I find myself now, in a dark woods. Having wandered deep enough to be caught at nightfall, unable to see the path clearly. The stillness more frightening than the foreboding growls and the threat of creatures unknown to me. The creatures warn me, the stillness does not.
I want to turn, to run back from where I have come and never look into the woods again. Never to see again, or even remember what I have seen here. If only I could tell you, you wouldn’t believe it. The stories, whispered here, by the dying, the wounded, the lost. But I cannot tell, for they are not my stories to share, save a few who have asked me to speak on their behalf. But I cannot tell them now, it is not yet time.
It was beautiful when I set out into the woods, the flowers at the edge of the woods. The path clear and predictable. Birds chirping cheerfully, as if to encourage me. Furry little creatures, darting about, as if daring me to follow. How naively I wandered deeper.
I cannot say that I was truly naive. For I had heard of the tragedy that had befallen many in the woods. I, myself, had lived there, years ago, one of the fallen. Dying. But I had not seen the others then. Not most of them. Because I was so wounded.I could not comprehend the pain around me, or discern their cries. I could not see, so wounded that my sight was dim.
And then they rescued me. The strangers who heard of my fate and wandered into the woods, offering to carry me out, to dress my wounds, to feed me. Slowly my health was restored.
Then the memory of the cries around me, deep in the woods, returned to haunt me, begging me to return into the woods. A dream was born. I made a vow. I would return. Like those brave enough to rescue me, I would go back into the woods….
I imagined how brave I would be. How many wounded I would find in the woods, and how I would carry them out, one by one, fighting off demons, and monsters, and dragons. Fearlessly. At least so I would tell myself. Inside, where no one could see but me and God, the fear would be there. But that fear would be my driving force, to keep me going, fighting, bringing salvation to the wounded. On the surface I would be brave, and strong…. That is what others would see….
As the night gets darker, the fear is no longer in my heart, hidden. Now it is bold. I feel it, choking me. Threatening to make me freeze. Stealing my strength, causing me to drop the wounded, without even the strength to stand.
It is not the demons and monsters that frighten me so, that make me want to run. No, it is the familiar faces. It is those I see, and recognize, in the woods who stand there, beside the wounded, covering their eyes, as they pray. As they pray for themselves and their own ambitions. Closing their eyes so they cannot see those wounded, and bleeding out on the ground. The blood so near them, it is on their feet, their hands. Praying so loud that they cannot hear the weeping, the cries, the final gasps as the wounded draw their last breath. The blood drips from their hands as they cover their eyes. Still they pray.
The demons and the monsters and the dragons, these I was prepared for. I was ready to slay them, to command them to leave, to chase them. To do whatever I had to do. But now I am in shock. Not shocked that these familiar faces exist. I expected a few. I planned to work around them, to even win them over and encourage them to help.
But nothing could have prepared me for the vast numbers of them, except for experience. And experience is a cruel teacher. A heartless lecturer, forcing one to sit and listen, to contemplate things one might never have known, without experience.
No, I did not come prepared to have them stand there, watching me drag body, after body–if they dared to stop their praying and open their eyes long enough to see–while they stood there silently, or worse, stepped into my path.
This is what is most frightening in the dark. Because I do not know if they caused the wounds, if they would hesitate to slay me. Or if they too, like me, merely wandered into the woods with good intentions, and were seized by fear that consumed their will to fight.
But I have taken a vow, and I cannot break it. I will keep my sword at my left side, carry the wounded on my left shoulder. My right hand is free, always, to reach out to God. It is free to lend a hand to those I meet. It is free to rest on my heart and remember to Whom I have vowed my allegiance. It is free to take hold of that sword, when I need it, and fight for freedom.
I have taken a vow, and I will keep it.
My sword is the truth. My vow is to stand by it, and be faithful to it. For Truth cannot fall. It prevails. Always. And with that vow comes strength, courage and hope.
The woods are darker now. And lonely.
It is a long dark night ahead. But morning will come again, and with it, victory.
© Trudy Metzger
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