Sunshine fell dazzlingly bright above the lawn. Little Gracie sat, kicking the edge of her toe into the green turf of her backyard. Heat stifled the air, sending a dry, thick taste to her mouth. Grace stared longingly across the lawn at the beckoning woods. In her mind she could feel relief in the cool shade, the soft leaves brushing against her bare legs, smell the woodsy odor of decomposing logs, and hear the rambunctious chirrup of chipmunks warring in the treetops. Slowly, almost against her will, Grace stepped toward the enticing forest. Immediately, her Father’s gentle command flitted through her mind: “Enjoy the play yard I made for you. But now you must not stray from the light and enter into the forest.”
No, Grace told herself, This is not what he really meant. He told me to have fun, and I’m having fun.
Putting the unpleasant command out of mind, Grace slipped into the foliage and disappeared from sight of her garden in the light. She skipped along, weaving in and out of wide girthed trees and listening to the birds’ chorus. Right now, she had become a princess and stooped to pluck some golden buttercups with her snow-white hand and bring them up to her dainty nose. These flowers smelled of enticement and beckoned Grace to gather more for a crown. Now, with her yellow hair framed with flowers and falling down her back, she truly did feel like the princess of this wood. With elegance, Grace paraded through the bowing trees which waved their branches in applause for her. Soon she came upon a small pond, casting up bright reflections of all that looked down upon it. Grace bent her head and gazed at herself with the crown of golden buds. Childlike beauty and innocence stared back up at Grace.
No, she thought suddenly, this is not enough for me. I want to be queen, and queens have scepters in their hands.
This said, Grace left the reflecting pool and resumed her walk once more. She did not search long until she found exactly what she desired: a stick just wide enough for her tiny hand, and long enough for a scepter. Clenching her fist around the damp, smooth wood, Grace closed her eyes to enjoy this new sense of power. Now Grace felt like the queen of this wood. She recommenced her graceful promenade down the aisle of trees. When she returned to the pool and regarded her image once again, haughtiness and pride lurked at the corners of her once clear eyes. Yet, Grace could not see these things. Instead, she thought of her coronet of flowers and wooded staff which had both lost their charm.
No, Grace thought, this is not enough for me. I want to rule the wood. Rulers have thrones to sit upon.
Resuming her walk once again, Grace searched high and low for a place to from which she could reign over the forest. Then, she spotted her throne: a tiny ledge nestling between three trees. Slowly, Grace ascended the tiny embankment, turned, and, with a prideful smile, sat down upon the royal seat. Rough bark from the trees jutted into her clenched hands. She would not leave her throne. If the reflecting pond could have seen her now, it would not have presented a favorable image. Selfishness corroded the innocence. Pride supplanted the beauty.
And did this satisfy Little Grace now? Does selfishness ever meet fulfillment; ever find contentment? No, it does not.
Only, now the sun had fallen from its place in the noonday sky. Shadows began to creep forth from their hiding places. Grace watched with horror as the trees lost their friendly airs and turned into hideous, snarling forms. She realized the birds had ended their songs, leaving the forest enveloped in echoing silence. Only the lonely wind dared to howl its anger through the branches. As Grace sat trembling, she sought comfort in the power of her throne, but found it had become a jagged monster just as the other trees around her had become. Fear crept up her spine. In vain, Grace clutched at her scepter. But it too had become a monstrous form. Screaming, Grace flung her stick away. With a now tremulous hand, Grace sought the silky buds of her coronet. Even as she touched the flowers, they crumbled away. While, she once sought more and more, she now had less and less. Yet, strangely, Grace no longer wanted to rule this wood; she only wanted Father.
But, Grace thought, it’s too late. I’m lost.
Darkness enshrouded the woods. Light had dispersed altogether. Heavy rain clouds opened their store of water onto the ground. Cold drops intermingled with the hot, fat tears which fell onto Grace’s grubby hands. She cried. Rain pelted the ground. Her body shook with little convulsions of sobs. Hard dirt turned to mud at the water’s insistence. Even as she cried she knew she deserved this fate.
Did I not disobey my Father and seek my own, selfish way? I had much in my little garden at home, but I desired more. Now I see the emptiness of everything I wanted. I was blind –but now I see. Father, I’m sorry.
With sudden intensity in her voice, Grace stood up and shouted: “Father, I’m sorry . . . . I’m sorry! I’m so sorry, Father.”
Tears choked her words, ending her confession. Grace sank into the muddy, leaf strewn ground. She stared down at the puddle of water forming on the ground before her. Now Grace saw what before she could not see: selfishness and pride. But repentance now mingled into her mournful expression. Only, repentance could not wash away the stain. Not even her vigorous attempts to scrub her face with the pool’s water could remove her corroded image.
Yet the Father’s love extends far beyond disobedience. Amidst the wind and the rain, a glowing light came flashing through the trees, sending shadows cowering into corners. Her Father’s deep voice called out with loving concern. His strong arms picked Grace off the ground. He rocked his little girl back and forth as she cried into his chest. In between her torrents of sobbing, he heard her choke out repentance over and over again.
“Come now,” He said gently, “let’s go home.”
Father set Grace on her feet and took her hand in his. Yet, when Grace complied, she felt a strange, damp warmth in her Father’s hand. She peeled her fingers from his grasp and examined his hand. Then she grabbed her Father’s other hand and stared at them both. Grace’s eyes turned to his feet and to his side.
“I know, Grace.”
“But . . . why?”
“There is a price for disobedience.”
Grace began to sob again, “But, why for me –why for me?”
“Because I love you, Grace.”
Now, if any reflecting pool saw Grace’s face, it would not see the disobedience that once had stained her innocence. It would reveal the precious blood that washed all sin away.
Grace and her Father turned and walked towards home, her hand in his bloody hand. Without fear, Grace trod through the wood: her Father would lead her home. In her heart of hearts she thought, I once was lost, but now am found.