I once heard what was supposed to be a true story about a dictator. The man was renowned to be very powerful, and evil, and the rumors of the things he did to his prisoners made even the bravest of men quake with fear.
Of his people, thousands were justly, or unjustly, imprisoned and sentenced to death. Out of the dungeons they each were taken, one by one, to face this man who was so greatly feared. They stood before him, knowing that these were the last moments of their life, believing that the existence they had known for so long was quickly drawing to a bitter end.
The dictator looked each one in the eye and gave them a choice: behind door number one, death by firing squad...or, the prisoner could take their chances and choose door number two. What was behind door number two? One would never know until one opened it and walked through.
Can you imagine the agony of having to make such a decision? What was behind door number two? A torture chamber? Starving vicious animals? A pit of snakes and rats? Something worse than all those combined? The answer might be something so terrible it could dwell only beyond the wildest of imaginations.
Of the thousands who stood and faced this evil man, all but two went willingly to their deaths, choosing Door Number One. This is the fear of the unknown at work. Sure, death by firing squad was a horrible thing, but it was guaranteed, it was certain. How much worse could the unknown be? Uncertainty can be a very terrifying and unsettling thing...worse, even, than a swift and sure death.
I have spent the last year and a half standing before two doors. I knew what was lying behind door number one. It wasn't what I wanted, but it was familiar; it was certain. It may have been painful, but at least I knew what was there. And what was behind Door Number Two? The rumors that circulated about it in the dungeon were chilling. My word- it could be anything! It could be something so awful, so terrifying, I could imagine myself screaming and weeping and wailing, on my knees begging for door number one, pleading for another chance.
I stood there, my knees shaking, my heart in my throat, pounding so hard, my whole body shook to it's tempo...and against the odds I chose... Door Number Two. The guards came, and unlocked the chains with which I was bound. I rubbed my wrists where they were red and raw, and the dictator looked me in the eye, challenging my decision.
"Are you sure? Door Number Two? This is your last chance. There will be no going back once the decision has been made."
I took a deep breath, "I'm sure," I replied.
He nodded, and smiled, and gestured toward the door.
I walked slowly towards uncertainty, barely breathing, my footsteps echoing off the walls. I cannot describe the fear I felt in this moment. The sheer terror was like nothing I have ever experienced in my life. I believed I was going to suffer. I thought it would be painful... but Door Number One...it just wasn't for me. I knew that, too.
I stood there for a moment, my hand on the cold metal handle, and I listened for what might be on the other side. I could hear no screams, no animals growling, I was listening to nothing but the sound of my own breathing. Here I was, still breathing! The thought gave me confidence, and I found myself turning the latch. Being past the point of no return; I pushed door Number Two open wide and walked into the darkness, never looking back. I heard the door swing shut behind me with a final resonating click.
I closed my eyes and waited for whatever monster that was lurking here to find me. I thought I was going to die. In that moment, I felt so alone, so sad, and so scared- and yet- it felt good to take a chance, to face my fears, and in a small way, make the life that had been stolen from me, my own.
A silence, a stillness surrounded me. Curiosity overcame fear and I opened my eyes to find myself standing at the end of a long, dark corridor. And what was that coming from the other end of the hallway? Was it...could it be...daylight? I smiled and fell to my knees and thanked God for the gift of light he allowed me. I may be headed towards death, but this last glimpse of a piece of the sun filled my soul with joy. When I was done praying, I found my feet again and walked toward the light. I wondered, as my footsteps sounded sharp and hollow against the stone floor, what was lurking in the shadows, what sort of hideous trap this might be; but somehow, it didn't matter; God was near. I could feel His angels holding me up, and if this was the end, so be it. So be it.
It felt miraculous as I reached the other side of the long corridor unharmed. The light poured in through a high window above a heavy metal door. Would this door open? Was I trapped? Was this some sort of sick joke, this taste of sunlight? Was the firing squad waiting for me on the other side?
With another deep breath, I tried the handle and pushed the door open with ease. A fresh breeze swept sweetly past me, and the sunlight poured down upon my face as I looked up into the sky. Oh, the sky! That beautiful, clear blue sky! I was standing in a green field, and I blinked, reveling in it's beauty as I waited for the sound of gunfire. Moments passed, and all I could hear was the melody of chirping birds.
Bring it on, I thought, no amount of pain can take away the beauty of this moment.
Time passed and I began to grow warm as the sunshine thawed my hands, my feet, from the icy cold that lingered from the dungeon. Still, only the song of the birds surrounded me. Where was the pain, the suffering I was supposed to be experiencing? Here, there was only beauty, only...freedom.
Could this be real? How long would this feeling last?
There was a thick green forest at the edge of the meadow. Again, I found my courage and walked towards it, expecting a bullet in my back at any moment. But, nothing, there was nothing but me, and the birds, and the meadow and the woods and blue sky and the sunshine and God.
Like the other two prisoners, I had taken the risk of the unknown, and in return, I gained my freedom. It came, this beautiful, cherished gift- a second chance at life- and filled me with happiness. I yelled, hoping my fellow inmates could hear my voice. I told them that I was alright, I was free, and that my life had become something better than I could ever had expected. I told them it was a lie- the fear, the imagined pain- that freedom and happiness were there all along, if only they had the courage to choose Door Number Two.
And in the story of the dictator, that is exactly what was behind that second door- glorious freedom. He just let who ever wanted to go, go.
One of Jack's favorite things to do all summer is play out on the back deck. We go out there together and throw the ball around, or play on the slides. He is obsessed with the 'doddy' and asks for her starting first thing in the morning, and it continues all day long. I love it.