our vows are ready.
i can hear you whisper them
to me,
back through time,
awaiting my reply.

The wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. . . . No longer will there be any curse. . . . There will be no more night. . . . And they will reign for ever and ever . . . He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
—John’s prophetic visions of the return of Jesus Christ
(Revelation 19:7; 22:3, 5, 20)

Many men had tried to get through. Brave and sturdy men. Soft and highly cultured men. Some had made it only to the outer edge of the mesh of thistles and barbs. Some had slashed their way savagely into the thicket until the thorny limbs—as if with a life of their own—had curled and entwined. And tightened.

Despite the strength of the man, the screams were always the same. So each had failed. Each had died. Their bodies remained, though. Held securely and at odd angles, skewered by the long and narrow thorns. Embraced by the dark and deadly branches.

The ravens that perch on the high tower had long since picked clean the remains of those brave princes who’d failed. Anyone who might wander past the strangely encircled castle would see only glistening bones hanging in the thicket. Patches of white in a sea of tangled black.

And of course, the birds are patient as they wait and watch and wing their way around the tower, their dark, staring eyes searching for more princes. More food.

While inside, beneath their wings, a girl lies. Still and warm.

Waiting.

The girl is beautiful. Her soft features and delicate cheeks look surreal under the thin layer of dust. It gives her face a vague, ghostly feel. But she is not dead. Her chest moves only slightly to show that she is alive. But her sleep is profound and deeper than deep.

On her thumb is a bead of dried blood. By her bed is a needle-sharp spindle.

Carelessness and curiosity and the allure of the forbidden brought her to this turret with a single staircase and a tapered window overlooking the thicket. She brought it upon herself, and upon all those in the castle. For the curse was real. And now, decades later, the spell still lingers.

Decades upon decades have passed. Time in a bottle. And the thicket has grown and the girl has slept and the stories have whispered their way through the kingdom. Mortal princes have come and died. Those who would rescue her have failed. And so she sleeps.

The curse remains.

The thorns are winning.

All is still inside the castle. The only movement comes from the sleek dark forms that scurry across the patterned floor. A few rats have found their way beneath the thorns.

The tower rises like a crusty head above the thicket, with a beard of moss and one seeing eye. One window to the world. A single eye that gazes over the thicket, toward a nearby sea, furious and deep and gray. And between the tower and the rocky shore grows a forest with a trail. This is the trail the princes use when they come searching for her. To find her and save her. And love her.

She is only sixteen. Sweet sixteen.

And through every season the sky remains the color of November rain.

A hundred years, but who’s counting? And what’s this? The ravens settling onto branches. A rider coming through the forest. Another prince?

Approaching slowly. Confident. But not arrogant like the others. Careful. Thoughtful. Strong.

He dismounts and unsheathes his sword. This man is not just a prince. He is a warrior. He glances at the thicket with a steely eye.

Now the sun is setting, but he is not afraid of the night. With a wild cry he leaps toward the hedge. The birds scatter in fear.

The thorny branches slice at him, writhing like a nest of cornered serpents, piercing his hands and side. Slashing across his head. Aiming for his heart. But he is quick and strong. His swordsmanship is unequaled. And everything in his path splinters and shatters before his blade.

A path begins to form. Crisp moonlight slices wicked shadows all around him, yet he advances through the thorns.

All through the night he fights on. Without a scream. Without a word. Until it is finished. He reaches the tower just as dawn begins to uncurl across the sky. The door is locked, but he has a key fashioned in his father’s kingdom. A key that will unlock any door in the castle.

Now through the hall and past the others. Statues frozen in time, not even realizing what they are missing. As if a whole kingdom is holding its breath.

Then he is on the stairs, taking them two at a time. To the upper chamber.

He has waited a lifetime for this moment. He has searched the world for this castle. The stories were true. A girl like no other. A curse whose time was up.

Now he sees her. He is leaning over, his heart racing. Her beauty is unequaled. Just one glance at her face is worth the sting of the thorns. And with his kiss the spell cracks open and the thicket crumbles and the thorns release their grip. The tower is free. Sunlight is alive in the room.

Their eyes meet. Love is born.

“You’re more beautiful than I’d ever imagined,” he whispers.

She blinks against the light and smiles. The cruel curse is over. He has risked all to rescue her.

“You’ve set me free,” she says, taking his hand.

“Come with me,” he offers. And she accepts.

So she will become his bride.

All those newly awakened are invited to the wedding. And they come. To enjoy the meal and all the festivities. And to welcome this saving prince to their land.

She was a beautiful bride, shedding those old and faded clothes and slipping on the dress her groom had provided for her. They say that her gown was perfect and pure, without a wrinkle, and whiter than the winter hills.

And, ah! The celebration! The feasting! The dancing! Through the day and through the night! They’d had enough sleep to last a thousand lifetimes, and now it was time to celebrate!

And some say that in that distant land, they’re still celebrating to this very day.

The adventure isn’t over; it’s only beginning. Here is my prayer for you as you consider your place in God’s story:

I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

touching the unseen

tiny wonders of winter dreams
floating softly from the sky
each land with a gentle kiss
on the dark and inky waters
of the cold, unfrozen lake.

there, grace and danger
melt into each other’s arms
and become one
as the surface
welcomes the sky into its heart
and the bride is
home at last.

i am falling into your arms.
melt me into yourself
until only you
remain.

union.