When I was three years old, I came home one day to the shock of finding that my bedroom ceiling had gone completely missing. In it’s place, open skies stretched up into infinity. My mom, artist that she is, had in a single day opened up the heavens with the help of a paintbrush and several of her artsy friends. Painted gloriously over the whitewash plaster, layers of heavy clouds, whipped to cotton candy consistency, billowed down from an endless blue sky. My dad, an architect at heart, had adhered decorative trim around the lightbulb in the shape of a starburst which was soon after transformed into a glorious golden sun. To my delight, the instant the lights went out, a thousand tiny planets glowed hazily around the perimeter of the room, transporting me into distant galaxies of thought and imagination.
It was beneath this endless sky that I found myself struggling to sleep each night as my imagination ran wild. It began innocently enough with blanket forts and giggles with my plushy friends, but as the minutes ticked by, anxiety crept in and suffocated the wanderings of my imagination, throwing me into fits of insomnia. When I couldn’t count enough sheep, I turned to music as my salvation. I would pop in a cassette tape and let the melody fill up my restless mind until sleep could claim me.
I was listening to a Christian cassette when I met Him for the first time. It was still early in the evening but I had laid in bed with my eyes closed for several songs already. The chorus played: Like a rose, trampled on the ground, you took the fall, and thought of me, above all. There was something in those words that I couldn’t quite place my finger on; it was like trying to vocalize something on the tip of your tongue. I let the lids of my eyes slide gently open and I watched the glow of the stars above me melt into the darkness. My finger fell on the pause button and silence filled the room, quieting my thoughts. My nine year old imagination conjured a rose, beautiful and without blemish. Burgundy petals unfurled heavenward like a supernova and jade leaves fanned from a delicate stalk covered in thorns. As I gazed at the flower, I felt the tug of sleep and I started to doze, letting myself sink through space in slow motion. Just as my muscles began to relax in the free fall, gravity laid hold of me once more, brutally denying me sleep. With a feeling like falling, I was jarred awake. My eyes shot wide open, and my head spun in confusion.
When the shock abated, I closed me eyes once more to find a flattened floral corpse, it’s stem folded and splintered like broken wood. Deep grooves marred the petals, crushed by what looked like a shoe print. Translucency spread from innumerable creases in the leaves and bruises disfigured the velvety skin of the petals. I saw the liquified flesh of the flower, pummeled into applesauce and dragged across the ground. In the distance I thought I saw a child race away, unaware of the carnage.
A tear slowly rolled down my cheek as the scene dissolved once more and the stars and planets peppering my ceiling shone bright in my peripherals. Michelle, I took the fall, because I love you above all else. The words rang out clear a bells in the quiet of my room. Follow me, Jesus said, and I placed my trust in Him. At that moment I did not fully understand the cost of following Him. I didn’t know that I had died to this world to receive citizenship in another. I did not know that I had become an adopted child of the Almighty or that He would be with me all the days of this life and the next. I did not understand the extent of my sin, or the fullness of His love, and I did not know that in that moment I had been flooded by the Spirit of God and I would never be the same. Jesus knew me by name, and I when He called, I answered and gave Him the rest of my life.
Little did I know, it was the beginning of a love story grander than anything I could have have ever imagined as I fell asleep beneath the glow of a thousand tiny stars.