It was a beautiful house. The most welcoming of houses. A stunning house. A house like no other. The house where Grace lived.
A home like this was destined to be shared, so as she often did, Grace prepared a meal. No, no, no, it wasn’t just a meal – this was a FEAST! The kind of cuisine reserved for castles, princesses, and fairytales. No expense was spared. She decked out her oversized, antique table with the finest china and the most elaborately embroidered tablecloths. The smell of exotic, culinary delicacies hung thickly in the air.
It was time for a party.
Right about then, a man came struggling along the path in front of the house. He was obviously agitated. Jumpy. He talked out loud to the air with a phobic paranoia. And to make matters even stranger, behind him he dragged a large metal cage full of the ugliest black birds you have ever seen. It was attached to his waist with a massive steel chain, and he dragged it through the dirt with a strained shuffling gait. Whenever he stumbled or wobbled, the cage would shake and the birds would let out the most horrifying chorus of shrieks. The man would instinctively crumble in terror, balling himself into a fetal position, clawing at the air, as he begged in agony for them to stop.
Grace could see this awful unfolding scene from her dining room window and rushed outside to his aid.
“My friend,” she said in the most soothing of tones, “please relax, you’re not alone. I’m here to help, I have the answer. Let me cut these heavy chains and remove this hideous cage. You don’t have to drag these fears around with you anymore. Come inside, I’ve made the most splendid of meals and I want you to be my guest. I can do things for you that you could never possibly do for yourself.”
But the man shrieked all the louder. “Get away! Get away! These fears may be hideous, but they’re all I know. I’ve dragged them for more miles than you can imagine. I got them from trusting, trusting people like you! So leave me alone and let me get on with it. If there is freedom from these fears it will have to be of my own doing. And amidst the ever growing sounds of terror, he trudged into the darkness and disappeared from the warm glow of the house. The house where Grace lived.
Not more than a few moments later a new figure appeared on the path. Unlike the first, this man didn’t seem to be struggling much at all. In fact, cloaked in a massive oversized white fur coat, he actually looked to be…strutting. He paused every few steps to gaze at his reflection in the adjacent pond until he was frozen dead in his tracks by the almost mirror-like qualities of Grace’s massive dining room window. Absolutely gorgeous!
Even though the man’s ego was nearly as ugly as his coat, Grace rushed to the front door and warmly greeted this new opportunity with her usual warmth and charm. “Hello friend! I’ve prepared a feast, will you come join me? I’ve planned a great party and I’m expecting many guests. I would love to add you to the celebration!”
“Eat with such plebes?” he replied with a smirk. “I’m sure they’re far beneath the class of a specimen like me. But I am hungry after this long walk.” And so he brashly sauntered up the stairs, brushing Grace to the side and heading straight for the front door.
“Oh, there’s just one thing,” Grace interrupted as she politely stopped his progress. “Your coat. It stays out here. In my house, all the warmth and covering you’ll ever need has already been provided for you. The only way we dine together is if we see the real you. No coats. No pretense. All that stays out here.”
“But this coat is my pride!” the man violently hissed. “If it stays outside then so do I!” And he stormed back down the front steps (with much less of a swagger this time), onto the path, and back into the woods (only pausing at a few leftover rain puddles for a quick peek at his reflection). His choice was made, and his egocentric silhouette quickly faded into the forrest near the house. The house where Grace lived.
As Grace reached for the doorknob to return to her preparations, she caught a glimpse of yet a third weary traveler struggling up the path. The woman appeared to be carrying a large sack, easily twice as big as she was, and was painfully doubled over under its incredible weight. Grace ran quickly down the front steps and up the walk to offer the poor woman her assistance.
“Dear friend, you can hardly walk! Here, give me your sack, we’ll leave it here. Come in and rest. Let me tend to you. I’m preparing a huge feast and expecting many guests. Join us! The food and drink is overflowing!”
The woman never looked up. Her voice was so soft and shaken she could barely be understood. “This bag is my shame, full of unspeakable sorrow and regret. Skeletons and memories I’ve carried so long they’ve become a permanent part of me.”
Sure enough, the sack had been on her back for so long it had quite literally attached itself to her skin!
“My dear,” Grace replied in her comforting tones, “please come inside and let me help you. I have just the tools to set you free, you only need to trust me. I’ve already done all the work to ensure you don’t have to carry a bag of shame like this anymore.”
“Thank you kind lady,” came the woman’s trembling reply. “But many have tried to help me do just that on the course of this painful journey, and to no avail. Freedom is an illusion I’m afraid. This sack of shame is who I am. If you cut it off I’ll most certainly die. Now let me on my way. I can manage this burden on my own. I’ve been doing it for quite some time now.” And so she slowly set out, following the same lonely path that fear and pride had forged just a few short moments earlier, and leaving the warm glow of the house as nothing more than a distant memory. The house where Grace lived.
The party was a smash! The house was filled with every kind of person you could possibly imagine. Princes and paupers. Businessmen and beggars. Aristocrats and commoners. They came from near and far for this feast of the ages!
No one left unchanged. Grace made sure of it. Cages and coats and large empty sacks littered the front walkway like a graveyard of self-salvation projects. And yet even as she relished in the joy of her miraculous work, Grace couldn’t help but wonder why three exhausted travelers chose to miss the celebration and continue alone. It was so unnecessary. The work had already been completed. All they had to do was come inside.
But the Good News for all weary wanderers is that the warm, inviting, transformational doors of this house always remain open. The house where Grace still lives.