She waited in the great hall, standing at the precipice between yesterday and tomorrow, savoring the glorious in-between. Joy-filled voices floated just past her from the feasting room beyond, anticipation buzzing bright. The young bride mused contentedly at the crown in her hands. The graceful circlet of gold had not always borne such a royal shape—nor had she, for that matter. Her thoughts meandered back through the years to the day He had found her in the slums.
Like all of the other slaves, she was chained to a beast she both hated and needed. Each brute was unique in the pain it caused its followers though identical in its requirements: the price of a human soul. She had been born here in servitude, and when she was old enough to choose, she was shackled to the beast wearing a crown called Fear. It was insatiable, tearing at her fabric and clawing out any light that jumped to her eyes. Occasionally, the Master would pass by and teach Fear how to be even more barbaric to its slaves. Cruelty fast became an art form. This life of terrified suffering was all she had ever known.
And then He was there, stooping down in the mud to lift her chin, an unfamiliar compassion in His eyes. The sound of morning was in His gentle voice, pulling at her heart.
“Come, love. I have bought you out of this life. You don’t know me yet, but I am a different sort of master, kind and fair and good, knowing and loving you more deeply than you can fathom. My kingdom is large, my rule secure. You will be provided for, and Fear will become a distant memory. But the cost is the same—your life. Will you be Mine? Will you serve?”
She nodded, the tiniest spark of hope igniting in her chest. Could things really be different? He held out a golden key, the most dazzling object she had ever seen. As her chains were unlocked, the key turned into an ornate slave’s arm cuff. It glistened, and on it was her new master’s name, and a new name for her as well: Peace.
The transformation was instant, but at the same time, painfully slow. She served with joy and passion, daily becoming more confident in His love. Unlike Fear, He worked beside her, patiently teaching her how to meet the needs of His people. Occasionally, she would wander closer toward the slums, the beast raging for her; but each time, He caught her hand and wooed her back to the light. As seasons passed, Fear’s hold over her was cut off completely, and her cuff became the anklet of a daughter, the necklace of a sister, the ring of a friend, and today, the crown of a bride. Such love had never before been seen! Her heart nearly burst with the overwhelming sense of what had been done for her.
He called jubilantly to her from the feast, the same invitation He had given at first: “Come, love.” She shook off the last shadow of yesterday, and as she pushed open the door, a deep and radiant smile breaking across her face, an idea—bright, beautiful, and clear—presented itself, etching its truth into the marrow of her soul: without the shackles, she’d have never known the crown.