by Phil Ritchey
Imagine that you are walking down the road one day. In the distance you see a person walking towards you. As you approach each other you sense that they are walking as if on some kind of mission. As the stranger passes, you catch a glimpse of their face, etched with kindness. As your eyes connect, they place a gift in your hands. Soft words lift up from their mouth and whisper into your ear that this is a very special gift and is one of a kind. So special in fact that there is no greater gift seen under the sun.
As the stranger walks on behind you, their instructions from over their shoulder are that you are now to be another Ambassador of this special gift. You watch for a while as the stranger disappears down the straight path from where you came. Your attention is finally drawn back down to your hands, closed around the gift that was given to you freely. As you open your hands you discover a flickering flame of light. It is surging and glowing. A mysterious flickering flame of light, your eyes are fixed on it, the warm glow sending waves of comfort through you.
A shout from the distance startles you and the stranger delivers one last encouraging piece of direction, “Never let it go out for it comes from above!” are their words. Never let it go out? You repeat softly to yourself. What is this gift? Who was that person? Where did this flaming light come from? How on earth do I keep it from going out? You wander over to a nearby river and sit on its lazy banks as you begin to ponder all that you just witnessed. So many questions. You begin to feel a warming sensation spreading within your chest and throughout your entire body. You feel calm and at peace. As you rest your head back in the grass and your eyes close, you fall into a restful sleep.
The call of a distant eagle awakens you. As you sit up and try to get your bearings, you realize you have slept until the morning. The sun in cresting the hills, its glow lighting the valley. Suddenly a thought hits you and you look down into your hands. There, flickering, is the gift of light that you were given the evening before. You study it intensely, looking into the flame, trying to understand what this gift means and what it is for?
The entire experience has left you full of a new courage and peace in your heart. You decide that the best decision is to do whatever possible to keep this light alive as the stranger instructed. The days begin drifting by with this new mission in your hands. You take the light with you everywhere you go. At first you show your family, then your friends, then even strangers. You talk about it, stare at it, and let them take pictures of it. They reach out and ask if they can hold the flame like you are. At first you think, sure absolutely, why wouldn’t I let them hold it? But something within you quickly pulls your hands back from them and you guard the light to your chest. I am sorry you say, it is too difficult, too fragile, and you aren’t quite sure yet what might happen if you were to let it go. They all seem to understand well enough, no one gets too upset and after all, you have shared it with them, so you aren’t trying to be selfish.
One day you awaken from sleep and look down at the old friend in your hands. It takes a few moments for you to realize something is different. The light has dimmed. The flames flickering has slowed and the warmth in your hands has cooled. Sweat starts forming on your brow from fear. This gift has become your whole life, everyone knows who you are because of your special gift. It has defined you and everything you own has be earned by showing others its warming glow. You remember the last words of the stranger who gave you this gift, “Never let it go out”. In a panic you run out into the streets from person to person thrusting the flame into their faces, waving it in everyones home and business, you take it into places that you are not even invited. People begin yelling at you and kicking you out and telling you never to return. You are cast out of the town altogether, they force you to leave your home and all your possessions, alone you walk away with your head down, staring at the fading flame in your hands.
The sun is fading in the west as you begin your journey banished from everyone whom you had selflessly shared your life and your special gift. As darkness closes in around you a sudden surge of anger overwhelms you. Why did that stranger have to give you this gift anyway? It has totally ruined your whole life. A complete waste of time. You begin to think of all the fun you could have had if you could have just done what you wanted to do. The parties, the flashy things in town, the gifts that were in the stores you were never invited into. You had missed out on it all. Now look at you. Pitiful. Rejected. Alone. Nothing to show for.
For a long long time you drag yourself Eastward, away from everything you knew, every comfort, everyone that you thought believed in you. Finally you lift your head and a very unpleasant feeling begins to form in the pit of your stomach. The darkness is engulfing the landscape. Dark cliffs are surrounding you. The woods enclose around you. The noises of the night begin to terrify you to the core. You have no where to run, no where to hide. You can’t turn back and you have no idea where to go. In complete blindness you bump around in the darkness desperately trying to find your way. The fear has almost fully overwhelmed your heart and you feel it begin to slow in your chest.
In complete and utter horror of where your life has taken you up to this moment your body begins to shake when a faint memory rises in your terrified mind. The full words the of the stranger came clearly into view, “Never let it go out for it comes from Above!” Suddenly your whole body shudders and drops as your heart slows to a stop. As your knees hit the ground and your body slumps over, you thrust your hands up to the sky and with every ounce of strength remaining you scream, “Please do not let it go out for it is from Above!”
As your body falls to the ground your last thought as you close your eyes is, “what was this all for?” Just as you feel the impact of the ground a whirlwind swoops beneath you and your body surges upward. The whole sky is illuminated and a light like none ever seen takes over your entire vision. Warmth engulfs your shivering, light fills your darkness, your heart is overwhelmed with courage and peace. It seems like an eternity passes as you try to be fully saturated with this miraculous gracefulness. Your eyes flicker open. Looking at your feet you see that you remain steadfast on the rock where you last were standing. Your eyes are immediately drawn to your hands. As you open your clenched fists your heart melts when you see the flame has not only returned but is glowing and flickering with the same resilience and glory that it shown when your journey first began.
Looking around you notice that you are still in the wasteland as before only now the cliffs and the woods are glowing with the light from your hands. Fear is gone, sorrow is gone, suffering has passed on. Your heart is filled with a growing desire to finish your mission. The devastatingly tremendous experience that you have just survived has given you a new life filled with love and a sense of what must be done.
You fix your eyes Eastward, forward, onward. Looking in every cave and crack and in every corner of the dark forest you begin to search. You grow stronger with every step, and your walk becomes a run and then a sprint as you sense that you are close. Out of the darkness a faint cry catches your ear. You turn and search the darkness with your light. There, huddling in the darkness you see the lost one. Scared, cold, beaten, dejected and lost they sob and begin to cry out to you. Instantly your heart reaches out to them.
You stoop down and pick them up and hold them in your arms. You tell them it is ok, that they are safe now, no longer alone. You won’t leave them ever. You will take them to safety and bandage their wounds. Their eyes look up and meet yours. Tears begin to flow down your cheeks. In such a short time in life, you have gone so many places. Especially since meeting that stranger that gave you the special gift. You think about the meaning of it all. The intense gravity of the meaning begins to overwhelm you and the tears flow heavier and heavier. The lost one looks up at you and peace can be seen in the strangers eyes.
Once the swell of emotion settles and your stories of redemption are shared, you both look down at the the glowing, flickering flame of light that is now in each of your hands, shining even brighter into the darkness. Together you push on, Eastward. Gathering lost ones wherever you can find them, for they are everywhere. It was almost the midnight hour when the throng had grown to a mighty host of light bearers in the night. As the glow of each ones flame begins to light up the earth from the ground to the horizon, everyones eyes are drawn to the Eastern sky. A finish line can be seen being drawn in the steadily blueing heavens.
The host of believers begin to turn and run, pulling the injured and weary. Carrying those who are still hidden or lost. The ground begins to tremble as the crowd rolls over the hill like a scroll unravelling on the rock. The blast of a trumpet suddenly peels across the sky cracking from end to end and back again. The dark clouds forming rapidly, growing into the entire field of view. A glory like none other stirring within the darkness, growing brighter and brighter. You stand at the front of the group of witnesses, eyes fixed on the scene developing before you.
An amphitheater begins to open from within the clouds. Angelic beings filled with golden glowing light begin pouring out of the sky and surrounding us. The centre of the heavens is the brightest. So bright that many cannot handle beholding it. Fear is near to striking your heart and just as it does a Voice fills the entire world. It is Finished. I am. The beholder of this voice begins to descend toward us and instead of the fear growing, a much different feeling covers the earth. The purest form of love is all that we can feel. Fully accepted and loved just as we are, dirty and brokenhearted, but forgiven and sanctified, by Him. Your eyes begin to rise into the sky, you are no longer scared to see who this is. For in the fullness of God you now know this is His Son, this being of light, who was and is, the stranger from the road long long ago.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven”