Jude was a pilgrim. He walked slowly. He was often uncertain. He loved God but struggled to understand him. He was like so many of us. One day, the Lord’s path brought him to the edge of a great forest. A forest that had a reputation. A reputation that was far from ideal. Unless of course your ideal, is all things scary and evil. Jude stood there frozen only a few feet from what looked to be the mouth of a great serpent made of twisted trees. He began to talk to himself or was it to his spirit?
Jude complained bitterly, “Why would the Lord set out to kill me? I thought he loved me!”
His Spirit, quite proud of itself said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don’t lean on your own understanding.”
“blah, easy to say, hard to practice,” rebuked Jude, all the while considering the truth of the statement.
His Spirit a little offend by Jude’s response chose to satire him in response, “Agreed, so we go home? Return with our tail between our legs? Maybe we can sleep with the pigs again. That was nice. ”
“No, we both know there is nothing there for us.” Jude said, as he thought back on years of being misunderstood in his hometown. He continued, “There is only one option, we go forward, no looking back. We trust in the path and in God.”
“Come what may?” his Spirit asked in a knowing manner.
Jude affirmed it as a short prayer, “Come what may”.
With a great effort Jude took his first step and was soon moving along the path as if the sun were out, kissing his skin. With the decision made he practically bounced with joy of passing this test. There was only one witness to the courage of Jude, a crow, who remained unmoved and only cocked his head at the foreign site of a man entering the domain of Fear.
The deeper Jude ventured into the forest the heavier his soul felt. Within a few hours of walking his limbs had rebelled against him. Sadness had begun to run through him like a river. His mind had become a cloud of confusion. He had lost all sense of purpose. He found himself drained of all his hope. He was lost, as lost as one can be. It was a sad sight as our Pilgrim curled up into a ball, waiting for gentle sleep to take him far away from this place. Yes, my dear reader, sleep came but did it provide an escape from the horrors of the forest? I wish I could say yes but our poor pilgrim received little respite as he drifted into the world of symbols, stories and dreams. There would be no escaping this battle. God had ordained it and it would be fought on level ground. Man would be pitted against his own fear.
So there was Jude standing on the pilgrim’s path with his massive assailant looming over him. Fear in all his horrible glory looked like a great demonic cat about to play with his food, a simple church mouse. That evil spirit seemed to take great pleasure in the unfairness of the encounter, as he reached into the pilgrim’s heart to gain his weapons for the duel. Fear smiled, a smile so joyless it was disturbing to look at.
Then Fear like a very sick old man coughed out a few venomous words, “Ah Jude, you have been water my seeds. Good for you or should I say good for me”.
Fear waved his hand and suddenly within Jude a damn broke and unruly tidal waves of pain crashed against his Spirit. He could see all the failures of his past, he could feel all the times he went misunderstood, he went unloved. He felt all the pain he had suffered, all the unfairness he had witnessed, all that rejection, all those buried dreams, all those small deaths.
Then Fear spoke again with the most evil intent he could muster, “When I am done with you, there will be nothing left. This is the end of the road. Time to meet your maker.”
Jude was so distracted by his pain that only the last five words reached his conscious mind, “Time to meet your maker”. Fear had overplayed his hand without even knowing it was a game of cards. Slowly, quietly, the saint began to pray “Lord, make a way for you servant. This darkness is too great for my little light but yours will dispel it. Make a way for the one you love.”
Fear reeled back slightly for Jude’s light had got brighter but Fear vowed to never give and inch unless he was forced to. Today would be no different. He attacked once more with a great sweep of his phantom hand, forcing our poor pilgrim to his knees. Then with something that looked like malice and joy mixed, he prepared to give the killing blow. His most deadly weapon, a dark pearl of a memory. The very thing Jude dreaded more then death, more then the past, more then the unknown future … it was that part of himself that he hated. Jude’s eyes meet the pearl and his prayers dripped down his face as he prepared for his undoing. It was at this very moment, when all seem lost, that God moved. A peace feel upon Jude as the storm of memories where held off just long enough for a great truth to fall into his hands.
“Fear needs fuel. I have agreed to be just that, fuel.” our pilgrim thought “ There is a part of me who hasn’t known the forgiveness or the grace of God because it has had to carry all my pain all these years. It doesn’t know how to let go. It is dying.”
For the first time, the pilgrim felt pity for this part of himself and love for its sacrifice. The part that he often hid in the deep recesses of his heart was not to be feared but to be healed. Jude’s desire to be whole created a great fire within him. This new found spiritual drive was far greater then the pain he was experiencing in Fear’s deathly grip. So he used it. He gathered all the strength he had and stepped forward. To his great surprise he watched Fear shrink before his eyes. Jude stepped forward again Fear shrank again. With each step Jude grew bolder and his pace quicken. The menace before him continued to lose it strength and even began to stumble away from the pilgrim.
To Fear’s great surprise he had snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory but he had one last trick up his sleeve before all his power was spent, he would sow a new seed.
Fear coughed and hacked, then like he was choking , he spoke his final words “ Jude, I will be with you always. I will stalk your days, we will do battle over and over. Who can kill me? Not you, not anyone! I am the gatekeeper to your destiny.”
Jude cared very little for the monster’s threats, for a new sight came to his vision. A sight that had been obscured by the presence of Fear. It was a shadow. It was the part of him that he had neglected. The part that he had shamed. He was sitting on the path crying, wearing rags and wreathing in pain. Jude arrived at his side and sat beside him. Neither said a thing, they both just looked out at the path before them. Then the man in rags broke the long silence.
“I can’t carry it for you anymore, it is too heavy”, the shadow spoke.
“You have been so strong” Jude said softly, “thank you, brother.”
“It is time then?” the shadow sniffled.
“Yes” said Jude “we let it go”
The shadow smiled “Come what may”
“Come what may” responded Jude.