Day 8 of 31 Days. For Day 1, please click on the graphic above.
The prince lifted Obscurity out of the mud and placed her on his horse. He walked ahead, leading the horse safely over the treacherous road.
Later, when Obscurity recalled the story of how she came to live in the prince’s kingdom, she found it hard to explain this part of her journey. It was all at once the longest and the shortest road she had ever traveled.
All the way, the prince led her, singing softly over her when she was tired, and speaking truth to her when she was awake.
With each word he spoke, he became more and more lovely until she could hardly believe she had once been revolted by his appearance. It was as if his face was changing right before her eyes.
How unlike the Enchanter he was! The Enchanter’s beauty faded with truth; the prince’s deepened. The more she knew of the prince, the more she wanted to know.
The sky lightened, the shadows slunk away, and her eyes began to see with agonizing clarity.
But the more she saw of the prince’s beauty, the more she recognized her own ugliness. Obscurity felt she was seeing herself for the very first time, and she was stunned by the reflection. As much as a failure as she was, she had still believed herself to be beautiful, at least in some small ways.
The light revealed a much different picture. She was filthy all over. The clothes she wore with haughty pride were nothing but rags. She was broken, vile, and disgusting. She was a stranger and enemy of the prince, and when she looked at him, she was so ashamed of the contrast she wanted to retreat back down the road and into the shadows again.
And yet he had reached down in the mud for her, knowing how repulsive she was, and carried her in his own arms when she could not even stand long enough to help herself.
Fresh sobs gripped her.
“Why are you crying?” he asked.
“Because I am so ugly,” she cried.
The prince stopped the horse. “Who has made you feel ugly?”
“Well, you, I guess.” It seemed the wrong thing to say, but she hadn’t felt this shame until she met him, so who else could it be?
“No, Obscurity. Not me. A woman who was dead and now lives is not ugly to me.”
“But I am ugly! You can’t pretend that you don’t find me repulsive.”
“I find you in need of rescuing.”
“But I am so unworthy. I want to hide!”
“Then you have fallen for the lie, and he has won.”
Obscurity wiped her eyes and looked at the prince. She was so tired of lies. Her entire life was one big lie, and here she was, tangled up in another one just as soon as she had gotten half-way free.
“He is pursuing you, Obscurity, even now. He always will, because he hates me.”
Obscurity looked behind her quickly. But the road was empty.
“He will do anything he can to turn you away from me. If he can keep you hiding in a corner of my kingdom, he will. And if he can’t get you to serve him, he’ll have you serve yourself.”
Obscurity felt sick with confusion. She didn’t understand any of it, except for that last bit. The prince was certainly wrong about that.
“I am not serving him, and I most certainly am not serving myself!” she cried out. “I hate myself!”
“That is exactly the problem. You are turning inward, looking for some sort of worth in yourself. But there isn’t any, is there? And because you come up lacking you feel ashamed. You pity yourself. ‘Poor Obscurity. She is such a dirty mess.’ You feel worse about it than ever because now, you know what clean is, and you are far from clean.
“But I am telling you, Obscurity, I did not save you because you were clean. I saved you in spite of your filth. And if you begin now to look for some reason for your salvation other than my goodness then you are giving something to the Enchanter that only belongs to me. I rescued you because I am good, not because you are. You deserve none of that glory. So do not take it, either by pride or by shame.”
The prince’s words were sharp, as if he was speaking to the Enchanter himself, and Obscurity held her breath because she dared not breathe.
“You can run and hide in your shame but if you do, know that he has won.”
“No,” Obscurity begged, hiding her face in her hands because she could not look at him anymore. “I don’t want him to win. I am sorry, please, I am.” She paused, trying desperately to figure out the words in her head before she spoke. “Only, I don’t know what to do with all this.” She spread out her hands over her filthy dress and mud-caked feet. “I don’t know what to do with it.”
“Let your dirt and your filth be the reason you run to me. Don’t you see? Being sorry is a very different thing from being ashamed. Being sorry turns your eyes toward me, and away from him. Because he can’t do anything with ‘sorry.’ But I can. Let me.”
Obscurity nodded through her tears and felt the prince’s arms enfold her to himself.
“Remember what I said when I found you?” the prince asked when she had quieted.
“You said, ‘Come.’”
“Yes, and now we have come through the hardest part of the journey. It has been a long road back. But we are here.”
Obscurity looked up. Above her loomed the massive gates to the kingdom, and the prince’s hand was already on the door.
*The story continues tomorrow with Day 9. Please join us!