Hopefully you’ll all enjoy this parable about God’s redemption and transformation of his daughters.
The Shadow House
The shadows danced across the room as the gray light faded quickly into oblivion. A whimper was heard in the closing darkness and the sound of shuffling feet. After a moment a match was lit and in the glowing light a face could be seen.
The girl holding the match was dirty and unkempt. Her brown curls hung about her face, oily and matted. Her face was covered with a multitude of tiny scars that crossed and covered each other giving her an unearthly look. She seemed to be somewhere between childhood and womanhood but it was hard to tell under the thick layer of dirt and grime. Her eyes might have been blue at one time but some kind of incredible sadness had overtaken them and the murky depths now gave out only a muted gray color.
A howling noise echoed through the house as the wind picked up speed. The slender hand holding the match shook slightly at the sound and the match dropped to the floor. Darkness consumed the room again and the whimpering returned.
“I’m scared.” A voice whispered.
“Me, too.” Another sounded in the dark room.
The girl-woman’s voice wavered, “I have no more matches.”
“Stupid!” A voice growled. “You let the only light we have go out!” The whimpering grew louder as several voices began to angrily debate whose fault it was that there was no more light.
After several minutes of anger, the fear began to set in again. The girl-woman sat down heavily in the midst of the frightened children. The smallest one whose whimpers could still be heard climbed onto her lap.
“I’m s-s-scared.” A voice repeated.
The girl-woman reached out a hand in the pitch black room and felt around until she touched the girl.
“Come, Frightened.” She said as she drew the girl over. Within a few minutes all the children in the room were pressed close together, all reaching to the touch the girl-woman.
Frightened remained curled up next to her side. Hurting, who was still whimpering softly against her chest, was snuggled in her lap. The other children, Angry, Prideful, Outcast, Wounded, Spiteful and Lonely all trying to grab onto her hands, her hair, her skirt, whatever they could reach.
The fear was so thick that one could feel it in the air. After a moment of silence Spiteful whispered in her venomous way, “Why won’t you hum that song that makes us feel better? Huh, No-Name? Do you like it when we’re afraid?”
Hurting whimpered louder and her grip on the girl-woman tightened.
Angry reached out a hand and let her fingers scratch across No-Name’s face. “You’re causing the darkness aren’t you?!” She cried, then jerked her hand back, frightened at the feel of the girl-woman’s blood under her fingers.
No-Name reached up a hand to wipe the blood away that trickled down her cheek. Instead of responding she began to softly hum a song that was etched forever upon her heart. She had heard it once, long ago. The children knew of nothing except the Shadow House but No-Name had a memory, a distant drifting memory of a voice that sounded like water rushing over rocks singing the tune that she was now humming. Although she could hum the song, the words had forever escaped her.
The soft humming caused the children to relax around her. Spiteful and Angry both quieted and snuggled in close to her. Hurting’s whimpers subsided and Frightened slumped next to her as sleep overcame them all.
When they awoke, morning had come. It wasn’t a sun-light or moon-light that shown in the morning at the Shadow House but rather a gray-light that kept the darkness from overpowering but did nothing to stop the shadow’s from dancing upon on the walls.
“I hate you!” Spiteful spat from her corner of the room. The words were directed at Outcast who was slumped in the opposite corner. “I wish you’d leave. We don’t need you here.”
No-Name sighed as Angry joined the dispute. Hurting clung to what was left of the girl-woman’s tattered skirt and Wounded sat in another corner with her head in her hands rocking back and forth muttering under her breath, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
No-name sent Frightened and Lonely out to find matches. Usually she sent Angry and Spiteful, just to get them out of the house, but today she didn’t have the energy to force them to go.
The girl-woman wiped a hand across her face then winced. The new scratch marks on her cheek were sure to leave scars. It didn’t matter to her though, for they only covered old scars from other children who had lashed out at her.
The morning dragged on and the children became restless. No-name went to the door many times to call for Frightened and Lonely to hurry with the matches, but they didn’t come. It was nearing noon-time before she heard the pattering of their bare feet on the path. She hurried out to meet them and give them a good scolding for taking so long but stopped short when her gaze fell upon the two small girls coming toward her.
In their hands were two buckets full of matches, but more than that…they were clean! Lonely was smiling, a huge smile that showed forth white teeth and sparking blue eyes. Her usual downcast expression was gone and replaced by one of pure joy. Never had No-name seen anything like it.
And Frightened, she looked nothing like she usually did. She was walking with such assurance there seemed to be no fear in her.
No-Name’s gaze swung from one smiling child to the other. “Lonely? Frightened?” Perhaps it simply wasn’t them…perhaps it was some other children who had lost their way.
“That’s not my name anymore.” The one who used to be Frightened proclaimed. It was most certainly her voice, but never once had the girl-woman heard her say anything except, “I’m scared.” The child continued to smile as she went on, “I have a new name! It’s Confidence! And Lonely isn’t lonely anymore, she’s Beloved!”
No-Name’s face betrayed her bewilderment. “What…where….how did you get new names?”
“He gave them to us.”
“He? He, who?” No-Name questioned.
“The Deliverer.” Confidence told her. The child’s voice displayed such awe that No-Name began to feel an ache within her heart.
“The Deliverer?” She asked, “Where is this man?”
“He’s coming!” Beloved exclaimed. “He’s coming here, for you! He said he has new names for all of you too!”
No-Name spun around to look at the group of children standing at the doorway of the Shadow House. “New names…” she whispered. If only it would really happen. The dirty unkempt children crept toward her and reached their hands out to touch her as they stared at Confidence and Beloved.
Just then a sound echoed through the yard. It was a strange sound that No-Name recognized from years before. It caused her skin to tingle and the ache in her heart to throb harder. The golden laughter grew louder as the being approached.
“It’s him!” Confidence said as she started jumping up and down in excitement.
A man stepped out of the Shadow woods that bordered the yard. He was different that anyone the children had ever seen. His whole body seemed to glow with a light that didn’t just lessen the shadows but caused them to run far from him.
He walked up until he was standing before No-Name and the little girls that were hidden behind her, their eyes hurting from the light that shone from him. Even the clean girl’s took a step closer to the girl-woman, their scrubbed skin not looking near as clean compared to the Deliverer.
The man’s eyes blazed with a sparkling light as he searched until his gaze fell upon the smallest child. Little Hurting was whimpering and clinging to the girl-woman’s skirt afraid to look at the man who was glowing with light.
He lifted a hand and motioned for her to come. Hurting glanced at him but instead of going, hid further behind the girl-woman’s skirt. No-Name could see the longing in her eyes so she reached down and gave the child a slight push toward the man. As soon as Hurting took one step in his direction the man reached for her and gathered her into his arms. He rocked her back and forth whispering words of love softly in her ear.
As the light-man held the child the light began seeping from his hands that were wrapped around her. It traveled into her body and slowly her skin began to change. Patches of light began to show through the dirt then suddenly a glow of light burst out and swirled around them, hiding the two from view. In the midst of the swirling light a voice spoke. It echoed around the Shadow House, loud and commanding yet gentle and loving at the same time. “You shall no longer be called ‘Hurting’, for through me you have overcome your pain and heartache. Therefore, your name shall be ‘Overcoming One’.”
The other children watched in wonder as the light began to settle and the outline of Hurting came into view. To their amazement the little girl, now glowing in light, threw her head back and laughed. It was the same golden laughter than had come from the light-man; a precious sound that caused their hearts to beat faster with longing.
The light-man turned again toward No-Name and the children. He motioned for Outcast to come. The girl looked toward No-Name and at her nod, took a faltering step toward the man, afraid that he would turn her away. Instead he rushed to her and lifted her high in his arms. “My child.” He said in a voice loud enough that all could hear. The transformation began again and the voice in the glow of light proclaimed, “You shall no longer be called, ‘Outcast’ , for I have accepted you. Instead you will be known as ‘Chosen’, for I have chosen you as my own.”
One by one the children slipped from No-Name’s arms and clung to the Deliverer as he transformed them into new children. Angry became Joyfulness. Spiteful turned into Caring. Wounded became Healer.
The last child to come from her hiding place behind the girl-woman was Prideful. She hung back, her eyes longing to run to him, but her stubbornness keeping her there. She refused to move until No-name took her by the arm and marched her over to the light-man. He smiled at the child and embracing her in the swirls of light, he transformed her into Loving.
As the two of them stepped apart, both glittering with sparkles of light, the Deliverer turned his gaze to No-Name’s face. At that moment she felt a greater fear than she ever had before. She realized that while the other children had names that were being changed, she had no name at all.
Two tears welled up in her eyes. She knew that she could not be transformed because she was no one and it made her heart break within her. As the tears slid down her scarred cheeks, a hand reached out and caught them. The Deliverer who had waited for each of the children to come to him, did not wait for No-Name. He reached out and pulled her into his arms.
“What is the matter?” He asked, his mouth close to her ear. The sound had dropped to a musical tone that struck a chord within No-Name’s heart. It reminded her of something…someone from long ago.
She kept her head buried deep in his chest and whispered in complete shame, “I have no name.” She stepped back from him and looked up at his beautiful face. In that moment she remembered her own scars. Horror filled her as the man lifted his hand and gently rubbed his finger across her scarred cheek.
“I have many names.” He said, “I will give you one of mine.”
“What…” She paused as if unsure, then collected her courage and continued, “What are your names?”
“You already know them.” The Deliverer answered. “I wrote them upon your heart long ago, before you chose to come to the Shadow House.”
“I don’t remember any names.” She whispered, sadness filling her. How could she have forgotten this wonderful man’s names?
“I will tell you one. The one I am giving to you.” The light-man held the girl-woman’s face in his hands and smiling into her eyes said, “My name is Beautiful One and your name shall be Beautiful One.”
The girl-woman’s gaze fell to the ground and great shaking sobs rose within her. “I..” Her shoulders shook, “I cannot…” The light-man lifted her chin so her gaze met his. “I cannot accept that name.” The tears ran in torrents down her scarred cheeks, every one caught in the light-man’s hand that was still under her chin.
“Why not?” The Deliverer questioned.
“Because I am not beautiful.” She told him, trying to look anywhere but at the wonderful man before her. “Can’t you see the scars?”
The light-man smiled. A bright blinding smile. “Yes, I see the scars.” He answered her. “You are not beautiful now, but you will be. Just as Outcast will truly become Chosen and Angry will become Joyfulness and each one of the other children will become what I am making them as well.”
“How is this possible?” No-Name questioned, the tears slowing as her hope began to grow.
“I made you.” The light-man explained, “I can change you into what you long to be.” He paused to make sure her eyes met his, “If you let me.”
The girl-woman bit her lip for a moment then said slowly, as if explaining a great hidden secret that she barely dared to speak out loud, “I do so wish to be beautiful.”
“Then I will take your scars upon myself.” He told her.
“No!” No-Name cried out. “You cannot take the scars! You are too perfect.”
“It is because I am perfect that I can take them.” The Deliverer explained to her. “Trust me.” He gripped both of her hands in his. “Will you take my name?”
She looked beyond him for a moment, at the group of children who were watching them, their eyes bright and their bodies washed clean. “I will.” She whispered.
As she spoke a scar appeared on his cheek. She watched in wonder as it marred his perfect skin. She grimaced as he winced slightly from the pain.
A name rose within her heart. She didn’t know where it had come from but it found it’s way to her lips and in a quiet steady voice she proclaimed, “Redeemer.” The scar suddenly vanished.
Another scar came. “Mighty God.” She said, her voice growing stronger. That scar also disappeared.
Another came. “Wonderful Counselor.” It vanished.
One scar after another came and vanished as No-Name spoke the names, her voice growing louder and more lovely with each name.
“Prince of Peace.”
“Author of Life.”
Name after name, scar after scar.
When the scars finally stopped, No-Name stood trembling before the Deliverer and he spoke, “You shall no longer live without a name for I have claimed you. I have taken your scars and now I give you my name.” He paused and smiled. The girl-woman’s eyes began to shimmer and sparkle as the murky gray faded into a brilliant blue. “Beautiful One.”
The children stepped back as a bright light burst from the gray skies and surrounded the two. A beautiful melody began and drifted out from within the swirling light. The golden laughter began again, only this time it was more brilliant, more lovely than it had ever been before. The light seemed to continue forever and soon the laughter faded as a whispered conversation began between the two within the light. Sudden bursts of female giggles were often followed by the light-man’s laughter then the talking would continue. Time stood still as the two danced within the light cloud, oblivious of anything but each other.
Then the light cloud began to fade and the heavens closed. The children gasped when Beautiful One came into view. Her worn tattered dress had been replaced by a gown of pure white, so white it hurt one’s eyes to look at it. Her hair was washed clean and her blue eyes sparkled, sending rays of light onto every place her gaze landed. Her perfect skin was accented by the glow of light that swam around her.
Now there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was no longer a child. She was a woman. A beautiful, light-filled woman who was gazing at the man she loved. The man whose name she had taken.
The light-man stepped back from her, smiling. “I have changed you.” He explained, “but it is your choice to stay this way.” He looked at the children who were gathering around Beautiful One, “The children will forget that they have been changed. You must remind them.”
“Why me?” Beautiful One questioned.
“Because, my Beautiful One, they are a part of you.” The Deliverer explained.
Beautiful One looked around at the children who were gathered close to her, smiling and laughing. Her eyes widened as she realized that they each had brown curls and dancing blue eyes, exact replica’s of her own.
“And you are now a part of me.” The light-man told her. His hand lifted to brush her smooth cheek. “I am going away for a time. I am preparing a new house. A light house. Then I will return for you.”
“Don’t leave me.” Beautiful One whispered, her voice barely audible above the sound of the children who were now racing around the yard, laughing and shouting to each other.
“I will always be close to you. I am your light.” The Deliverer smiled then stepped back.
Beautiful One watched as the light-man disappeared back into the Shadow Woods, but the shadows didn’t close in behind him. In fact, everywhere she looked, the shadows ran away.
The children suddenly realized that he had gone away and ran to Beautiful One, reaching for her and asking where the light-man had gone.
Beautiful One smiled as she gathered her girls close to her. “He’ll be back.” She told them, her voice ringing with confidence. He would be back.
That night, when the darkness came there was no whimpering or crying. Instead, a soft glowing light surrounded the children within the house and as they gathered together Beautiful One began to sing the promise that had been sung into her before the beginning of time,
“For the children in the shadows, light has dawned! For the people in the darkness, light has come! Light has come, in the hand of a Savior. Hope is born in the form of a man. And his name forever shall be: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace… and he shall reign forevermore. He shall reign forever more.”
I wish that I could tell you that never again did the children fear, never again was Beautiful One scarred; but I can’t. I can tell you, however, that despite the occasional scar, the days when Angry, Spiteful, Prideful and the others found their way back in, the light never dimmed.
And although it felt like a very long time, the Deliverer did return for his bride. Once again he caught her tears and once again he took her scars and this time… this time he promised that never again would a tear fall and never again would a scar touch her beautiful face. This time, he took her and the children with him and they traveled over time and space to the light house and there they lived happily ever after.