The Thicket Part 1: First Steps

I should have realized that he was with me from the very beginning, but I was too focused on myself to be aware of his presence.

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Why can’t I just keep silent?

When you hear my story, you won’t ask that question. There is nothing that will silence me! I will tell the world about the gatekeeper until I take my last breath!

Why would I risk everything for him?

Walk with me a while and let me tell you; that’s all I ask. It wasn’t very long ago that I stood right where you are. Just like you, I began my journey with much excitement, a little fear, and a strong determination to make good choices. I would be a true leader who would blaze a trail for others to follow. I was incredibly naive. Before I knew it, I was flat on my back without a clue how I got there, how to get up, or what to do next. That’s when I first came face to face with the gatekeeper; although, it was not the start of our journey together.

I should have realized that he was with me from the very beginning, but I was too focused on myself to be aware of his presence. I never gave serious thought to the stories that I had heard about him throughout my childhood. I didn’t consider him when I began my journey. Not even when I was lying helplessly on my back did it occur to me that I needed his help. Undisturbed by my disregard, he helped me to my feet and began to lead me forward. “Follow me,” he said, “and I will direct your path.”

“You have been this way before?” I asked.

“I know the way.”

“I have many choices,” I told him. “I haven’t yet determined which path to take.”

“There is only one correct path, but you must trust me. You must follow me even when it seems I am leading you into difficulty. I will never lead you astray, and I will never leave you to find the way on your own.”

I thought he was crazy, but each day, he would make this promise to me and repeat the same two words.

“Follow me.”

“And where would you lead me?”

“Home. I have prepared a place for you.”

“A place for me?… Why?… Who am I to you? I’m just one of many travelers.”

“Child,” he said softly. “You are worth everything to me; I will lay down my life for you.”

His words made me uncomfortable, perhaps because no one had ever said such a thing to me. I didn’t respond, and he left me to my silent contemplation.

The voice of the gatekeeper was only one of the many voices that I heard. The others had varied messages, yet they had one thing in common. They disapproved of the controlling ways of the gatekeeper.

“No one should choose your path for you.”

“You have the right to determine your destiny.”

“If it is such a wise decision, why do so few choose to follow him?”

“His way is for weak people who are afraid to make decisions for themselves.”

“All roads lead to the same destination, and there are more enjoyable ways to arrive.”

“The gatekeeper denies you many things. The wise try everything and decide for themselves what is best for them.”

Why did I want to follow him?

I asked myself that question many times. It was encouraging to see myself through his eyes, and I liked the person I was when I was with him. Time spent with him was informative and enjoyable. His joy at the prospect of reaching our destination was contagious. In my heart, I knew I wanted to follow him. I determined, however, that I would not let my heart rule my head. I needed to make an informed decision, and the voices that called out to me merited my consideration.

I continued with the gatekeeper until we came to a beautiful meadow scattered with trees full of ripened fruit.

“Child, today is the day of decision. Will you follow me, not just for the moment, but will this be the choice of your life?”

The intensity of his expression conveyed the importance of this decision. My heart and my head seemed to battle momentarily, but I could not reject him. “I will follow you,” I said.

Instead of heading toward the meadow, he turned to the narrow road leading away from it. The path led uphill and into a sharp curve. I couldn’t see the road ahead, but I was sure it couldn’t be a better way than the one we were leaving behind.

“We are not going through the meadow? It seems like such a pleasant path,” I protested.

“That way may appear to be the better choice, but you must trust me to lead you. I know the way. Child, do you trust me?” As usual, when I looked into his eyes, I believed him.

“I trust you.”

I followed him up the hill and found that it was not nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. When we reached the crest, the path still curved around so that I was unable to see what was ahead of us. I gave him a puzzled look.

“Remember this,” he said. “There is no reason to fear the hills. Not all will be this easy, but I will always give you strength when you need it. You must keep your eyes on me. What lies ahead of us is not something that you need to know. For now, we will rest.”

“Remember! Keep your eyes on me!” His instructions were that simple. I had no idea just how horrific the consequences of failing to follow them would be!

To be continued…


Co-Authored by Brad Poplin

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Writer for the King