In telling the story of Caleb, I should first excuse myself by saying that I'm not the first nor is mine the only version. I can offer nothing about it, except for what I heard directly from his mouth.
First I must tell that Caleb lived in a place very nearly the same as ours. It is marked by one street, crowded with bodies busily flying and flitting to their occupations and whims and agendas. Some go to work, others to play, some go to take hold of their dreams, and they flood the street with noise and feet and a swirl of colors and shapes and sizes. The busier they get, the bigger they grow, up and up and up until they cast such long shadows on one another that it seems sometimes as if the ground of the street shall never see the light of day again. This is just the sort of street that Caleb's Mother brought he and his brother and sister on one of the busiest days of the year. She had, after all, three mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, and just enough money to do both.
Caleb was a good sort of boy, the kind of boy whose Mother can trust to keep care of his brother and sister should she need to enter a store by herself. But Caleb was, to be sure, of the more curious nature. On this particular day, his attention was captivated by a peculiar looking bug, and upon chasing it, he almost caught it. When it had eluded his hand for the last time, Caleb found himself quite lost from his mother and brother and sister. Though he searched between the busy bodies of those around him, he was very nearly trampled in the effort, and his family was no where to be seen.
With a heave of a sob, little Caleb sat himself upon a curb on the far side of the street, and laid his little head upon his hands. "I shall never find Mother, or brother or sister," cried he, and he let himself shed a few tears, for after all, nobody was here to witness him, and he decided all brave boys must at some point have gotten themselves lost from their Mother, and Caleb felt quite sure that this circumstance, above any, was worthy of a few tears.
It's not unusual that little boys believe themselves to be capable of crying more than they truly are, and Caleb found, after only a few moments, that he had grown quite weary of crying. His head soon grew heavy on his own hands, so he lay himself sideways on the narrow curb.
It was not too long before he began to think of sleepy things, which we all know cannot be described, or else one wakes up. Just as he was quite nearly asleep, Caleb fancied that he heard voices. Now, we all know that on the busy street where bodies were bustling in front of him there were many voices shouting and laughing and calling to one another, but Caleb's voices were not any of these. These voices sounded so lovely that Caleb thought to himself, "I must now be dreaming,".
But the moment he had the thought he knew it to be impossible, for he opened his eyes and could still see all of the large people passing hurriedly alongside of him.
"Well, what is this now? If I am not asleep and yet I hear these voices still, they must be real," thought Caleb. Little boys have no trouble believing what their parents would often scoff at, for little boys still believe the world is large enough that it can fit in things that cannot be explained. They have not yet convinced themselves that if something cannot be proven, it does not exist, because to a little boy, the whole world is a mystery and a fancy in itself. That is why little boys' dreams are so much more entertaining to watch, if we could. They include lots of fanciful creatures and darlings, and the whole lot of them would so far surpass all of our fairy tales to date that it would quite nearly shame every author.
Caleb kept his ear to the curb, listening to the glorious voices whose seemed now to be growing louder, which of course they were. The more Caleb listened, the louder the lovely voices grew until he was quite surprised that none of the busy feet near him had stopped their movement. In fact, as he listened, the street itself seemed to grow so distant, its noises and its sights. This too, Caleb was not the least disturbed by. For little boys are still yet novices to the ways things are, and they are quite ready to believe in anything fanciful, which is probably why everything that is fanciful happens to them. They have not yet suffocated magic by calling it mere imagination.
And Caleb could very nearly make out the words of the voices he heard, partly because they were being repeated over and over in beautiful cadence. It became so much for Caleb that he felt his arms light up with goose pimples and he couldn't help but shiver with excitement, for the goose pimples in themselves are a such a delightful feeling.
Finally, when all Caleb heard was the multitude of voices, he sat straight up in wonder at all of the large people who seemed undisturbed. But the moment he lifted up his little body, the lovely voices were quite nearly silenced by the harsh sound of the large feet and the large voices that now seemed grating and ridiculous to Caleb's little ears.
"Well!" Cried Caleb, and he stared down at the place where his head had been laying, trying very hard to figure out what was the matter with the place. And that is when he first saw it. Just next to where his right ear had been laying, there was a a very small beam of light escaping into the darkened street. Caleb bent to examine it, and saw that the light actually shown from behind a very tiny door, almost too tiny for even Caleb to see at first. And yet as soon as Caleb had recognized the light and the door, both began to become larger. I do not say that they grew larger, because that would not be true. They simply were larger. And the longer Caleb beheld them, the larger and more beautiful they became. The door was not like any Caleb had seen, its carvings so ornate, its wood shining as if it were lit up. And the light that poured from the door seemed at once as lovely as the voices, and then Caleb could not decide whether it was the light or the voices he was actually seeing, for the light carried the voices and the two seemed one.
Caleb clapped his little hands in excitement, for as he sat, the door grew to the size where he fancied he could actually fit inside of it. Caleb scrambled towards it, and just as he did, the door seemed suddenly so large that it stopped him in his tracks. It now was as enormous as the tall people, and yet it was larger then even they. Now Caleb was not sure whether or not he was meant to enter it all, for it seemed to magnificent for someone as small as he to pass through. The same force with which his elation came, a profound misery passed over Caleb, for he so wanted to get through he door to the lovely light and voices. But just as Caleb was very nearly crying with disappointment, he heard someone call his name.
He knew it was not anyone on the street behind him, because again the entire street and people were now only a blur, like a distant dream that Caleb was not sure truly existed. All he knew now were the door and the light, and as he stared up at the lovely door, he heard it call him again.
"Yes, I'm here," Caleb said, all the while chastising himself for not adding a "ma'am" or "sir", for in truth he could not tell whether the voice was that of a man or a woman. It was just lovely, and in its loveliness there was a wholeness that needed no differentiation.
"Well open the door, already, we have been waiting for you," said the lovely voice with an even lovelier laugh. Caleb could not collect his excitement and tripped towards the door, which as he stepped nearer seemed to fit him perfectly now. He reached out and pulled at the enchanting nob, and the brilliant light and voices seemed to blind him.
How different everything seemed to Caleb then! As soon as Caleb had opened the door it was is if the voices and light had carried him passed the threshold. He rubbed his little eyes, for we all know that when we step from a dark room into a lit one, our eyes have a hard time with it. What he could see when he finally could, I will have a hard time explaining, for it is nothing like what we've seen here. In fact, even little Caleb could never explain it without much difficulty and halting, and many, "Oh there is nothing quite like it!" muttered over and over until the his listeners grew tired of his tale. "It as if the very buds of spring time and the glory of the sun in the height of summertime have kissed and the whole world applauds at the same moment", was the best description he could muster and it is, indeed, the only one we all use when telling the tale. Of course we cannot assume it to look like our springtime or summertime, and Caleb himself says there is no true sun in its sky, but again, Caleb was only a little boy when he saw the place. There is nothing that is colored like our world would be, for everything is exactly what it ought to be and therefore no two things are alike. The trees and rocks and rivers and fishes and birds are all the friendliest, most welcoming things, not at all like how they are here, where they are either aloof to our existence or afraid. Here they welcomed Caleb, and for a little boy to be in a world where nothing seemed naughty and everything new him and allowed him to play, you will understand why he took so long to finally see anyone. He had quite a day of frolicking and running as fast as he wanted, falling many times and yet it did not hurt him. This was the best part of all, for his Mother would have been quite upset, Caleb was sure, if he had returned with ruined clothes and cut up legs. While I can, I must tell you that this whole time Caleb often had thoughts like this: "Oh how fond Mother would be of this place! And Brother and Sister too!" For Caleb was a kind boy who loved his family very much. But his former fear at being lost had been entirely replaced with the notion that he was somehow as found as he could possibly get, which he was.
The voices that Caleb had at first heard were, indeed, the light itself. For in this place, the whole of it seemed to be speaking. The words of it were something like a jolly prayer, and although he cannot repeat the exact words of it now, Caleb speaks of it often.
When finally Caleb had played as much as he liked, (though in this place it was not possible to grow weary of playing) Caleb grew instead more curious about other things, and wondered to himself, "Who was it that called me here?" The moment he thought it, a figure appeared before him. Behind the door the beings are not at all like us, and yet they are exactly how we ought to have been.
A little girl appeared before Caleb, (we will call her a little girl because that is what she was but yet there was not the same feeling of "differentness" that Caleb often felt when he was with other little girls. He felt as if he knew this one, and she him.) She was one of the loveliest creatures he had seen, yet it wasn't that she was wearing her own loveliness. It was Somebody Else's, and Caleb felt quite sure he had met the Somebody she was wearing, for he felt at home around her. The girl was not exactly smiling, she simply was what a smile ought to have been. This, however, did not surprise Caleb; he had felt when he first stepped through the door an absence of anything that seemed other than joy and delight. For here, in this world, there was no room for anything that did not quite fit, and sadness, despair, anger, disappointment, had long ago been pushed out.
"Why, I feel as though I know you," Caleb said with a delighted laugh, which echoed off of the happy wood and sent the air around him giggling. The girl nodded, "Yes, and I know you. But I suppose what you see is Him, for He is what makes all of us know one another." Caleb was not sure he understood completely, but he felt in his heart that agreed.
"I feel as though I know Him, then," Caleb said, too happy to be confused. The girl nodded again, and the smile that she had seemed to grow larger, "Yes, that is why you're here of course, He asked you to come." The little girl gestured with her lovely hand for Caleb to follow her, and before her emerged a path lined with wildflowers who looked at once so wild and so happy that Caleb longed to touch one. He followed eagerly behind the girl, for Caleb felt undoubtedly that he was quite welcome here.
When they had not walked very far the little girl turned around to Caleb and let out a happy laugh, "Stay here, for He is coming." And with that, she was gone. Caleb did not feel lonely, however, or upset that she had left. It seemed the most natural thing in the world that she should leave at that moment. For everything in that world happens precisely when it ought to, and nothing happens that is not full of a lovely purpose. But while Caleb stood he felt rising his little heart a joy and a hope so strong that he wondered whether or not his little body could contain it all. He laughed again and again, with the sort of laugh that sends a room of others laughing and smiling at the sound of it. And just when Caleb knew he could not grow more happy, he saw Him. He was at once more familiar than Caleb's own mother, and all the same more different than anyone Caleb had ever seen. His face was lit up with kindness, and whatever piece of Him was reflected in the little girl was discovered in His features. Caleb felt a thrill of pleasure and fascination race through his little body even looking at the Man, and could not help but run to Him. The Man's laugh seemed to make the world around him laugh in agreement, and with his embrace, Caleb felt quite at home. There was nothing else that mattered in Caleb's little mind at that moment than this Man and his opinion of Caleb.
"I've been waiting for you Caleb," said the Man, and Caleb pulled away to look at the beautiful face before him. Caleb still cannot describe the face, for it was nothing like a face and yet it was exactly how every face ought to be.
"I've been waiting for you," replied Caleb happily, for in his little heart, Caleb knew he too had been waiting for this Man, even if he had not always known it.
I cannot tell of all the happy and lovely things that were said between the Man and Caleb, but anyone who knows Caleb can attest to the different boy he was after the day he walked through the door. He no longer tried to be brave or good, he simply was both brave and good, but without the reticent pride that comes from behaving well on your own. All that can be said is that the Man spoke such good things to Caleb and that Caleb fiercely believed all of the wonderful things that Man promised him and said about him.
The time had come for Caleb to leave, for he felt in his heart that it was right that he not stay here forever, as much as he would have liked. The memory of the street outside of the door and all of the large people and his own Mother and Brother and Sister seemed to grow larger in front of him. Caleb looked towards the Man, but he had gone, which Caleb had expected even as he looked for him. The little girl had replaced him, but even her features had begun to fade, and she was but a lovely haze before him, leading him by the hand towards the door.
"Wait," said Caleb, and the little girl paused, and waited as if she had known he had questions to ask. "Why could not everyone on the street see the light and hear the voices?"
Many might think Caleb would have asked these questions first, but the moment he stepped through the door there was no room in his mind for doubts or sad thoughts. We must remember that he was, after all, a little boy. The little girl did not stop smiling, but somehow her smile seemed more tender, "It is not that they can not see the light or hear the voices, Caleb," said she. "It is that they choose not to." Caleb felt at once that her words were right, for even while the voices and the door grew, he saw the large busy people moving away from him and around it, which at the time he had thought meant they did not see it. He saw now, rather, that they did see it and were irritated by its brightness and bigness.
"But how come the door is not always so large and so lovely?" Caleb remembering now how small the door at first had been, that he fancied it a speck of light on the sidewalk, and how it only became larger as he stared at it. The girl answered, "It is always large and lovely, but the people have chosen to make themselves larger than it, and they have forgotten how to get small enough to fit in."
"Why doesn't He stop them?" Caleb felt now a deep sadness for the people on the street, and as his heart grew more sad the world around him seemed more dim.
"Because He cannot make them want to come inside, they must choose it for themselves," The little girl said.
"But don't they know what lies behind this door, and how much more lovely it is than all of the things on the street?" Caleb knew in his little heart, in that moment, that nothing in all the world could compare with the one he had entered that day.
The little girl shook her head sadly, "They know but they have let themselves believe that their world is greater. And so they cannot enter, even if they tried now. They'd have to think less of their world, and of themselves. For that is how you got in, Caleb."
Caleb could not just then remember the sequence of events that led him to discovering the door, but when he began to try and remember he found at once that he did remember. He had been frightened and lonely and lost, a combination which makes all little boys sleepy. And Caleb could not keep himself from falling asleep, and when he had laid down his head he heard the voices and saw the light, and had suddenly grown quite curious over it. And the more he wondered at it, the bigger it became.
"Will I always fit in, now?" Caleb felt, for the first time since he passed through the door, that he was afraid. He felt afraid of not seeing the Man again, or the little girl, whom he loved although he hardly knew her.
The girl nodded her little head, "So long as you choose to look at it and not get yourself too large, you can fit. It never changes sizes. You do."
Caleb felt determination rise in his little body, "Then I shall always make it bigger than I," said he. Through the hazy distance he knew the little girl had smiled again.
"That is good, Caleb," said the little girl, though her lovely voice was fading and Caleb heard another voice saying his name. When he blinked again, he was back on the curb, staring at the large feet and the large bodies, hearing his mother's voice crying out his name, "Oh Caleb!" Said his Mother, rushing to him and gathering his little body in her arms. I will not waste time to tell that, as all mothers do when they fancy they've lost or misplaced a child and they find it again, there was a surplus of tears and many "Thank Heavens" said, and Caleb never got so many kisses as he did in the next few days.
For the rest of his life, though, Caleb was talking about the door and lived in such a way that people wondered at his general smallness, and how he never made too much of what he could do or needed to get done. For as Caleb promised, he never made himself so big that the door was not bigger still.
Friday, April 8, 2011
"There is a road that leads to Heaven. It is both narrow and wide, both flat and steep, both restful and treacherous. There is a Man who walks this road, back and forth, back and forth He goes. He races with the strong, He nurses the wounded, He calms the afraid; there is not a single one who has traversed this road who has not, at some point, met with Him. He is both gentle and stern, both full of love for good and hate for evil, both full of youth, and yet older than any other. He has a wise and noble brow, hands that are strong but tender, and a gaze that strengthens just as surely as it penetrates.
As He walked one early morning, on a wide portion in one of the most pleasant valleys of the road, he came upon a little girl, curled in a tiny ball, crying rather pathetic looking tears.
Ever full of compassion, the Man stooped to her, "Little Girl, what troubles You?"
The little girl turned her tear-streaked face to the Man, not realizing who He was, "It seems as though I shall never make it to the end."
The Man fixed His knowing eyes on her, "The end of what?"
"Why, this road," she sniffled, gesturing towards the lovely portion of path where she sat.
"The best way to find out is to keep walking, don't you think?" The Man looked down kindly at the little girl, who huffed a big huff, and shook her little curl-covered head. And although she had not meant to, the little girl replied with a voice that sounded very much like a whine, "But it isn't just about me!"
The Man bent his head nearer to the little girl, "Isn't it though?"
The girl sobbed a tiny bit more, "No! Can't You see the other little children that are so much further down this road than I?"
The Man stood and shaded his kind eyes, barely making out the forms of little bodies quite a ways down from where he stood.
"I can see the others," the Man replied thoughtfully, "But I do not know that their progress has anything to do with yours."
The little girl sniffled miserably again, and as most children do when adults' responses do not suit them, she jutted out her bottom lip, which trembled perilously. "Oh but it does! It means that I shall never catch up with them," sighed she, crossing her little arms over her chest.
The Man nodded again, "Maybe not."
To his calm reply, the little girl's eyes filled with fresh tears, "Then what ever shall I do?"
The Man stooped again to her level, and grasping her shoulders, pulled her gently to her feet. "You may keep walking. And even if you should never catch up with them, at least you will still be traveling the same road as they. You will see all that they've seen, taste all they've tasted, if only you'll not tarry here, or worse yet, give up."
The little girl felt her little heart growing more brave with the kind Man's words. She squared her little shoulders and did her best to swallow down her tears, which we all know for a little girl can be quite a triumph in itself. She thought over what he'd said, realizing that although not quite so fast or far as they, she was just as able and willing to keep at the path if it meant she could experience all that her friends had.
But just as quickly as her heart grew bold, a whisper of a doubt sent it crashing down again. "But I am all alone, and they, they at least have one another!" The little girl cried.
The Man's eyes grew tender towards her.He gathered her against his chest and let her cry, which was truly hard to do, she realized, while situated so comfortably in the Man's kind embrace.
When she could not manage one more tear, the Man extended to her one of His large hands, "I will walk with you, if you like. Then you won't be alone."
The little eyes on the little girl grew rather big, considering her size. Her litte heart took flight, like a hummingbird's wings, "Oh, would you?" The Man nodded and smiled the kindest smile down at her as she placed her little hand in his.
It wasn't many steps before the little girl found all thoughts of her companions, whose progress had caused her so much grief before, were erased by the kind company of the strong Man who held her hand and warmed her heart. The road now seemed neither lonely, nor long, so long as she had Him."