Most nights, I tell my daughters a bedtime story. Each story is meant to capture their imaginations and their hearts, but beyond that, to teach them a lesson about life in the kingdom of Christ. The following is a story I told them following a rather harrowing season of our eldest struggling with an inability to admit fault. (It has been only slightly modified from the original version.)
There was once a little girl who was strolling through the forest when she heard a raucous noise up ahead. As she made her way toward the sound, she was able to make out the telltale signs of a party: celebratory music, overlapping conversations, belly laughs, and the clinking of glasses.
She turned a corner and was taken aback by what she saw. There was certainly a party, the likes of which she had never seen. “Feast” or “jubilee” was perhaps a more fitting name. An enormous wooden table was piled high with all her favorite foods: pickles, dill pickle chips, chicken tacos, Chinese food, cheeseburgers with bacon on them, and every cake imaginable(these are the particular favorites of my daughters--feel free to insert yours). A hundred people or more were delightedly eating, drinking, and dancing, all huddled in a fairly tight space. They bumped into one another regularly, but their smiles never faded. They simply addressed each incident with a quick, “Oh, I’m sorry!” or “My fault!” and kept right on dancing or talking. They didn’t seem to begrudge a single thing or even discontinue eye contact.
The little girl was enchanted by what she saw. “That is joy indeed,” she whispered to herself as continued her admiration of the scene. She moved closer, with full intent to join in the festivities, when she was abruptly repelled by an unseen barrier. Stepping back, she realized that a clear wall, perhaps two feet thick, separated her from her prize. Upon further examination, she noticed a door maybe twenty feet to her right. She was sprinting toward it when she tripped over something hard.
A gruff voice immediately drew her attention to the cause of her stumble.
“Watch where you’re going!” the man angrily exclaimed. “This is my space!”
The little girl was startled but said nothing. She was a bit perturbed that she was given no warning. As she stood, she noticed several dozen people scattered about. She must have been so focused on the party before that she forgot to survey her immediate surroundings. She took a closer look.
Each person stood in chains, both on their hands and feet, and each carried a cynical, suspicious look. Though the chained people were spaced apart considerably and barely able to shuffle, there were frequent eruptions of “Watch where you’re going!” or “Out of my space!” The little girl, exasperated, shifted her gaze back to the party and noted again the free and happy laughter. She stepped quickly to the door and turned the knob. Nothing. Backing up, she began to take a running start at the door before thinking more accurately of her 45-pound frame.
Her emotions bounced between anger and sadness as she longingly watched the party, apparently destined for nothing beyond that. Just then, a glimmer of gold caught her eye. She looked down at her feet and noticed a key. She bent down to pick it up in disbelief. (“Watch yourself! You almost hit me!” a man far to her right chided.) Surely this key fit the door!
The key slid easily into the lock, but didn’t even begin to turn. The little girl was at her wit’s end. She looked at the keyhole, then at the key. It definitely fit! What was the problem? What was she missing?
The key revealed the answer. There was a tiny, three-word inscription engraved into its side. The little girl looked closer and read the inscription:
“I WAS WRONG”
It didn’t take much intelligence to realize what she had to do. This was clearly an enchanted door, and the words had to be spoken as the key was turned. Easy enough.
As the little girl reinserted the key, she moved to speak the words, but something prevented her. “I….I….I wwwww….” And the words stuck in her throat. “Stupid throat!” she whined. “If only my throat weren’t broken, I would be in that party! Out of my space!” She had just noticed a chained figure about ten feet to her right.
She held the key tightly, despaired of her rotten plight, and wept.
After wallowing in her stuckness for who knows how long, she became aware of a flurry of activity around her hands. First, in a disturbing development, chains had begun to grow between them. Second, a light peeked from her hand. The inscription in the key was glowing, and the light was growing brighter. It spread to her hand and began to move up her arm.
She watched in awestruck anticipation as the light traveled the length of her arm. “It’s coming to my throat! Finally!” she thought. But the light took a sharp right, veered straight across her chest glowing ever brighter, and stopped at her heart.
The little girl inhaled deeply, her eyes widened, and she wept anew. It had dawned on her. “It wasn’t my throat; it was me. It wasn’t the lock; it was me. I thought I wanted to go in, but I didn’t want to say those words. I didn’t want to be wrong.”
She looked at the party with new eyes, and now easily strode to the door, inserted the key, and turned as she smoothly uttered with happy tears, “I was wrong.”
The door opened immediately. The Host was standing on the other side with a gentle, excited smile. “I’ve been waiting for you to open this door.” he said.
“I’m sorry,” she responded, surprising herself with the ease of the statement. “I was wrong.”
“I forgive you,” he replied, trumping the ease of her statement with his own. “Now come enjoy your freedom.”
And they danced in together.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” - Revelation 3:20