It took a long time for Wendy to realize there was a door in the room. She had been running in circles round about the small space before she realized there was a way to get out, a way to actually get to a place worth going.
She paused at the door, hesitant, and other people in the room didn’t seem to notice it either, and even when she pointed it, they could only see the tapestry painted across it, and missed the outline of the door.
Wendy finally opened the door and gasped. It was beautiful, a world waiting for her beyond. And still, no one could see her leave, because no one could see the door, even when it was open.
Stepping through, the door shut behind her, and she knew that no matter what happened on this journey, there was no going back to what was.
She walked for awhile in the quiet and the breeze of the early morning dew still hanging low, as if the day of this journey did not even begin until the moment she opened the door.
In her path shortly after leaving the door stood a large, heavy book on a small column. Opening it, it said only this: “Follow the path up the hill to the landing, and there you will find the gardener.”
Following the book’s instructions, she walked up the hill and came to a landing which, at first, seemed to be the end of the path.
She did not hear the footsteps behind her, but she felt the hand on her arm. Turning, she saw a handsome man with kind eyes standing next to her.
There was no need to speak. She knew who he was. He was the one who carved the path. His hands were weathered and his skin darkened with the sun, and she knew this path was his. He was the gardener.
“Is this the end of the path?” she asked.
“No,” he shook his head. “This is only the beginning.” He motioned with his hand through the thin trees and pointed out a tall mountain, a long river and thick forests.
“Where am I to go?” she asked. “Where does this journey lead?”
“You can try and find your own way, if you like. Or you can follow me.”
“I will try my own way,” she said, and so she tried. She left him on the landing and began following the path, turning this way and that, and soon she was lost. Determined to do it herself, she said nothing as she wound deeper and deeper into the forest. When finally she grew frustrated, alone and afraid, she cried out for the gardener, and his voice was surprisingly close.
“Come to me!” he yelled and continued to yell.
She followed the voice only to see, with great startle, that she was only steps away from the landing on the hill from which she’d first stepped.
Hugging him and grateful he was still there, she asked where he would have her go.
“Do you see that mountain?” he asked.
She turned to see a great mountain in the distance.
“Go toward that mountain,” he said. She nodded and, again, started off. She wound her way through the paths and, this time, chose more wisely. She kept her eye on the mountain as the land descended and, reaching the river, prepared to cross, when she heard his voice again. He was already across the river, but he was pointing down stream to her right. “Follow the river!”
“But the mountain is there!” she cried back.
“I know!” he replied. “Follow the river that way!”
“But …” she began to say, but then thought better of it. Perhaps he wanted to help her cross at a better point? So she turned and started walking, ever keeping her eye upon the mountain, ever calculating time and effort and distance, expending her resources and her focus on reaching it.
Many times she paused to cross, but each time the water was too fast and she had to scramble ashore, and so kept moving.
After a time, he appeared again to her. “Here is where you will cross.”
“Finally!” she clapped her hands and turned to pause in fear. The water looked dark and deep. “But I cannot make that!”
“Not alone, but if you trust me, you can,” he said.
She frowned and turned, and leaped in. In moments, she was dragged deep into the frigid water. A large calloused hand reached in and hauled her out upon the shore where she coughed and hacked.
“I thought you said it was safe!”
“You did not keep your eyes on me, or you would not have fallen in,” he said. “Now it’s time to continue. Continue to follow the river downstream.”
She frowned. “But the mountain is that way,” she pointed.
“Go that way,” he pointed opposite her hand.
“But how am I supposed to get to the mountain?” she asked.
He just smiled and waited.
She frowned again and continued to walk, her eyes only on the rocky road ahead, focused on its coarse dirt and grit, head down and feet quick.
After some time he reappeared to her. “Head away from the river.”
“But I cannot even see the mountain any longer!” she exclaimed. “How am I to find it!?”
He smiled. “I never told you the journey would take you to the mountain. I said only for you to go toward the mountain. It was a landmark, not your destination.”
She frowned, and huffed, and followed him, but her mind was awash with frustration and anger and feelings of betrayal and embarrassment. She followed him through several more turns until she reached a fork and, where he had said to go right, she went left.
Wendy continued choosing her path until, after a long time of frustration and anger, she finally stopped and cried out. “Gardener! Gardener! Where are you! I have got myself lost, again!”
“Come to me!” his voice was so close. She turned and followed it when, with much surprise, she found herself once more at the clearing with the book.
“What!? How am I here again! I thought we were going somewhere!”
“Did you not see the blue flowers and the cypress trees? Did you not pause to drink the crystal water and play with the young fauns? Were you so focused on getting somewhere that you missed being somewhere? I will tell you, young lady, that those who read the book and then take this journey upon themselves, deciding where they are going, when they are getting there and how they will complete this journey miss the journey entire! I did not carve these paths for you so that you might get from here to there, but that you would live at each turn of the path ahead.”
“I wrote this book so that you might know that I, also, made these paths and grew these trees. But this book is not a roadmap. It’s a guide, but I am the destination. Let us start this journey again, but this time, I want you to walk with me.”
“What do you mean? I didn’t walk with you this time?” she frowned.
“When you started to the mountain, you were always walking two steps ahead of me, always focused on the mountain. This time, stay here, hold my hand, and we’ll walk together.”
She swallowed and, taking a longing look at the mountain, took his big hand and began the journey again.
At first, she asked many questions and wondered at each turn which way they would go, but as she began letting go of “getting there,” she began to see how beautiful the trees were in the sunlight, the fireflies danced in the moonlight, the fauns would come and dance with her, the flowers were truly beautiful, the breeze was gentle and sweet, the water was delicious and cool.
“When did you put all these things in?” she asked.
“They were always here,” he smiled. “But you were caught in the getting and going instead of the being.”
They continued to walk, and soon, she no longer needed to walk which way they should turn. She had grown so accustomed to his pace and his mannerisms that she merely followed his turns.
Then, as she continued watching him, and watching only him, she began to realize that she was no longer watching the road at all. The gardener was not so old as she once supposed. He was handsome and lithe and strong and young and warm and delightful.
And to her shock, she realized she had long ceased walking beside him, and instead was clasped hand in and hand and arm and arm, and they were dancing down the path. She was ever facing him, and he would spin her and pull and push and guide and lead. She needed to know the path no longer, because she had grown to so trust her partner that she only needed to feel his prompts, to see the signals from his hands and his hips, and then the journey was unimportant, because he would take her wherever he wished.
The point became him and the dance, and the more they danced the more she saw in his eyes and his heart, and the less she needed the world around her.
Finally the dance came to an end and they paused and she laughed and pressed her head to his chest. Opening her eyes, she looked around and gasped.
They now stood on the very tip of the tall and imposing mountain.
“How are we here!?” she laughed. “I thought you said this wasn’t the destination? It was so easy! I didn’t realize we were climbing!”
He smiled. “The mountain is still not your destination. It is merely the stepping stone of the next part of your journey.” He smiled and extended his hand to reveal a path extending from the top of the mountain upward toward the stars. “Your time in this garden is at an end.”
“How did I not see all the miles we traveled? I don’t feel them in my heels or my hands!”
“Because you kept your eyes upon me, and that’s why this ceased to be a trek and began to be a joy. If only others still wandering in these woods could see what you have embraced. Walk with me, dance with me, focus on me. It is my garden, therefore it is my responsibility to walk you through it. If you trust me, surrender your walk to me, then the journey becomes less about the going, and more about the being. Being with me.” He smiled. “Understand?”
She looked up at him with tears in her eyes and smiled, nodding. “What now?”
“We continue our dance,” he slipped his arms around her. “Come. There is more life to live …
“This was only the beginning.”
The room Wendy begins within is a life of the physical, limited to only the five senses while ignoring the spiritual element of our lives.
Opening that door is recognizing there is more to this world than can be seen.
Walking that first path is opening yourself to God.
Finding the book is opening the Bible and looking for meaning and learning that all of it is about seeking and finding God, the gardener and sculptor of this journey.
Reaching the landing is the culmination of religion — finding God is all that religion can promise.
Leaving the landing is seeking purpose and peace.
Doing it alone is trying to figure it out, yourself.
Asking God where to go and then trying to do it yourself is religion’s attempt to understand God — it’s all about trying to do it, yourself, boxing God inside limitations and still trying to own your own life, which will inevitably get you lost, alone and afraid.
Walking with God is about building a relationship with God, and letting him direct not only your path, but your very steps.
Dancing with God is the whole point. We keep our attention focused on him so entirely and trusting his prompts so thoroughly that we stop caring if what he’s guiding us to looks easy or difficult. Instead, we just surrender to his lead and let him move us down those paths, over rivers and up unclimbable mountains.
Where are you on this journey? And do you want to do it yourself, or do you want to surrender? Do you want to dance with God? Let me assure you, you won’t be the one leading. Learn to follow, and it will become something wholly wonderful and different. Let go. Let ownership go. Stop trying to figure it all out. Use the Bible to find God, but then let God lead you in life. Surrender yourself to Him, and you’ll find that life can be as like you never imagined it.