At fourteen, Skylar was a beauty. Long chestnut hair, bright blue eyes and a confidant stride, she was a popular freshman at her high school. Skylar’s friends were all established since grade school and she could be seen chatting and laughing with at least one of them constantly. It was rare to find her without a smile.
“Skylar, are you ready? It’s time for church.” Her mom looked anxiously toward the closed door and then at her husband.
Skylar rolled over in her bed and groaned. But what if I just don’t go? Her parents weren’t going to physically drag her. And so a seed of rebellion was dropped, nourished by friends, watered by culture. Privileges were taken away, encouragement was attempted, and the pastor even came to visit Skylar.
But her mind was made up. The life of religion sounded hard and boring.
On a day when she was home with nothing to do she began thinking about the small neighborhood church where she had attended so many years. Her face relaxed into a grin when she remembered the annual Christmas play that never came off quite right but was fun nonetheless.
From outside the sun seemed to shift from the clouds and a beam of it flowed right into her room. Skylar jumped up from the bed and ran to the window to feel the warming rays.
As she warmed in the sunlight and reflected on the fact that it seemed headed exactly for her room, Skylar saw a man outside in the distance. The sun was at his back and he was walking toward her.
Just outside by the old oak tree nearest her room, the man set down a box. Driven by curiosity, Skylar went outside. For some reason even standing right next to the man, she couldn’t make out his facial features. His long robe looked bizarre to a fashion conscious teen.
Putting his hand out as if to invite her to pick up the box, the man stood perfectly still and waited. Skylar touched the box. It was a black, rough and as she attempted to lift it – heavy. Skylar turned and went back inside.
Twice more during her lifetime the man came to her. Each time the offer was made of the black box. Once during childbirth, his face was right next to her but she still couldn’t make out the features. The box seemed lighter but still the ugly exterior made Skylar feel that nothing of value could be there.
The second time was at the death of her mother. The funeral parlor was filled with fragrance and she saw the man in glistening white sitting next to her dad. She went over to him but her dad was deep in conversation with the man and she didn’t want to interrupt.
During the eulogy the pastor lifted up the black box and invited people to check it out. As everyone else filed out, Skylar eased up to the black box and started to open the lid. At that exact moment, her husband came and took her hand away.
“We’ve talked about this.”
“You’re right. It’s just my mom …”
“I know.” And her husband held her close.
With frail hands, Skylar grasped the hospital sheet and tears slipped from her now faded blue eyes. Silver hair framed her face and was the first thing the chaplain noticed as he came into the room.
He talked softly with Skylar for a while about her life and her diagnosis. He watched as her face softened when she mentioned her daughter who had recently returned to her own family in Cleveland.
“Will she be back soon?”
Skylar smiled. “She wanted to stay but the doctor said I have a couple months. I told her to go back and spend time with her family.”
“So is there anything I can do to help?”
She looked into the merry brown eyes of the young man in front of her. He should know. Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, Skylar asked, “Can you tell me about the man? He has offered me a black box a few times but I have always walked away.”
The chaplain smiled. “Lots of people are afraid of the black box and so miss a lifetime of …” Here he stopped himself. Beginning again he said, “I’d be happy to tell you all about him.”
An hour later the chaplain had slipped quietly from the room and Skylar was left to her thoughts. In the corner, seated in the hospital chair, appeared the man she had seen at a distance and close up but never very clearly.
Now his features were sharply defined: a strong jawline, merry eyes, calloused hands, and a kind smile. He wore a red flannel shirt and jeans. Funny how eager she felt to talk to him.
As they spoke, Skylar found he was a good listener, better than anyone she had ever spoken with, and understood her so well. The room began to brighten and slowly the man’s clothes changed to iridescent white with a gold sash across his chest and a splendid crown on his head. How could she have missed this … obviously a king and she had spoken to him as a familiar friend.
Skylar got out of bed and bowed at his feet. He smiled down at her and extended a scarred hand to lift her to her feet.
Once again … he offered her the black box. Trembling hands received it and Skylar sat back in bed to open it up. For a moment she just looked at it and then back at him. It really wasn’t all that heavy.
Skylar gasped in surprise, for inside was nothing like the outside. The exterior was the enemy’s description of the box that Skylar had been deceived by … dark … rough … heavy to lift … impossible to carry … of no real value.
The first thing Skylar saw … beautiful silver and golden threads spun into a tapestry on a dark rich velvet lining. Skylar reached in and picked up … her cross.
The right size, with life lessons lovingly created especially for His beloved … that’s what’s in the black box that the enemy would have you avoid. So go ahead … pick it up … follow Him.