I scanned the cramped room... So dark. Damp. Stale.
This was home. A single room shack - six feet by six feet.
The lone cobweb-laden shelf to my left was severely slanted and could hold no books - nevermind that I didn't own a single book - but it was nonetheless mildly adequate to serve as a reminder of what a shelf might be (a lousy one). Indeed, it gave me the feeling of having a shelf. And I'd learned to settle for vague feelings.
The floor was composed entirely of dirt - the dusty kind of dirt that perpetually stirs up from the ground and settles in clothes and between fingers and in every place in which it's least desired. But I no longer thought about the dirt. I'd long ago adjusted to it. If one doesn't think about such things, they really cease to be much of a concern.
Naturally, the shack had no furniture - not even a bench or stool. Between standing, squatting, and lying down in the dirt, my options for positional comfort were minimally satisfactory - which I could accept. After all, furniture only clogs things... Altogether unnecessary.
I ran my fingers over the rough walls. Splinters jutted out from the old, warped wood panels, if they could even be called that. Who really needs insulated, sealed, smooth walls anyway? Not I... I had convinced myself that the frigid drafts, eerie creaks and groans, and lack of protection from inclement weather were all lovely things with which I should be quite pleased.
There wasn't a speck of light in the place, save for the rare brave beams that might momentarily slip through the shoddy wood paneling and illuminate the room in dirtied slivers cast on thin portions of the floor. The subsequent effect was altogether eerie and drab with murky light drooping about in dim beams, being quite subdued by the chilled dark.
But best of all, I was alone in my shack. Just me. Not a soul to throw off my delicate balance.
And all these things constituted my existence.
My home, as I'd chosen to have it.
I sat in the dark. In the cold. With my crooked, empty shelf, my dirty floor, and my shoddy walls... and I knew nothing else. I wanted nothing else.
My family and friends came to knock on the door of my shack. They invited me to all sorts of lovely parties and socials. Some asked if they might just spend a little time with me. They asked me to come out for just a moment or two. They told me that I'd like it very much outside. I politely declined. A few begged me to leave the shack... to get some sun... to eat a fresh meal... to have a firm hug. I adamantly refused. A select few took the initiative to turn the handle; but they couldn't open the door. It was locked. And I'd left no spare key.
The inquiries dwindled as time passed. And I preferred it to be so. I loathed being bothered in my cramped, dank shack. I much preferred my dirt, my squatting, and my dark in privacy and solitude. And so it was.
But in the silence, came fear. First, as a pinprick - a nagging vise on a small corner of my mind.
Then it grew.
I was alone in a world that, if maintained, would wreck me. The dirt on the floor became odious. The slivers became abhorrent. I longed for a book to read on that darned empty, crooked shelf. I craved light - bright, happy, golden light. But my pride kept me from admitting my deep dissatisfaction, my entrapment. After all, this was indeed the precise life I'd wanted. And it was all I'd ever worked for.
But I couldn't delude myself forever. At last, despair overtook fear and shook me hard. I took to crying. Daily. Then hourly. I crumbled into a mess. I stared blankly into the dark.
And finally, I wanted out of the shack. Fiercely.
I crawled to the splintered door and weakly grabbed at the latch. It was then that I realized that the door was locked from both sides. And I had no key. I'd built my own dungeon.
Then I wept. Not a cry... not a sob... But an unimpeded soul-consuming weeping.
I laid my head down on the dirt and surrendered. I surrendered to the fury of the oppression I felt. I surrendered to hopelessness. I surrendered to ravaging despair. And - rising up through these flawed counterfeits of surrender - came the genuine form. It came quiet and soft. It was unmistakably foreign to my heart - a surrender born not of me, but from a Source greater and deeper and sweeter.
It was a painful surrender, but I welcomed the pain as I became increasingly aware of its residence in me. It was the pain of the surgeon's scalpel and not at all the pain of the tormentor's blade.
Then, while I sat still in the dark and damp and dirt, hope gripped my soul.
And I heard one Voice at my door.
A Voice I'd never heard so warmly, so clearly. A Voice that shook my very bones. A Voice that I felt I knew more intimately than any other. Indeed, a Voice that I felt knew me more intimately than any other.
And He spoke of freedom. He offered life... abundantly. But most grippingly, He told me that He loved me, as no one ever had or could or would love me. He told me I need only whisper 'yes' to Him.
So I did.
His voice rang out with joy and He ripped open the door, shattering the lock altogether. Glorious, happy, golden light flooded my tiny shack and, in its presence, the depravity of my 'home' was made painfully clear. Yet He still ran to me. He embraced me. And He wiped the tears from my dirty face.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
He whispered it over and over. Then He lifted me, and carried me. "Come home, dear one," He said to me. And through my tears, and in my weariness, I knew He had made me free... Indeed, He was my freedom.
And He became my world.
"If the Son has made you free, you are free indeed."