She turned around slowly and two men with warm smiles on their faces. The older man was tall, average weight, and thinning gray hair. The other man was younger with dark hair and eyes.
“Umm..” she started to stammer not having any idea how to explain her presence.
“Can we help you?” asked the younger man.
Shaking her head, she looked past them to the door. Seeing her look, the older man chuckled. “No need to worry, We won’t hurt you.” He walked over to her with his hand outstretched. “Hi. I’m the Pastor here. You can call me Toby. This here is my son, Jude. We’re actually glad you’re here.”
“Um… sorry for intruding. I just needed a place to hide.”
“You won’t find a safer place. Would you like to take a walk with us? We were just heading out to the lake.”
Lake? Here, in the city? Confused, she followed them down the hallway. They passed several closed doors before Toby opened the one at the end of the hall.
“No way!” she thought as she saw what was on the other side of that door.
It opened into a large garden full of colorful blooming flowers, luscious green grass, and mighty fruit-bearing trees of every kind. A dirt path wound its way through the garden exiting at the far end. And in the distance, she could see the blue glint of water. Where in the world was she?
Toby and Jude chatted as they walked, trying to draw her in by asking her questions. They asked about her job and family as well as her concerns, cares, and dreams. Not wanting to reveal the sadness inside her – being a preacher and preacher’s son, they would be sure to try to “fix” her – she covered her feelings by answering flippantly. They didn’t seem to notice her tone, and were intensely interested in everything she said and even seem to care about everything that concerned her.
They arrived at the lake and climbed out onto a pier that jutted out over the water. Sitting down, they were all quiet as they drank in the peaceful beauty of the place. Bella began relaxing as the peace soaked into her wounded soul. She had never experience as much love and acceptance from anyone as she was feeling from Toby and Jude.
After a long while, Toby turned to Bella and said, “Why don’t you tell me all about it. Just start at the beginning.”
Still covering her feelings, she continued to be flippant. “What beginning? When I was born beginning?”
Toby looked at Bella for a long minute, then said quietly, “Start at Disneyworld.”
Bella paled. Trembling, she asked, “How did you know about Disneyworld?”
“It’s my job, my gift.”
“My sisters were molested in Disneyworld. I might have been too because I was there. I can’t remember. All I know is something isn’t right inside me.”
She tried to listen to Toby as he began talking but her feelings were overwhelming her and she couldn’t hear anything but fear and doubt and condemnation. Eventually Toby’s words began to get through to her as he spoke louder and louder. When they were loud enough to drown out all her thoughts, she caught his eye and said, “OK, I can hear you. You’re preaching!”
He smiled and said, “Yes, I tend to do that.”
“I think we should leave now,” she said, wanting to avoid any more discussion.
“Sure, if you want to.” They stood up.
“I’m glad I chose to hide in your church,” she said as they walked back towards the church. “This is a good place.”
“I’m glad you accepted my invitation,” he answered. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.”
“Thanks, but I’m fine. I need to go.” As much as she loved being there, she was also uncomfortable. If he knew about Disneyworld, how much more did he know?
“As you will. But just know that you’re welcome back anytime. We’ll always be here.”
They escorted her through the house and back into the foyer. Reluctantly she waved goodbye and went out the front door. She didn’t know why she was drawn to this place that both refreshed and terrified her. But she knew one day she’d be back. And when she did, she knew Toby and Jude would be waiting for her with open arms.
This story, based on a dream I had years ago, is designed as an allegory. Here are a few analogies you can find in it.
The sidewalk was crowded with people – most going about their business, some feeling lost, and a few trying to connect with other people. Life is crowded with people also. Most are going about their business, not really paying attention to those around them. Some people feel lost in this world. And a few people try to connect with others to share God’s love.
Bella was surrounded by people and ended up getting hurt but chose to be in denial about how serious it was. We live in a world surrounded by people and will eventually get hurt. Many of us also tend to live in denial of the pain we have rather than allow someone else close enough to help us. At least I know I do.
The church was bigger on the inside than it looked on the outside, and contained a beautiful garden and lake. The spiritual world, heaven, is much bigger and more beautiful than it appears to those on the outside.
Bella found refuge in the home of Toby and Jude. We find refuge in God the Father and Jesus the Son.
Toby and Jude were intensely interested in everything Bella said, and cared about all her concerns. God is intensely interested in us and cares about everything we care about.
Toby knew about the pain Bella felt deep in her soul, regardless of how flippant she tried to sound. God knows the pain deep inside us no matter what we do to try to cover it.
Even though Toby and Jude wanted Bella to stay, she was free to come and go as she pleased. We have the same freedom in God. He desires us to stay with Him all the time, but won’t force us.
Now your turn. Does this story relate to your life in any way? What are some other analogies you can see?