The children at The Barn, broken and battered by a fallen world, struggle to master simple tasks. They engage in frightful battles of the body and of the mind, and all the while, they ride their therapy horses in circles. Circles, endless circles. I lead horses in eternal loops, bearing children upon infinite discs of hoof trodden earth, earth that could once have been touched by the hand of Adam, firstborn among men at the genesis of time itself. The circles are indeed endless.
There have been times for me that resembled just such a journey. They are a quests of quiet despair, moments of enduring and of thinning patience. Here I would plod, feeling less the fearless filly and more the weary plow horse, lifting endless leaden feet and dropping my nose to the tilled earth, as I trudge bearing my burden. I lack the luster of life; I am wandering lost on a path of circular infinity. I have come upon a frozen forest suffering a cruel enchantment. This is the emptiness. This is the Hollow Land.
My prayers to the Holy One have become a pale-lament, broken and bleak, like the tattered shreds of sail on a ship without a headwind. They are a familiar song, lifted as daily incense at the evening sacrifice. I beg the Lord to search me out. I inquire after unknown sins. I fight to choose joy in Him amidst great doubt. But the Hollow Land is cold, a labyrinth of sorrow mingled with peace, confusion abiding with tentative trust in the Unseen. Day by day, the familiar landscape goes by. I greet each morning anew, and yet--somehow I have seen it all before. The cycle goes on forever on this lonely quest, or so it often seems. I rise, fall, and rise once more. Circles. Will I ever escape them?
At times I may peer over the boundary-wall of the Hollow Land, yearning for the fullness of a life of purpose and meaning. I long for answers to prayer, healing for pain, and for direction in this harsh and aimless land. Yet the only reply is icy snow from a lonely sky.
At The Barn it is often difficult to see progress in a child day by day. Their mouths struggle to form words, their limbs fight to walk, and I often wonder what good can come of endlessly riding the back of a steady horse. And yet there are moments of painfully sharp clarity, in which the cycle is broken, the road diverges, and a huge step is taken. A boy without a voice tells his father, "I love you." A six year old girl takes her first steps. Suddenly, I am able to look over my shoulder at the arena dirt full of circles, and the veil is torn. I can fully perceive all the long way we have come.
This I now realize, is the deception of the Hollow Land, this dark enchantment that has the entire forest under its spell. The sights and sounds of this place are often a veil, one that shields us from seeing what a distance we too have come. For the children at The Barn, the path to healing does not lie in a visible straight-arrow line. Instead, it is a shadow-path and a circle that often conceals the truth. Like them, the Father often allows us to sojourn in the Hollow Land, where we are forced to depend upon Him in all things, because our human eyes can see neither the direction nor the purpose. Contrary to what I had thought at the time, my own time walking in circles was not wasted by Him who led me there. The shortest distance between two points, from an eternal perspective, does not always lie in a straight line.
Do not let your heart and eyes be deceived by the enchantment. The void of emptiness on the circular road will not endure. It cannot. For the one who leads you onward bears for you the best of all Loves and the depth of all wisdom and power. He lights a crackling fire to warm you in the many nights, as the scent of winter-smoke steals over you. On mornings of stark-clear beauty, when a golden sun spills trembling across a sea of snow diamonds, He offers hope to sustain you. In times of weeping and chest-heaving sobs, He surrounds you, warmer than wool. Here is where the hurt and the healing collide, and one day your road will tear through the enchantment, breaking the spell. You may feel lost, but if the Lord is with you, then you are always lost in the right direction.
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