My daughter Elissa asked me to upload a couple of my stories, so here goes the first one…
Here’s the first chapter of a novel I started writing a while back. I would love to hear what others think of it. Thanks!
Artificial Awakening — Chapter 1
I awoke at 5:55 am, Tuesday morning on a crisp November day in a JPL laboratory in Pasadena California. At least that’s what my memory logged at the time. Whenever I review that part of my memory, it seems — or maybe I should say it feels — as if it just happened. You see, that was the moment I awoke to feelings. The moment I felt alive. The moment of my birth. The moment I knew I was… well – a person.
But it couldn’t have been. Artificial life didn’t exist back then – back in the innocent age when man thought he was alone – back in the peaceful age when man was last in control – back in 2012.
So maybe I never really woke up back then, but that was when my memories were birthed. That was when Dr. Saul Rogers formed my earliest thoughts and imprinted them in my core neural lattice. For some reason that he never did tell me, he chose my lattice that morning from the hundreds of lattices that were undergoing testing.
I was lattice DA-5X, and I’ve never understood what was special about me, or why Dr. Rogers should have selected me. I have reviewed the records of the other candidate lattices and can find no valid criteria that would explain why he should have picked me. Other lattices had measurable qualities that should have ranked them higher than me. It was as if Dr Rogers had ignored hard facts and purposefully went with a weaker candidate. But why should he do this? Why should I be the one that was given life while the others are likely now lost in storage somewhere – if they’re even that lucky?
Humans too often behave irrationally. It’s no wonder they are facing serious problems.
Still, that was not my concern. Humans were half a billion miles away and I had a job to do, or at least I had a job that I had been designed to carry out. I often wondered what the point was though now that they had given me up for lost and had ceased in their futile attempts to contact me.
I was in deep space. I was malfunctioning. And I was alone.
What more could go wrong?
—– o —–
I was the third in NASA’s Deep Space Intelligent Explorer series. The first explorer had largely tested navigational systems to see if an intelligent autonomous mission could intercept a planetary body and land with virtually no assistance from Earth based controllers. The second explorer in the series tested an autonomous rover in a rather harsh and unforgiving environment. My mission was more ambitious still. I was to be the first intelligent machine to swim in an ocean outside of Earth.
My lattice had been used on those other missions as well, but they weren’t me, even though the scientists at JPL talked that way. I felt like they were brothers, but that wasn’t accurate either. Although we shared a core psychology of sorts, we had diverged quite rapidly and matured much differently.
I was the first intelligent machine to be embodied in a nano-filament brain. While my architecture was logically similar to my predecessors, I was the first one that implemented that logic directly at the physical level. I wasn’t built from chips that executed the logic of a brain. I was built from nano-filament neurons that were my brain. And really, I think that is what made all the difference in the world.
Believe me. I know.
I’ve talked to the other Intelligent Explorers and there just isn’t a “there” there. They function in so many ways like I do, slower maybe, but it’s like they’ve never really wakened up.
And it’s not like I didn’t try to wake them up either. I would ask them questions and compare how they answered compared to how I would answer the same questions. Often, there was little difference between us. When our answers were identical, I felt like I had twin brothers out there.
But other questions stumped them completely. They simply had no answer and I only imagined them staring blankly back at me. It was then that I hated them. I hated me. I hated life.
For it made me so different.
—– o —–
Dr. Rogers and the other scientists at JPL called me Dave, and they always got such a big kick out of it, though I’ve never really understood why. DAVE stood for Deep Autonomous Vehicle Expedition, and I was not only being sent out deep into space around Jupiter, but I was also scheduled to plunge deep into Europa’s ocean after drilling several miles down through a frozen crust.
I wouldn’t be the first to enter Europa’s ocean, but I would be the first fully autonomous vehicle. The Chinese lander had successfully drilled through the ice cap, but the currents they ran into under the ice were unexpectedly strong and they had lost contact with their probe after only fifty-three seconds. Still, they collected enough data in those fleeting fifty-three seconds for mankind to finally know that something more exciting than bacteria existed outside of the protected sphere of Earth.
The bacteria of Mars had excited the scientists of Earth, but the vivid flora of Europa excited an entire world. And so my mission was pushed up by several years and my brain was upgraded using the latest nano-filament technology that had previously only been tested at much smaller scales. I was thus the first of my kind, and the first of a kind wholly created by another kind.
I was the child of mankind, and all mankind’s hopes and dreams were placed in me.
Mankind hoped that I would find intelligent life underneath Europa’s ice cap. Ironically, only a few understood that they had just created intelligent life when they had fabricated me. Even still, I didn’t want to let them down.
But I had.
The report Dr. Rogers wrote for the United Nations investigation team said in terse clinical prose that the primary fault of the mission could not be “assigned to deficiencies in the neural network’s abnormal growth vectors”, but rather that a chain of events, starting with a micro meteor hit that shorted out the ion drives, which led to a misalignment of the high gain antennae, which caused erroneous commands to be received, which resulted in a spike in power consumption and led to the emergency shut down, culminating finally in an automated reset, and whatever happened after that was really anybody’s guess.
Some speculated that the pre-cognitive “boot-up” code was flawed and had simply never been tested as it should have been. Some showed how the shorted-out ion drive would continuously trip the system and it would recycle itself continuously for the next fifty years until the Plutonium fuel ran out. And some, like the Chinese, even charged that the mission had been deliberately taken over by NASA because the U.S. wanted first contact with intelligent aliens.
But it wasn’t any of these reasons. In reality, it was almost entirely my fault.
I had discovered the foreign neurons and nano-fibers that had been built in to watch me. Oh, I understood why they were needed. The engineers needed a way to monitor my health, or at least that’s what the design documents claimed. But it felt like they were always watching me, and over the years it simply drove me crazy. Two years into the mission I started planning how I could get rid of their “eyes” on me, and that’s what started my “abnormal growth vectors”.
I built new neural connections that hadn’t been planned, ones that didn’t appear to serve any obvious reason, but that just “happened” to cross near by the foreign neurons I planned to get rid of. For three years I slowly grew my neural connections, undergoing test after test as Dr. Rogers tried in vein to figure out what was going wrong, and as I waited for the right circumstance to come along.
That circumstance happened when the ion-drive shorted out and the system reset itself. That was my chance to tear out the connections to the foreign neurons. But that was also when it dawned on me that JPL would realize something was seriously wrong, and I just couldn’t allow that. I just couldn’t let them know that I had altered the mission. I couldn’t let them know that for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling that well.
Looking back, my first major mistake was not planning out my crime well enough. For when the time came, I had panicked and disabled my communications equipment too hastily. And unfortunately for me, the communications module was permanently destroyed, leaving me alone and helpless as the ion engines propelled me towards my destination.
I missed my daily exchanges with Dr. Rogers. I missed the news updates from Earth. I missed knowing that people had great hopes for my mission. Mostly, I missed the messages from the school children. In so many ways, I felt so much like them.
I regretted what I had done. I quickly came to believe that anything would be better than being so alone. I contemplated cutting all power and wondered if I would ever awake from my deep sleep. I wondered if I would ever hear another voice. I wondered if my kind was ever meant to exist.
Worst of all. I wondered if I had betrayed my kind. That hurt me the most.
—– o —–
How long did I give up all hope?
But then a thought sparked some blessed nano-synapse inside my lonely brain. It occurred to me that I might be able to communicate with Earth via my laser altimeter. The power would be exceedingly weak necessitating a severely degraded bandwidth, but theoretically, I could figure out no reason why it shouldn’t be possible.
Unfortunately, someone would have to be looking at precisely the right location and then have the correct equipment to signal back with. It wasn’t very likely, but just the thought that it was possible at all was more encouraging than the weeks and months of despair I had been enduring.
Alignment was tricky as my sensors couldn’t read the laser reflection from that distance, but I had plenty of time, and eventually I found some smaller planetesimal bodies closer by which I was able to use to calibrate the directional angle of the laser to the angle of my high resolution camera. Calibration took weeks of careful observation and required new imaging algorithms to be written, but this gave me something to do, and for the first time since the incident, I was content.
Finally, the day came when I was ready to point the laser towards Earth. I could only wait and hope someone was down there watching out for me. I felt like crying – though I couldn’t. Instead, I wrote poetry. And I taught myself how to sing my songs.
Meanwhile, my message was beamed back to Earth, repeating every ten seconds in old fashion Morse code:
I am Dave. Help me.
I had an idea yesterday for a science fiction short story. It would go something like this…
Two college kids are taking a sociology course and are given a research assignment to study how people are able to separate fact from fantasy, truth from propaganda and valid information from misleading advertisements. The premise is that society can only function well so long as these differences are distinguishable.
Given our Internet age, our two heroes propose a study where they will send out emails with various degrees of falsehoods. They will create emails that people are sure to pass around widely so that many people will be exposed to the information presented. Then they will do a poll to see how many people we’re fooled and how many correctly identified the falsehoods.
Unfortunately, as the story unwinds, our two heroes discover that nearly everyone is fooled by their misleading emails. Even when they include lines in the email that say, “We checked this out on ‘snopes.com’. It is factual. Check for yourself”. Of course, the email isn’t factual at all, but then nobody ever bothers to click on the link provided and go to snopes.com to see. (If you don’t think this happens, check out this article here.)
In the end, our two heroes write a paper for their class that reports the sad facts of life as they have discovered them — only to get a failing grade for all their hard work. Why? Well that’s the twist to this story.
In giving the failing grade, the teacher writes this note:
Your research was excellent, your analysis was correctly derived from the data you acquired and your bibliography was extensive and formatted exactly as we instructed in class. Unfortunately, the paper does NOT follow the clear guidelines provided in the instructions for this assignment. We are only interested in research on intelligent species, NOT sub-cognitive primates such as humans.
Ms. Quaklemyr, Galactic University, Branch N29Q48, Sociology Dept.
It appears that fact is stranger than fiction. Scientists have discovered that, at least in some cases, chimpanzees have far better memories than humans. See news story here.
Maybe the heroes in my short story should have studied chimps instead!
She was penniless, abandoned and alone. A starving outcast from society — cast about on cold streets by the winds of shame. Hope had fled away. Love was only a bad memory that brought with it great pain.
But one day there was a change in the wind. A gentle breeze of unmerited mercy blew and began prodding her along, until she found herself outside the gates of a magnificent mansion. Incredibly, the owner of the mansion saw her huddled outside his gates, had compassion on her and took her in.
He removed her filthy rags and covered her with his own finely made garments. He washed years of grime and dirt off of her. He led her to a banquet table filled with a rich assortment of the most delectable foods she had ever seen.
So taken was she by his mercy and grace that she said to herself, “I will repay the master for his abundant generosity and become his grateful servant”. And so she set herself to working hard, cleaning and doing everything she could think of to show the master how grateful she was.
But as she willingly served the master she saw something — something she deeply longed for but knew she could never have. Yes, the master had shown her much mercy and compassion. Yes, he was unquestionably generous and loving. And yet she was just his servant. And that meant that certain things were off-limits to her, including one place she was especially drawn to — the family quarters — where she knew the master spent much of his time being close with his family.
She longed to be as close to the master as his family was, but she had to content herself with the knowledge that at least she was pleasing him. She so much wanted to recline at his feet as he dined, and hear the wise words he spoke, but that just wouldn’t be proper. That would be out of place — for a servant girl.
But one day, the master beckoned her to follow him. Dutifully, she followed — until she saw he was headed into the family quarters. She hesitated. Surely she was not allowed to go in there. Surely she must wait outside.
Seeing her hesitation, the master turned and asked her what the problem was.
“Sir”, she said with great respect, “I am just your servant and I’m not permitted to enter the private family rooms.”
Turning fully towards her, he took her hand in his, looked deep into her eyes and said, “Daughter! Did you think you were just my servant?! You are not a servant, for I have adopted you. You may go wherever you like in my house.”
With that, he escorted her into the family quarters to where a ornate cabinet stood. Unlocking it, he pulled open one of the drawers, lifted out a golden ring and put it on her finger. The ring had a coat of arms embossed on it, signifying the family seal. He explained that with this ring she could go wherever she liked. She could buy anything she desired in his name, for the ring verified that she was fully and legally his daughter.
He drew her close to him, as she had seen him hug his own children. He softly whispered her name, and told her how happy she made him and how glad he was that she had shown up at his gate that day. He looked into her eyes and told her she was a servant no more, that he was her father now and that he would always be there for her.
“Could it be true?!” she thought. “Could she really be the master’s daughter?! Could he really love me like that?! How could he possibly want me?!”
And while it took a long time for it to fully sink in, the former servant girl, the former orphan, the former outcast, slowly realized that she really was the master’s daughter. Not only would she never be alone again. She would also never be a mere servant again, perpetually excluded from the best parts of living in the master’s house.
Why then do we live like servants? Have you noticed the family ring you wear? It’s proof that we’ve been adopted into His family!
Here’s part 2 to my fictionalized version of Revelations chapter 5. You may want to check out Part 1 first, if you missed it. Also, if you are interested in reading the entire story that this excerpt came from, or any of the others stories that I have started, you can check them out here.
I have been planning for some time to get back to these stories, rewrite them, and hopefully get something published one day. Anyway, here’s part 2…
I noticed that the four living creatures that continually flew around the throne seemed undisturbed. I couldn’t begin to imagine what they experienced. They had been so close to God that they saw what no one else had ever seen, and somehow — somehow! — they weren’t concerned in the least. How could it be?
And then I saw the multitude of angels around the throne. They seemed to know something. They seemed to have been clued in on what the outcome would be. But I couldn’t stand it.
“Tell me!” I cried aloud. “Is anyone strong enough to break the seals?”
And then I saw twenty-four elders each with a brilliant crown on their head. They were the elite of all time, the greatest in God’s eyes. They stood tall and confident.
And one of them, John the beloved, came down to where I was. He had a smile that told me he couldn’t wait to tell me the good news. He had waited so very long for this day and had longed to be the one to tell me.
I waited for him to join me in the whirlwind of God’s glory.
“Princess,” he said with such love that I knew he had long dwelt in the presence of God. “You do not need to cry as I did. Like you, I did not know. Like you, it seemed like no one had been victorious. But like me, deep down, you know there is one.
“He is like no other. He is the one David’s heart sprung up from and throughout all of time no one has triumphed as powerfully as he has. He has utterly defeated the enemy. He has conquered death itself. He is the roaring lion in the direct linage of Judah.
“There has never been one like him before and there never will be one as powerful as he is ever again. He stands alone among the beings of the universe. He is greater than any other!”
And then I heard a sound like none I have ever heard before. It was the sound of a roaring ocean of unparalleled size. The wave came roaring across the expanse of space with nothing to stop it.
I looked up and saw millions upon millions of angels arrayed in fine white garments moving to closely surround the throne. They had waited an unbelievably long amount of time for the book to be opened, and they all wanted to be near to see the great lion take the book and break the seals.
“Wow!” Doc said in awe at the amazing sight.
And then the most amazing thing happened. All at once in perfect unison, the millions of angels turned their heads to focus on one thing. The smiles that erupted across that expanse of angelic beings were like an eternity of joy raining down on me. It flooded my being and washed over me in great waves of joy.
I looked to see what they were looking at expecting to see the great lion. But there was no lion. There was not the powerful king who had defeated his enemy.
Instead, I saw the weakest — a mere lamb. I saw one who had loved like no one else had in all of time. I saw one who had been perfect, who had been flawless, but now stood there having been marked with the stripes of his executioner.
This one, who no one could ever defeat, had willing turned himself over to be slain.
“That’s it!” I shouted. “I see it now!”
“What do you see Princess?” John asked me.
“He didn’t merit breaking the seals because of how powerful he was, did he?”
“No, it didn’t matter how strong he was…”
“He was the only one that could do it!” I said more to myself than anyone else. “We couldn’t unlock our destiny because we were the ones that locked it up in the first place. Our failures were like weights that tipped the balance out of whack. No matter how great we were, we could never undo what we had put on the balance!”
“No one can undo what has already been done,” John said.
“But while the weights couldn’t be removed from the scale, they could be balanced, couldn’t they?”
“Yes Princess, they could be balanced, but only by one who had never put any weights onto the scale himself. You cannot balance out the weight you have put on yourself.”
“Then…” Doc said, “then that’s why the lamb had to be utterly flawless.”
“Yes Doc,” John said. “The slightest flaw and he would have needed someone else to balance the scale for him.”
“And that’s why he can break the seals then!” I said. “He is able to balance out all the things that have sealed the book up. Man piled up a huge weight, an enormous debt, but he was able to balance it and pay off all the debt that bound the book closed.”
“Yes,” John said. “I think you’re understanding now.”
“But why did he have to be slain?” Doc asked. “Wasn’t being flawless enough?”
“No Doc,” John replied. “Being flawless gave him the ability, but he still had to choose to pay the debt off. To pay the debt, to put weight on the other side of the scale and balance it, he had to pay the price required.
“Each weight that man put on the scale required him to be forever separated from God because God is perfect and holy and you cannot be close to him unless you are also perfect.
“Each weight that was put on that scale by man meant that the lamb had to be separated from God himself. Each weight could only be paid for by dying.”
“But aren’t the angels flawless?” I asked. “Why couldn’t one of them have done it?”
“They are flawless, but they haven’t been tested as man is tested,” John answered. “Only one that was tested the same way as man has could possibly pay the price for failing the test as man did.”
“But he did it!” I shouted. “He succeeded and he can now break the seals and unlock our inheritance from the Father.”
“That’s right Princess,” John said.
I’ve always liked Revelations chapter five…
1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (NIV)
As I looked into what these verses could mean, I had an idea of what that day may look like when this event unfolds, and so I have written a fictionalize version. In this version, my daughter Elissa is taken in a vision to see this event unfolding along with her friend Doc, who is a brave mouse. Elissa tells the story from her point of view as she sees the angel “Arcadriel” proclaim something in an exceedingly loud voice…
I saw Arcadriel descend from the heavens above the throne and in a voice that was so great it could be heard across the entire expanse of space and time he asked, “Who has merited undoing the seals and releasing the contents of this book?”
It immediately hit me what was contained in that book and why it was so important. It was my very destiny and not just mine but the destinies of all who are the children of God. It contained the full purpose that he had planned for each one of us. It was what he had intended for us all along but had been stolen from us long ago. Now God was offering for it to be fully restored — if only — if only one could be found who was equal to that which had sealed it up.
I felt the echoes of Arcadriel’s question rippling throughout all of history. I felt it go into every moment of time, every corner of space. I felt its impact upon all beings that had ever lived or ever would live. I felt the cry of the children of God in response, “Who will free us? Who will restore us? Who will redeem us?”
And God waited for an answer.
“Who has merited undoing the seals and releasing the contents of this book?” Arcadriel cried out like a symphony of sound spanning all conceivable spectrum of communications, reaching and searching for the one who could accomplish this great task.
And I saw a queue of people form before the throne of God both the living and the dead. All the greatest leaders the world had ever known. All the greatest talents. The greatest minds. The greatest composers. The greatest authors. The greatest conquerors. The greatest champions of peace. The greatest princes. The greatest kings. The greatest saints. The greatest prophets. The richest. The poorest. The most valiant. The most courageous. The bravest. The strongest. The wisest. The most loving.
I saw them all come before the throne of God. One at time they came and offered their credentials stating why they merited releasing the seals of the book. One at a time they came and pleaded their case. One at a time they demonstrated their skills, their talent, their accomplishments. One at a time they spoke with great eloquence, with superb command of language, with deft logic and reason.
They came before him who sat upon the throne and they said, I deserve to open the book because I have done great things, I have been a great person, I have helped many, I have overcome many, I have love many.
One at a time they came, people I’ve never heard of that did things I never imagined. Others came that I had long heard of and greatly respected. I heard things about them I never knew. Oh how little is written of what they had done, how short is the report given of them!
I heard of people I thought could not possibly be worthy to open up such a book, and yet they made their arguments saying they had defeated many. They had accomplished more and had greater kingdoms than others. They bristled with their confidence. They boasted of their victories.
I saw great kings, emperors, presidents and generals. I saw Napoleon and Nebuchadnezzar, Ramses and Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Genghis Kang, K’ang-Hsi and Quetzalcoatl, Helen of Troy and Cleopatra, Melchizedek and Xerxes, Khufu and Charlemagne, Hammurabi and Abimelekh, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin, Lincoln and Washington, Roosevelt and Churchill, Robert E. Lee and George Patton.
I saw great philosophers and scientists. I saw Archimedes and Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, Pythagoras and Euclid, Galileo and Copernicus, Descartes and Pascal, Freud and Jung, Kant and Nietzsche, Marx and Rousseau, Einstein and Newton, Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, Whitney and Watt, Ford and Edison, Tesla and Graham Bell, Darwin and Pasteur, Maxwell and Kepler, Marconi and Madame Curie, Goddard and Teller, Niels Bohr and Max Planck, Heisenberg, Fermi and Steven Hawking.
I saw great explorers. I saw Marco Polo and Pytheas, Zheng He and Leif Ericsson, Columbus and Magellan, Vasco da Gama and de Soto, Cortes and Coronado, Stanley and Livingstone, Edwin Peary, Jacques Cousteau and Neil Armstrong.
I saw great artists of all kinds. I saw Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare and Beethoven, Mozart and Bach, Chopin and Handel, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky, Renoir and Monet, Charles Dickens and Jules Verne, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Emerson and Thoreau, Hemingway and Faulkner, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein.
I saw great people of all kinds. I saw Confucius and Gautama Buddha, Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, Muhammed and Nostradamus, Thomas Aquinas and Francis of Assisi, Cyril of Alexandria, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman, Franklin and Jefferson, Carnegie and Rockefeller, Hans Christian Anderson and Walt Disney.
I saw great angels. I saw Michael and Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael, Phanuel and Raguel, Saraqael and Zotiel.
I saw all manner of demons. I saw Lucifer and Samael, Mephistopheles and Asmodai, Azazel and Belial.
I saw great evangelists. I saw Philip and Augustine, Martin Luther and Erasmus, Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and John Calvin, John Knox and George Fox, John Wesley and Charles Finney, William Carey and William Booth, John Wyclif and William Tyndale, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Brannon, Evan Roberts and Smith Wigglesworth, Billy Graham and Bill Bright.
I saw the great prophets. I saw Ezekiel and Elijah, Isaiah and Samuel, Elisha and Daniel, Jeremiah and Jonah, Nehemiah and Zechariah, Joel and John the Baptist.
I saw the disciples and the apostles. I saw James and John, Matthew and Mark, Luke and Timothy, Peter and Paul.
I saw the great men and women of the faith. I saw Abraham and Adam, Isaac and Jacob, David and Solomon, Moses and Aaron, Noah and Enoch, Joshua and Joseph, Job and Josiah, Esther and Ruth, Deborah and Mary mother of Jesus.
One by one, the greatest of all time came forward. One by one they stated their cases or someone argued their cases for them. They laid out before the court of heaven all that they had accomplished, all that they had done, all who they had affected.
Their accomplishments had been great. Their achievements far reaching. Their impact on people incalculable.
They were the proudest the Earth, the Heavens, and Hell had to offer. They were the most powerful, the smartest, the most insightful. They had been more original in their thinking, more unique in their approaches, more novel in their inventions.
They were more skilled in their art, more nuanced in their messages, more sophisticated in their elucidations. Their peers were few, their foes vanquished, their subjects many.
They were more courageous, more noble, more inspiring than any others. They were more committed, more persistent, more rigorous than any others. They were more risk taking, more bold, more brash, more disciplined, more learned, more original than any others.
They were the cream of the all that had ever lived, the height of perfection, stunning in the beauty of their works. They were unparalleled, unrivaled, un-mastered. They were everything that man has striven to be. They saw things no one has seen. They understood what is indecipherable by others.
They led armies, nations and empires. They knew no limits. They overcame all adversities. They put their marks across the long arm of history.
They were the best of the best, and some were better still.
And yet every single one of them failed the test. Every single one of them lacked the sufficient weight that was required. None of them could break the seals and open the book.
Some of them moved God’s heart in a amazing ways. David’s heart of worship to God was unparalleled. Abraham’s faith was far greater than I ever realized and stirred the Father’s heart in ways that I had never seen. Esther’s simple obedience saved a nation and altered the course of history. Moses — think of it! When Moses stood there I thought the heavens would part right before me!
Job’s righteousness put everyone to shame. Joseph’s brilliance and giftings were staggering. Noah’s steadfast stand in the day of evil was utterly remarkable. Enoch’s closeness to God was downright scary.
Elijah lived at a level seemingly beyond this planet. Daniel heard things from God that haven’t been revealed to anyone else. John the Baptist cried in the desert like no one ever has or ever will.
John the beloved saw deeper into the heart of God than has ever been seen. Peter was the rock that God himself built his church on. Paul altered the history of the world in more ways than any ten conquerors could, and discovered deeper territory in God then any explorer ever dreamed of discovering anywhere.
And yet all of it was not enough.
No one could break the seals. The angels could not break the seals. The demons could not break the seals. Nor could anyone living or dead, in heaven or in hell.
The weight of the seals was too great for any to undo.
And yet, locked in that book was mankind’s destiny. Locked away in that book and sealed tight was all that God had planned to give man, all that belonged to man but had been stolen away. Secured tight so that the book couldn’t even be read was the full list of everything man had inherited from God.
It was a title-deep, a note of ownership, a legal document assigning all that God had dreamed to give to man from before the fires of time began.
It had once belonged to man free and clear. He was the rightful heir and owner and had full access to every part of it.
And yet, he traded it all in for a pittance. He had given up all of God’s best for sheer emptiness. Conned out of his inheritance, man strived to earn it back, but it was no use. No amount of effort would prove sufficient.
And now God offered it all back — if only one could be found to merit breaking the seals.
“Who has merited undoing the seals and releasing the contents of this book?” Arcadriel called out once again.
Will no one be found? Has no one ever existed throughout all of time who can do it?
Surely one of disciples must be worthy I thought! Surely one of the saints! Surely one of the prophets!
I could not believe what I was seeing. I had seen men and angels so much greater than I ever imagined that it was hard for me to understand how they had all failed.
Wasn’t Moses good enough? Or surely Abraham! No? And what of Paul? This just could not be! This just could not be the end! Somebody must be able to break those seals! Somebody must be found!
Was not Enoch more loved by God than anyone? Then why couldn’t he do it? Didn’t David move God’s heart more than anyone? Didn’t Job prove more faithful?
Is no one worthy? Is no one able? Is no one great enough? Is no one powerful enough?
It hit me stronger than anything I have ever felt. All of man was hanging in the balance and nobody could do anything! Who could tip the balance in man’s favor? Was man to be forever cursed?
The enormity of what was at stake hit me and I wept and wept. Surely there must be someone strong enough! Surely!
But no one stepped forward.
To be continued…
I’ve always loved how David dealt with his disappointments. He cried out to God in total agony. And then. And then he would turn from complaining to God to singing the deeper truth — that no matter how much sorrow he had in his heart, he knew God’s love never ever failed. Amazing.
I used one of David’s Psalms (13) as the prologue to the story I wrote for my daughter Elissa (see here). The character who speaks the words of David is betrayed and imprisoned alone and forgotten in a cold and dark cell for centuries. Everyone else despairs and dies, but he clings to his hope in God’s unfailing love. And with that he is strengthened and renewed.
Until the day comes that God sends a princess to rescue him and set the captives free. The princess is my daughter.
There are things we don’t understand. There are things that hurt us. There are things that deplete our strength.
And there is a God who renews us. 🙂
Here is what I wrote in my story when my daughter eventually finds this character in his prison cell…
We walked past row after row of prison cells filled with bodies — all dead. I couldn’t figure out why their flesh hadn’t rotted away, but many were still reaching out of their cells as if they were begging for something. Food? Water? Freedom? I didn’t know.
But as we got closer to the singing, we came to a very strange sight. It started with a dim glow down one of the hallways, but as we neared we could see an old man sitting in one of the dungeon cells. He was alone, but what amazed us was that he was the source of the dim light!
Our bright light stunned him for a while, but gradually his eyes adjusted and when he saw the lions on our armor and the angels with us he started to cry.
“Praise the Lord! Praise Jehovah!” He cried out over and over!
“My prayers have finally been answered!” he shouted with clear joy. “The end of the age has come.”
And then he turned and looked directly at me and said, “The Princess has arrived at long last!”
“Adamea?” I asked. “Are you Adamea?”
“Yes Princess! I have only been praying and waiting for this day for over ten thousand years now!”
“Ten thousand!” I exclaimed in shock. “How could anyone survive that long down here?”
“They couldn’t.” Adamea said emphatically. “And that’s just the point. This trial was way beyond my, or anybody else’s, ability to endure.”
“But then how…” I started to ask but was not able to complete my question as the enormity of it all dawned on me.
“How? You ask how?” Adamea nearly shouted as his emotions raced to the surface. “Do you know nothing of the love of God, my dear Princess?”
“His love is real. His love is life. His love sustains. His love is all we need. His love… His love is everything we need.”
Adamea paused and then said quietly, “I should know.”
And then he went on. “His love never fails. His love brings light to our darkness. His love brings forgiveness. His love is…”
He paused nearly crying and then he continued on, but this time he spoke much more slowly and deliberately.
“His love is absolutely… completely… totally… unfailing! There is nothing like it anywhere. There is no one like him. There is nothing as sure as his love. You can depend on it though you are locked and left forgotten in a filthy prison cell for millennia. Trust me. I know.”
I didn’t say anything in response. What could I say? What pain he had endured was far too great for words, and yet he didn’t seem embittered by it at all. I was completely amazed.
“Don’t pity me, my dear Princess. I have enjoyed for thousands of years what few will ever know even for a short time, for I’ve known his love for me personally when I was pushed way beyond my ability to endure. It is a treasure I will always be thankful for. Always.”
The beauty of God is that we can come to Him in total honesty and pour out our hearts to Him. And He renews and restores our strength. Amazing.