My fingers are cold; my whole being is cold. The warmth of my own blood has retreated deep within me and I so I sit, cuddled up beneath the oak tree at the top of the meadow. My blood runs slowly through my veins, sluggish. It doesn’t want to venture out to bring life to my limbs. I huddle down, and try to draw warmth from myself, but there is none to draw. I feel tired. Sleep beacons me, calling to me to retreat from my day before it has even begun.
I feel that I am collapsing inward, into nothing, for I am empty and exhausted.
Slowly, the sun peeks up over the edge of the hill. It has been light in the meadow for a good while now, but the sun itself had not crested the hill, so as its fiery edge begins to show itself I squint my eyes and watch. The red glow of the clouds reflects its brilliant energy. As it rises, it brings enough warmth with its light to slowly melt my stubborn resistance. I relax slightly against the tree and close my eyes. The sun’s intensity shows its red through my eyelids.
I sit as the sun rises and I wait.
When I open my eyes again, the great fiery ball has almost broken free of the edge of the earth. It draws itself skyward and powerfully announces the day with unapproachable brilliance. (Me… I announced my day with a yawn.) The last ribbon of the sun has released itself from the hill and sent its beams across the ripples and folds of the landscape, seeking out the corners where the night still hides. It is a triumphant and glorious awakening. The meadow sings in reply.
I am compelled to go to the well of joy, and so I rise to my feet, and though I am ashamed to admit it, I stifle a yawn and shuffle forward down the hill. How can I be sleepy in the midst of such power and glory?
There is a leadenness in my heart that will not release itself to respond to this triumph. It denies that the triumph can be true for that corner of my being. In its denial, it proves itself correct — not true, but correct. I sit down on the grass by the well, leaning back against one of the stone benches. I remove that leaden box from my heart and place it on my lap. I almost choose to put my head down on the box and go to sleep, but, struggling against that siren song with great effort, I open the box and look inside.
The lid is heavy and, when it is opened, reveals a chamber with a scattering of objects the same gray color as the box itself. Suddenly, I am in the box, poking around among its wares. There is a long low bench on one side of the chamber, and gray bundles stacked in the corners – boxes and parcels all around the room. But nothing is open to view, all is wrapped, is shrouded, in gray. Indeed, shrouded is the right word. For the room carries the cold silence of a mausoleum, and the smell of death — not fresh decay, but old, old emptiness and staleness, where no breath of air has stirred for many years.
Then the top of the box is slid into place above me by some unseen hand, and I am sealed within this gray, cold tomb. My heart cries out in silent misery, the words themselves frozen on my lips. I rush to a corner where one tiny shaft of light still finds its way into the chamber. I scramble to inhabit the light, to pull all of myself within the beam, to remove myself from the darkness and cold silence of the room. “Deliver me,” I pray “Oh, please deliver me from my leaden heart.”
There is a long, almost unbearable pause and then the tomb is shaken, the lid is moved away and I look up to the sky of the meadow. An angel sits on the edge of the box, and jumping down, makes her way toward me. She lifts me to my feet and says, simply, “Let’s not stay here.”
I look around me, the walls are too high for me to scale and though I could try to build a stairway out of the bundles which lie around the room I know without even trying that they would not support my efforts. I look at the angel and have no words to ask her how I can find my way out.
She draws me to herself and then we sit together on the bench. From inside me, she pulls another box. I’m not sure what it is made of, but it is warm to the touch. She lifts its lid and the sides of the box fall open, revealing the meadow and all its surrounding lands. I find myself there, released from the leaden tomb.
“You make the choice.” she says, “You choose where you will live your days: within the leaden fears of potential failure and loss, or in the meadow of hope.”
“But hope seems so fragile compared to fear.”
“Neither is any more than a look to the future– an anticipation of what may be. One is made powerful by the recognition of your own inadequacies, the other blossoms from the hands of the One who holds and molds the future itself. The strength of the image depends upon where you focus. The bridge to the future is built on your faith, on your belief in what can be. You choose. You cross the bridge.”
I cross it now, flying far away from the leaden box. I even feel a tremor of excitement as the last wisp of sunrise streaks through the meadow – a tremor of hope, and with it the tiniest bit of energy to go on – about a mustard-seed’s worth – just enough.
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