Standing in the mountain of ashes that represented what was left of her life’s work, it appeared to the woman as if it amounted to nothing. She was deeply fatigued and cynical. Disappointed with her Father who stood nearby, she cried, “Who ARE you that you make life so difficult?” Her Father was silent but His eyes welled up with tears. All this daughter had known was achieving and performing. Every sermon and book was just one more list to add to an already exhaustive roster of impossible expectations. Now, her life appeared to be over. She was too tired to live. “Who am I?” she questioned.
“Come rest with me,” He answered. “You won’t know the answer to that question until you see yourself in my eyes.” Rest was exactly what she needed. Little did she know that who she was naturally, genetically, and spiritually would only be defined as she rested in her Father’s arms.
Fatigue overcame her and she accepted His invitation. They sat on the grass nearby, the Father’s back against a tree and the woman seated beside Him with her head resting against His shoulder. She dozed, changed positions, slept some more…and each time she stirred she found His eyes were the same. Full of tenderness and concern. He was in no hurry. In fact, there seemed to be no sense of time passing.
It was there in the pile of rubble, in the grimy remains of her life that she saw it emerge. She squinted her eyes to understand the form of it. Little by little, it took shape. She realized it was an ancient trunk made of brown leather with black iron embellishments. Whatever was inside was age-old and perhaps worth canvassing. There was a huge pad-lock on the latch and it was some time before she was curious enough to ask Him about it.
She instantly had a sense of His joy. He was rubbing his hands together eagerly. “My arms are loaded with gifts for my daughters, but they don’t ask. Thank goodness, you did. Here, let me open it.”
He didn’t even have to touch the lock. It fell apart at the wave of his hand. He blew the dust off the top and raised the lid. Taking her by the hand, he led her to look inside. “This is your inheritance. I’ve been waiting to give it to you.”
The inside of the lid revealed a mirror and inside the chest were all sorts of clothes. Apparel for every occasion, attire that was ethnically diversified and theatrical. She couldn’t remember seeing anyone in finery like this except in storybooks. Many were exotic, resembling flamboyant costumes, while others were simple and elegant. As he held up several garments for her to see, she could tell that they would fit her perfectly.
“Is this like playing dress-up,” she asked.
“I think that’s a good way to look at it for now”, he said thoughtfully. “Put them on. See how they fit. Anything that feels like it was fashioned just for you, you may keep forever.” She lifted several things out of the trunk and noticed old parchments among the clothing, parchments with messages written on them.
“These are messages from me, child, written a long time ago for you. See how tattered they are? Some old friends of ours left them for you so that you may know the secrets of my heart. They are your legacy.”
She reverently fingered one and read the message. ‘Dear Daughter, He who touches you—touches the apple of my eye.’ “This is how much He loves you. Love, Zechariah”
And then another, ‘Dear one, I take delight in you. I quiet you with my love. I even rejoice over you with a song.’ ‘Did you know that you are cherished like this? Hold this truth close to your heart. Your brother, Zephaniah.’
It was hard to stop reading. Messages just for her! She’d read words like these long ago, but in the delirium of the long hours of toil, never stopped to consider they were authored for her. She was stirred deeply and choked back tears.
She fingered another message, this one from Isaiah. “Oh little one, can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have you engraved you on the palm of my hands.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed all three papers to her heart. They were too good to be true. She looked up at her Father shyly to see if his eyes were full of the words she had just read. She couldn’t breathe. His eyes were so full of love that the warmth of it flooded her being.
She laid the letters down and lifted a pale pink dress with hand-sewn pearls from the chest. Slipping it over her head, she felt it cascade to the ground in luxurious folds. She felt ten feet tall. Twirling around and around, the chiffon swooshed and billowed, blowing the dust away from the circle in which she danced.
Knowing she was in metamorphosis, her Father held her hand high above her head while she spun effortlessly. Like the slow, winding down of a dancer in a music box, their rotations went into slow motion and then stopped. He swept her into His arms and finally declared with abandon, “I’ve waited so long for this! I think you are beginning to know I love you. I can see my light in your eyes!”
“Working yourself to the bone is not what I made you for,” he suddenly announced. She had been distracted from her extreme weariness and now tried to take in this new truth.
“I made you to do what we’re doing right now; enjoying each other’s company. We can dream, work, and play together. Won’t that be fun?”
She nodded, finally understanding the secret to passion and energy. How had she missed it? How different life would be from now on.
“I tucked the most important message in my pocket. I let one of my favorite sons, Haggai, write the message down for you. Here.”
She unfolded the paper and read. “Now dear one, from this day on I will bless you. I will take you and will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you.” She stopped, not knowing how significant the words were.
She hadn’t noticed the ring on His finger. Now, he was removing it. “Will you wear my ring?” he asked. “If you will do me the honor of wearing it, this is what it will mean for you. Everywhere you go, you will have my authority as I prepare the road before you. Everyone will know that you are my daughter as you wear your power with humility.”
It didn’t take long to decide. She extended her hand and He slipped it on her finger. Though it had fit His large hand only a moment earlier, it now fit her perfectly. Just like the clothes!
She was positioned in front of the trunk’s lid and she saw her own reflection in the mirror. Was this her? It couldn’t be. Everything about her looked different. She was taller somehow. Her eyes bright, deep, and confident. She drew in her breath, finally understanding.
“This is NOT dress-up, is it?” she asked ecstatically. “That’s the secret of the trunk and all of its treasures. The clothes, the messages, and most of all…. the ring! This is who I really am!
He laughed and uttered to the heavens in rapture. She had captured the gift. This daughter was full of promise. Always had been, but she hadn’t known it. Yes, this woman would impact heaven and earth profoundly.
She was changing clothes again. This time, she was wearing a deep, purple velvet gown with gold trim. The ring shimmered on her finger and she postured, turned, and looked again at herself in the looking glass as she remembered the words of yet another prophet, when the Lord said… “Remove the filthy garments from her. I will clothe her in festal robes.”