“No. No. No. No. No.” This was all that my three-year-old was saying as we drove down our street.
“Faith,” I asked from the front seat of the car. “What are you doing?”
“I’m saying ‘no’ to all the houses that aren’t mine.” As we turned into our driveway, she said, “Ye-e-e-s!!!” And I was glad that she knew where she lived.
I remembered our recent trip to Rippavilla Plantation in Spring Hill, TN. On a hayride at the back of a corn field, we stopped for a little history lesson. Our driver pointed out the only remaining slave house on the plantation. It had no electricity, no running water, and it seemed far away from the big house we passed at the entrance. It reminded me of a story picture that my mentor Mary Grace Birkhead taught me.
There was a girl who had lived as a slave all her life on this grand estate. One of her jobs was to pick up rocks off the road, so the Master’s carriage would not hit them. One day as she was picking up rocks the Master’s carriage came down the lane. Much to her surprise the carriage stopped right in front of her. The Master himself got out of the carriage and told her that he was going to adopt her. She would live in the big house on the hill as his daughter.
Before she could even begin to understand what was happening. She found herself in her own room in the Master’s house. Her old worn out dress made from rags was replaced with a beautiful gown cascading down her shoulders into a flowing skirt. From her private balcony on the second floor, she looked down on the road where she had been just a few hours before picking up rocks. Even though she was overwhelmed with gratitude to the Master, a part of her wished she was out there picking up rocks because that’s what she knew how to do. She didn’t know how to be a princess.
The next morning, overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, she realized she knew nothing about being a princess. Sitting at the Master’s table did not feel natural. She tried to clear the table dishes, but he gently reminded her that she didn’t have to do that because there were other people who would serve her. She tried helping the maid clean the stairs, but the maid said she didn’t have the right clothes and sent her off to get a manicure instead. While the servant did her nails, she kept telling herself she didn’t deserve this kind of lavish treatment. She tried in her brain to figure out why the Master had chosen her and not the other servants along the road. She felt guilty sitting there being waited on while everyone else was working.
The next day she decided to go back out to the road because this princess life was not for her. She searched her room, but her old clothes were nowhere to be found. But she couldn’t stay in the big house a second longer. She picked up the skirt of her beautiful gown, kicked off her jeweled slippers and ran down the long lane. She started picking up the rocks out of the road. At least out here, she knew what her job was. She knew what was expected of her, even if it was just picking up rocks. She knew what the rules were in her simple little cabin. How foolish she looked picking up rocks in her princess dress! How foolish it is to trade the life of a princess for the life of a slave!
When I heard my daughter rejecting all the houses that weren’t hers, I wished that it were that easy for me to reject my old ways of life, my old patterns of fear and shame, my need for perfection and control. I wished I could always see that house for what it is: a slave house. I go back there because the good news of living in the big house with the King is just too good. I go back hoping to find comfort in old idols and patterns of control.
“No. No. No. No. No.” I can’t go back there anymore. I must say yes to living in the big house, even though I’m full of shame and fear. I must choose to stay with my Father and let him remind me that I belong to him. I must choose to step into my true identity as His Beloved Daughter, His Princess. There I will find rest. There I am free. “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.” Psalm 27:4
Where will you live today?