Return to Me: Day 31 of 31 Days (lalalalala!)
For Day 1, Click on the image above
When Jewel woke from her groggy haze, she saw the imposing castle looming before her eyes. The beautiful home she had shared with her prince was terrifying. It stood for perfection and holiness, and she was returning to its sacred halls as a ruined bride, clothed in the wedding dress she had defiled.
“I can’t go back there!” she cried.
“Jewel, you must go back.”
“But I am ruined!”
“Even more reason to return to the place where you can be restored. Why would you resist his love when you need it most?”
She was sick with dread. She had not considered what it would be like to return to her prince, covered in filth from the Enchanter’s kingdom, because she had not considered that she might be wrong.
Now her Advocate was leading her right through the gates, right past the sturdy walls where her betrayal was set in motion.
“Just put me down somewhere,” she pleaded, “anywhere.” She remembered her life in the shadows, when Obscurity ruled in Jewel’s place, and she longed for some of the old, comfortable anonymity. She thought if she could live on the fringes, tucked somewhere in the prince’s kingdom away from his gaze, she could yet survive the knowledge that she had failed him.
“Jewel, the anecdote for the Enchanter’s spell is the prince’s love. Do not shrink from him now. Do not let the Enchanter have that final victory. The shame you want to wear like a covering for your nakedness is no substitute for the covering that awaits you in him. This is where you must trust him the most. Now, let’s go greet him.”
That’s when Jewel noticed the obvious. She was so intoxicated by her own misery, she had not been aware of the flowing banners and abundant flowers. She had not seen the velvet runner and the colorful flags. Her prince had returned.
“He is here?” she gasped.
“He returned while you were away.”
It was worse than she could have imagined. While she was away, her prince had returned to find her absent. Her prince had returned to find her, not waiting, but wandering into the far reaches of enemy territory. She had no time to clean up before he saw her, no time to make amends and prove her penitence. He would see her exactly as she was.
She wished her Advocate had a slower gait, or that the walk through the village was longer, or that she could command the earth to open up and swallow her whole. She had not felt this disgusted with herself when the prince rescued her from the mud because she had not known him before.
She did not have the same excuse this time. This time, she had gone willingly. She had betrayed him when she knew him.
Just then, her thoughts were interrupted. They were not even half-way up the path when she heard his voice. “Jewel! Jewel! You have returned to me! Everyone, she’s here! My bride is here!” She saw him running, royal robes flashing, to embrace her. Great, joyful tears welled up in his eyes. “You have returned to me.”
The people of the kingdom rushed out of houses and shops at the sound of their prince’s voice. They gathered around Jewel in stunned silence. They were shocked by her appearance. It was not hard to tell where she had been. Some looked away, embarrassed for her.
The prince was not one of them. He clapped his adviser on the back. “Well done,” he said, “very well done.” The adviser bowed slightly.
The prince turned to his bride, beaming. “I am so happy to have you back.”
Jewel did not know what to say. Her infidelity blazed on her cheeks. “I am so sorry,” she stammered.
“Your Advocate has already told me, and I am glad. I can do something with ‘sorry,’ remember, Jewel?”
“But I took your riches for granted and I used the beauty you gave me to lead your people right over to the Enchanter’s kingdom. And I went there myself, looking for the ill-gotten riches of my old life. Only they weren’t there because they weren’t real, and now I have nothing to show you but the dirty rags I have made of the wedding dress you gave me.”
“Come here,” he said, but even as he said it, he moved to her as if he knew her feet were rooted to the ground and could not move. Then he spread out the corner of his royal robe over her filthy wedding dress. The rich purple of princely garments reached around her, wrapping her in radiance. Her guilty rags were completely covered.
Wonderstruck whispers rippled through the throng.
“All along, your beauty was found in me. You were rich because I am rich. That goodness you saw in the mirror was my goodness at work in you, Jewel. It was not your own, as you supposed it to be. Apart from me, you are nothing. That’s why your excursion to the Enchanter’s kingdom was in vain.”
Jewel studied her feet.
“Neither can you take anything from me, Jewel. You cannot shame me. Your ugliness can never mar my beauty or my goodness. I have enough beauty and goodness to cover it all, and I have covered it.”
“But you are just, too. Not just beautiful and good. How can you take me back, as if what I did was of no consequence?”
The prince’s face grew serious. “Well, there are consequences, Jewel, and there was a punishment. You could not have borne up under the punishment, so I took that for you.” He turned his back to her, and Jewel saw for the first time the fierce marks of dragon claws and the brutal scars where fire licked his flesh.
Tears flooded her eyes.
“As for consequences, well, you could have been living richly this entire time, Jewel, but you chose poverty instead. I think you can see the consequence in that.”
Jewel nodded, sober and heartbroken.
“But Jewel, return to me, and I will sweep your offenses away like a cloud. I will clothe you with new garments, and I will love you with an everlasting love. For I am gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and relenting of evil. You have tasted my mercy. Now drink of my grace.”
She fell into his arms then, and the people erupted with shouts of praise. Only their prince could take a story so hopeless and make it glorious with grace. Only their prince could take a twisted, sorted tale and turn it into a Happily Ever After.
*Only, this is not the end, not really. This series will be published in its entirety in e-book format for easy printing or reading on electronic devices. The e-book will included bonus content, including study questions and Scripture references. For updates, please follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe by e-mail.
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