The push and pull of the day are already upon me. Lists are forming in my head. Shoulds and oughtas scream at me from corners in my mind where they dropped, exhausted, at the end of the day yesterday. I rouse myself and steel my resolve to go forward, but there is sorrow and despair in my step.
Where is the joy of encountering life? Where is the abundance? That is what you promised, isn’t it – not overwhelming life, but abundant life. A small tear trickles down the corner of my cheek, burning my eyes and the inside of my nose, carrying its silent resignation to spiritless despair.
That is the battle I fight. I fight the dragon of too much in the cave of discouragement. His breath is hot and his scales are inpenitrable. He slashes his tail and roars about my failures, predicting my doom. Under his slithering bulk he guards the coins and jewels of the treasure of fancied projects – things I will glory in, I think, if I could but get them done.
He coughs a little cough, burping smoke, and in total disdain for my presence, he retires to a corner of his cave. “Try again, if you will, to do your day, to meet your obligations and still find time for life. I like to watch you struggle with such emptiness.” He picks his teeth with one of his long claws in delicious gloating.
I walk to the pile of what-I-should-do and select a large coin, the size of a platter, and begin to make a stack of such coins upon the floor. One upon another I place them, carefully aligning them so that they fit together. When the pile is large, I pick it up to move it out of the cave. I loaded the pile pretty high and I cannot really see around it, but I can look down and see my steps upon the floor and keep from stumbling. I move forward, but after a while I hear a chuckling from the corner where the dragon gloats. “Where are you going?” he sneers.
I look round my stack of coins to see that I am making my way to the back of the cave and not toward the front. It’s hard to tell. No pathway guides my steps; no doorway widens before me. The only way I can see that I am headed toward the back is that it has gotten noticeably darker. I turn, and trip, and spill my load. When I have finally reassembled it, I move off toward the corner of the cave that seems to have the most light.
I struggle around boulders across the uneven floor and finally arrive at the source of the light. It is, indeed, the opening to the cave and I can see the meadow, the grass, through it. But the hole is too small for me to fit the great coins through. I turn them this way and that, but they just will not go through. The dragon laughs. He shifts his weight and settles back down in his corner. There is no need to defend his treasure from me. I cannot take it out of his cave.
I sit on the floor beside the opening and sigh, looking from the coins to the meadow and back again. I beat upon the coins to see if I can bend them to fit, but to no avail. I ponder the possibility of melting them to get them through, but in an jeering answer to my thoughts the dragon picks up another coin from his pile, just like those before me, and he breathes his fire upon it.
It glows brightly but it does not melt. In fact, when it has stopped glowing it turns brown and brittle and crumbles into dust. The dragon is a bit taken aback by this development and tries to hide his surprise by laughing at me. But he has already made the mistake and my trance has been broken. I look at the pile of coins beside me and see them for what they are: tinny trinkets of carnival treasure – empty, glittery imitations of treasure. They are not worth my effort. They only steal my time and divert my true mission.
I squeeze myself through the hole at the cave opening and tumble out into the cool grass of the meadow. It is as if I have entered a different world, a different reality. Here the sun shines to reveal the true nature of things. I see the rockiness of the rocks and grassiness of the grass. I see my flesh and know that I am not a god. I am not the architect of honor and of salvation. I am not the molder of the future.
I run down the hill into the meadow below, leaving the hidden cave, the empty treasure, and the howling dragon far behind. I find the well and bury my face in its waters, mixing my sudden rush of grateful tears with the coolness of its touch.
When I have drunk enough, a hand touches my head and smooths my hair. I turn to see my daily manna spread upon its cloth beside me. I eat and beneath the loaf I find a single small coin. It is heavy, true gold. I hold it in the palm of my hand for just a moment and then I walk to the well and let it go in the waters. Despite its weight it drifts to the bottom and I can see it catch the light from its resting place. “The coins are yours,” I say quietly. “I release them into your hands.”
“Wise choice, my child.” I hear the voice behind me, and turn to see the Lion. My heart fairly bursts with joy and love. He smiles and then he is gone. I no longer see his presence, but I hear the echo of his voice … more precious than all the gold within the cave. More precious even than the coin at the bottom of the well. He is my treasure. Nothing else will satisfy.