think he knows. I think I do too, but it doesn't matter. I'm with him, right? I'll never see the bottom. He's never said what's on the other side, but I know he knows. I know too. As thick as I am, even I have a little logic. I look to sunrise and smile. Tomorrow could be the day, after all.
If you didn't catch it, I pretty much just ran with Jesus' talk on the broad road which leads to destruction and the small one that leads to life. Hopefully you enjoyed it, it was very enlightening to write. I really know God played a role in it, as I wrote it from scratch in less than an hour today on a whim I had in the shower. Jesus rocks my world.