Guest post by Tanya Cliff
Her name was Autumn. Spring had passed long before her time, and the plush and verdant bed of bright Summer was defiled by a thick blanket of dry leaves. She believed she would never make it to that place called Winter, for words like “pure” and “white” have nothing to do with a girl born in a season of dying. And death was all around her: sleeping trees devoid of leaves swaying silently before her, wilting plants reeking of the putrid scent of their hypocritical decay, scattered fragments of fragile flower petals of dull hue strewn on the ground. She stopped the elderly, white-collared man; he was the only soul remaining in the field, but even he was leaving.
“Sir, where are you going?”
“Dear girl, there is nothing left here.”
“But this is your field to tend, and I am left here.”
He considered for a moment, looked her up and down and scowled.
“I was sent here to tend sheep and care for plants. You are neither. I don’t get paid enough to look after every Autumn.”
With that he left her, the girl Autumn, without looking back.
Autumn walked a desolate path littered with the decaying bones of the former seasons crunching under her feet. Long ago she had heard whispered from atop an old oak tree, in the days when it still clung to its last leaves, a story of a town and men and music and something called vainglory. And she figured, in her lonely mind, that those things couldn’t be so bad. It would be better than being alone, she thought, so down that desecrated path she walked.
The first man she met, as she walked into town, was a man with a white collar around his neck. He was much younger than the man in the garden, and he smiled and waved his hand. She remembered someone saying long ago, that the white-collared gentlemen were good at giving direction; and she didn’t know which way to go. So she asked.
“Follow me,” he said.
He led her down a stone path to a stone chapel through a stone door down a stone aisle in a stone floor to a stone step in front of a stone altar…and he told her to kneel. The stone was cold and hard. Autumn asked what she was to do next.
“You silly girl, you pray.”
“But I don’t understand.”
“Understanding is not faith. Have faith and pray.”
He turned and walked away.
“Sir,” she called after him. “I am just in need of some company, a soul with whom to dance and play.”
But the white-collared man simply shrugged and continued to walk away, and the man was cold and hard, and the stone was cold and hard.
So Autumn left that place, confused and discouraged. She came across a building made of wood with laughter and music inside. Over its door hung a sign that read, “VAINGLORY” carved deeply into light pine. It was a word she remembered, but she couldn’t recall what it meant or if it was bad or good. Underneath the word “VAINGLORY” in letters so small they could barely be read were the words “Hall of Dull Gods and Palace of Pauper Kings” scrolled and painted in red. And she wondered about dull gods and pauper kings; but there was laughter and music inside, and she was alone and desiring a soul with whom to dance and play.
In she walked, and her education began. Dull gods and pauper kings have insatiable appetites that demand to be fed; and those hungers had nothing to do with the lovely things went on in her head. It was her flesh they were after, and Autumn was a beautiful girl. They put her up on their stage; they clapped and laughed and cheered. One by one they tasted her, but like a dessert – a sweet, sickly dessert – once eaten, devoured; once devoured, dead; once dead, discarded. She was then food for the next dull god, or the next pauper king, or the next dull god…or the next pauper king.
Autumn was a smart girl, brilliant – one could say. She figured the game out quickly and no longer desired to play. Dull gods were dreary and pauper kings – putrid. She understood the word “VAINGLORY” and wished that she didn’t. She decided to leave and thought to herself, “If this is all that companionship is, than I am better off alone. I would rather perish from my lonely heart’s break than feed these fools my flesh and bone as they skillfully skewer my soul.”
So Autumn left and, for a long time, journeyed alone.
Autumn walked a desolate path littered with the decaying bones of the former seasons crunching under her feet. Long ago she had heard whispered from atop an old oak tree, in the days when it still clung to its last leaves, a story of a man and hope and peace and something called forgiveness. And she figured, in her lonely mind, that those things couldn’t be so bad. If she was doomed to be alone in this place of dismal death, she thought, at least her tortured soul could find rest. She recalled the simple lines, “I’m sorry. I didn’t want this. Please help.”
And for the first time in Autumn’s life, it snowed – pure, white snow. Tanya
“Come know, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (ISA 1:18, NIV)
“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:3&4a, NIV)