Below is an Allegorical Journey written by MDSchlatter.
I. The Start
This is the story of my journey. A journey down a path strewn with obstacles but not altogether difficult. A journey that can unfortunately happen over and over throughout a lifetime, but the specific circumstances vary. As a willful child trying to find a way home, this journey occurs far to often, but as we keep journeying and growing we get closer and closer to our final destination.
I can’t tell you the exact beginning of this specific journey for it is not an exact thing, but I can tell you WHAT started it…discontentment. Now, I truly had nothing to be discontent about. In truth, I was a blessed person. According to the world, I had it all…land, financial security, a family, home, and overall a relaxing life. Truly I wanted for nothing…well, nothing but what I couldn’t have. And that was where it started…a journey of discontentment that led me down the path to distrust, betrayal, selfish inclination and eventually the worst place of all…self hatred.
Short of utter destruction the path seemed to end there. A putrid stench of dislike looming over me at every turn. No way to escape it. No where to hide from it. No where to turn away. Have you ever been shadowed by the myriad of mistakes you have made in life? Have you ever lived in fear of closing your eyes for the images of the failures you have made playing repeatedly across the blackness of the screen before you? This is where I lived…a dark and terrifying place. All I wanted was to escape it…be rid of it…to stop the torture of it.
But before we can know the end, we must know the path that led to it for one cannot truly understand the meaning of the end until they understand the steps with which brought them to it.
There I stood looking around me. The blessings of my life gathered like presents under a Christmas tree, but they weren’t enough – or at least not quite what I thought I wanted. As I stood looking at my family, my husband, my house, and my life in general, the eyes of my heart were drawn away to a path lingering of promise, desire, and fulfillment. I realized in that moment that I had a choice: embrace what I had and be content with it, flawed as it was, or risk it all to explore the path in hopes of more. Had I known the name of that path, I may not have taken it, but I was blinded by the temptation of what could be; so I began walking.
Before I knew it, all I could see was the path before me, everything else was lost to me. And not long after, I came to an enormous tree. The tree was rooted deep in the path and its source was not altogether clear. Its trunk spanned the entirety of my thoughts and sight. Its branches loomed far over the edges. As I approached the tree I saw a word carved deep into the trunk – DISTRUST.
Questions plagued me. What is this? How did a great tree get here in the path without being cut down before this? Where do I go from here? How can I get around this obstacle? What am I to do now, for I had no tools in which to remove this obstacle from my path.
I had no answers and just the thinking of the enormity of this tree drained my energy, therefore, I sat down in the shade of the Tree of Distrust and rested.
Funny thing about Distrust, when you shelter yourself in its shade you become comfortable with it. With the roots so deeply hidden and the trunk so strong it is easy to lean upon it. And this is what I did. How long I stood there I do not know for time was completely distorted by the comfort of the Tree and the struggle with how to get past it. Finally it came to me. I could not destroy it, so the only option that remained was to overcome it. And the only way to overcome it was to climb the tree and discover for myself a path through it.
It was not difficult to get into the tree, but as I climbed higher a pain would shock my heart with each touch of certain branches. I began examining these branches; some were skinny as if newly grown and didn’t bother me much, but others were thick, strong and had a vein that ran deep to the roots. These larger branches I could not touch for long as the pain was so intense. I began recognizing names carved deep upon several of them: father, husband, maker, friends. But before I could fully digest what this meant, there before me was a clearly marked way to the other side. Wanting to be done with this tree and the pain it caused, I rapidly made my way through the branches. The marked descent was easy, almost pain free, and in no time I dropped effortlessly down from the lowest branch into the path. I had done it. I had overcome distrust, or so I thought.
Very pleased with myself, I brushed of the lingering sense that I should consider what the names on the branches meant, and I began to run down the path assuming it was as before. But within a few steps I sprawled flat on my face. Looking down to see what tripped me, I saw my foot caught on a shallow surfaced root from the Tree of Distrust, it seemed to appear out of nowhere. As I began examining the path, I realized that the roots now resurfaced precariously before me as far as I could see. I sat in astonishment, I simply could not believe the roots of one tree could reach so far.
Carefully, I got up and began a slow trek forward watching the roots as they shifted and changed. It seemed my journey from this point on would be strewn with Roots of Distrust.
How long I walked the path I do not know for the going was slow but my needs were always met. When I became thirsty, I would find a jug of water in the path just steps away. When I realized I was hungry I would suddenly come upon a platter of food waiting for me. How this happened and who provided it I only suspected, but did not truly believe it possible…for Distrust kept me from fully accepting the Blessing of Truth.
One day I came upon a deep canyon. The canyon was so deep I could not see the bottom and feared to even gaze into the blackness of it. The darkness coming from the canyon seemed to reach out and beckon me to it. The path before me split sharply to the left and to the right. As I was wondering which way to turn, I soon spotted a small roughly made rope bridge off to the left just a short distance away. Making my way over to it, I read the sign over the entrance “Bridge of Betrayal”. Under that it said, “Those who cross here will find the Thrill of Relief at the end of their steps”.
I stood there gawking at the sign in pure disbelief. Was I seriously to cross THIS bridge? Was there not another I had heard of…the one called Way of Escape? Where was that bridge? Remembering the other path, I turned back to take a look down it to the right. Within a few steps I saw another sign “Way of Escape: 2 Months past this point” and then under that :”The Way of Truth and Sacrifice”.
Sacrifice? Hadn’t I had enough of that? Afterall, that was the basis for all the Blessings Truth has to offer. I had had plenty of Sacrifice, I wanted to live, love, and be free. But, Betrayal? I hadn’t counted on having to choose between the two. Defeated and conflicted I sat at that cross roads for some time running the pros and cons over and over in my head. Finally, convincing myself that I was strong and capable enough to make my way across the Bridge of Betrayal without falling prey to its swaying, I stood. And suddenly a hand pushed me forward…some invisible force propelled me from behind. I stepped to the left toward the Bridge of Betrayal.
But before my foot took its first step onto the bridge I felt another force…barely noticeable…as if a breath of wind kissed my cheek. Though the force of the second did not compare to the pressure of the first, its impact on me was far greater. Unfortunately with the momentum I had behind me I could not stop, and once on the bridge, I could not turn around.
Step by step I crossed the bridge, going steady and strong at first. But before long the bridge began to lightly sway. Then a plank or two disappeared before me and the steps became harder and leaps were needed to cross the gaps causing the bridge to sway more violently. Leaping and pausing, leaping and pausing, I made my way slowly across the canyon not knowing if my next leap would be my last. The threat of discovery propelling me ever forward despite the danger. When I was two thirds of the way across my foot slipped and I went down. Hanging on for dear life, fear gripping me, I felt that kiss of wind on my cheek again giving me the tiniest bit of strength to hold on, and then suddenly my foot found something to steady myself on.
After catching my breath, I was able to haul myself up again and climbing on hands and knees I made it to the other side. I was exhausted. Completely drained and I collapsed on solid ground. When I finally awoke I looked back at the bridge and the gap that had almost been my end. I was totally shocked to see what in which it was that saved me. That solid thing with which my foot had found to steady me, it was a root from the Tree of Distrust!
IV. Self Inclination
It took time to recover from my journey across the Bridge of Betrayal. I was shocked to find I was not alone. After what I had done, I thought surely those who knew, and especially those affected by my selfishness would leave me, but they didn’t. Instead, they rallied around me, protecting me and encouraging me to receive forgiveness and move on. Unfortunately, though distrust had saved me from falling completely into the Canyon of Seduction, it also hindered me from truly receiving forgiveness too.
As the days passed slowly, I gained my strength back and dared to venture on down the path that laid before me. For some time I was just so thankful to be moving again that I did not pay much attention to the way I went. It was easy going in general and there were many to help me along the way. When I struggled or became weak, they were there suddenly to give a hand or lend an arm of support.
I truly thought that all the trouble was behind me now. I had learned to take it slow as to not trip over the Roots of Distrust, and I had learned that even after my betrayal I could be loved and forgiven. I knew my needs would be met and I realized I wanted for nothing I needed, though there was still plenty I wanted. But even though I was a lot more thankful for what I had with me and all that I had come through, I still found myself one day staring at a huge round boulder that blocked my path.
Now I say it was a boulder, but truly it could have been a small mountain for as large as it was. And once again there was no way around it. I didn’t even try to climb over it for the sides were to steep and smooth.
Finding a spot off to the side, I stopped and pondered what could be done. Glancing around, I found a large thick tree branch that was laying there as if it had been provided for me. Thinking on this, I came up with the idea to use the branch as a wedge under the large round boulder and roll it from the path.
As I began to put my plan into action, I found other things readily available to make my plan work; support stakes, wedging blocks, and leverage. I just knew that I was blessed and meant to achieve this thing I set out to accomplish. So I stuck with it, heaving and grunting, working to make it all happen as I had designed it.
After a tremendously amount of time and effort, the boulder began to move and I was thrilled with myself. But just before the boulder settled into the place I had designed for it to go, it shifted and began to roll the other way, back toward me. Frantically I tried to redirect its course but nothing I did worked. And before I knew what was happening, that huge boulder had trapped me and rolled right over the top of me; crushing me into the soft dirt of the path.
I lay there completely numb. Was I even alive? There was no part of me free from the pain the boulder had inflicted and if I was not dead I wished I was. What had gone wrong? I had planned it all so carefully. It had seemed that everything was provided so readily so surely I had not gotten it wrong. It had to have been intended to be done this way!
But as I laid there immobile, crushed by the Boulder of Sorrow, I realized I had not truly listened for direction. I had not truly sought alternatives because I had not wanted alternatives. I had set my mind and let that one thing control me until it crushed me. There was no other way for it to end but in sorrow.
V. Self Hatred
As I crawled out from beneath the Boulder of Sorrow I saw my path led me to the edge of a dark ravine. The walls were high and the way was shadowed from all things above. Slowly on hands and knees I eventually came upon a sign that read “Ravine of Loathing”.
I sat back wondering why there wasn’t a different path, another option, but I knew in my heart why I had to go this way. I had to face the fact that I loathed whom I had become and the things I had done. So I struggled to my feet, and boldly walked to the edge of the Ravine. Reaching it took all my strength, and as the last of it drained from me I collapsed, falling down the steeps sides to the very pit. Hoping with all hope that this would be the end of me.
This journey had cost me so much. I no longer deserved that which I had before. I was selfish, self-serving, and completely unworthy of anything good. Though the way of the journey had not been all that difficult, actually easy at times, it had left me scarred and truly wounded. And like any wounded animal, I often lashed out and became hostile for little to no reason.
Finding myself bruised and beaten but still breathing, I crawled through the ravine. Finding a strange resolve in its very nature, loathing the loathing in me. I didn’t like who I’d become. I didn’t like how irritated I got, how I related, nor how I handled what life pushed at me. I wanted to be someone else…somewhere else. I loathed my very essence.
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and then without warning I found myself standing at the very edge of the Ravine of Loathing. I had come to the end. The end of my path, the end of my loathing, the end of myself. And what did I see?
That’s right…there was NOTHING! Nothing before me, nothing in me. I turned to look back….surely there was something behind me…something in which I had once been?
But what did I find? The image of a vessel so cracked it was transparent and containing nothing within. I realized I was looking into a mirror of my soul. I had accomplished nothing and nothing remained.
Despite all my efforts, despite all my work, there was nothing but a cracked shell. So cracked in fact, that I feared what would happen if it was tested with even the slightest of touch. I feared even that small breath of wind I had once felt along my way. What would happen to me? Would I cease to exist without my shell…as transparent and weak as it was it offered me some level of comfort – security. How could I survive without it?
And then what I feared happened. I cannot tell you when it happened, but I can assure you it did.
I stood there in that Nothingness for what seemed like years. Afraid to move, afraid to look, afraid to hope. Completely paralyzed by the thought that at any time I would cease to be. Then one day I realized I felt different, as if Someone had breathed upon me. I braved a glanced inside my heart to see if the fragile shell was still in place and there boldly staring back at me was…EMPTINESS.
I had no answers. I had no control. I had no power. I had no motives. I had NOTHING!
Or did I?
Though I had dreaded this day, I found that instead ceasing to be, I was actually FREE! I felt at peace staring into that emptiness. But wait…there was something, very faint, very small at the center of my nothingness…what was it?
I peered intensely into that emptiness and then I saw it clearly as it began to grow. The smallest of lights. No more than a pin prick in vastness to begin. As I focused on that tiny ray of light, I discovered a will to follow the Source of Life. The One whom had been there for me during the entirety of my journey…though I did not know or recognizing Him. I began to see the One who Sacrificed for me, the One who gave me Blessings, the One in whom is completely Trustworthy, and the One who is the only Way!
Now I knew this journey was not for naught. In fact, I had to come to naught to be whole.
I had to come to naught to be at peace.
I had to come to naught to forgive and to be forgiven; not by the One who is Grace, for He readily forgives a repentant heart, but by myself. As peace and relief flooded my being in every part, I realized every obstacle had been moved – the Tree of Distrust up rooted, Betrayals forgiven, the Boulder of Sorrow comforted, and the Ravine filled with Love. In fact, Love and Grace reigned and I was no longer EMPTY!