The blog name Follow the Threads draws its inspiration from a short story entitled The Princess and the Goblin by author George MacDonald. I stumbled upon the story through a sermon by Tim Keller called “Praying Your Fears”. And yes, I realize the blog title is plural. Somebody took the domain ‘Follow the Thread’ already.
The Princess and the Goblin follows a Princess who encounters an ancient, powerful fairy grandmother who promises safety and security. The grandmother gives the Princess a ring attached to a thread that leads to a ball hidden in a drawer. The Princess is promised that this thread, as long as it is followed, will lead her to right back to her godmother in times of danger. Of course, danger rears its ugly head in the form of snarling creatures that threaten to devour her. She follows her godmother’s commands and tightly grips her thread and follows it, but to her surprise, the thread does not lead her to where she knows her grandmother is. In fact, it leads her in the opposite direction – out the door and into the night. She continues to follow the thread, but the path gets darker and steeper as she is led right into the heart of a dark mountain where a horde of goblins await.
She tries to remember the light of her grandmother, her kindness, her security, but her heart begins to tremble as the path gets more and more confusing. She continues, steadfast in her commitment to follow the thread, until the thread disappears into a pile of rocks covering a vast cavern wall. She panics and looks behind her only to find that the thread has disappeared. It only goes forward. There is no going back. In a fit of despair, she cries aloud and throws herself upon the stones. And then the doubt creeps into her mind. Has my grandmother forsaken me? Was this all some cruel joke?
Keller observes that this is a picture of what it means to follow and obey Christ. And I think he’s right. There have been many mind-numbing times when I know I have to trust God even when, especially when, everything is a torrent of uncertainty. And when the hard stuff hits, I never question whether God exists, but whether He’s trustworthy. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'”
But thankfully, the story does not end there for the Princess. She gets her bearings and then realizes something profound: the only way through, is through. So she starts clawing her way through the rocks, hands bleeding, following the thread until she ends up saving a young miner who has been captured by a group of evil goblins. In the end, the Princess ends up saving her entire kingdom from evil.
And that was the plan all along. And the Princess never would have followed had she known how hard the path was going to be beforehand. And then where would she be? Holed up in her castle, completely static and unchanged while the young miner perishes and evil flourishes. Perhaps that’s why God’s plan for our lives can be so confusing. If we saw the whole thing, we’d be crushed by its complexity. And we’d never move. We’d never change. We’d never love or sacrifice.
I have to wonder if Mary, staring up at her bloodied and crucified Son, felt the same way the Princess did at the pile of rocks. Utterly crushed. Completely dejected. Wondering why she ever allowed herself to be fooled into hope.
But, as Keller beautifully puts its, on the other side of every grave is a resurrection. And maybe this is why we can trust God. Not because it’s easy. Not because we’re strong-willed, but because there is a greater story. A true story. The story of the Son of God who followed his Father’s thread through betrayal, slander, persecution, false trials, utter abandonment and ultimately, crucifixion. All the way to the grave. And in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wept at his dead-end pile of rocks, pleading the Father for any other way. And God said, “No.”
The only way through is through.
And yet, the greatest curse ever inflicted upon a human being became the most profound, soul-melting, and captivating display of love this world has ever seen. Jesus dug through the rocks to save us. To bring forth a kingdom. To reunite heaven and earth.
Now that’s a story worth telling.
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?… Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.” – C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed