I dreamed a dream of love, and in my dream I saw a lonely traveler, Celeste, and another lonely traveler, Peter. Each was walking on the way to the King’s City, for they wanted to live life as it was meant to be, whole and holy in a world set right.
Celeste had just started on the journey, for she had grown up in Slouching City where no one ever talked about the King of Love or the rule of His realm. The inhabitants there were clever and cunning, and they were always inventing new machines to do the work of living. But in recent generations the once-magnificent city had begun to sink into a slow and dismal ruin. When it rained, the old drains overflowed with sewage and left a perpetual odor in the air. The outer ramparts were crumbling, and the fences were in dreadful condition. Still, people liked to boast about how wonderful it was to live in a place where they could do whatever they pleased.
As a child, Celeste had often walked among the broken ram- parts. If she pushed away the ivy and scraped off the moss, she found, chiseled into the stones, fragments of ancient songs that told of a King’s love for the torn world and His Son who came as the Servant to mend the tear. Like almost everyone else in Slouching City, Celeste’s parents thought the songs were nonsense. But Celeste’s grandfather still knew the old melodies. Every time he sang songs of the Servant’s selfless love and the restored wholeness He wanted to give, Celeste felt a deep ache in her soul.
After her grandfather died, she tried to hold on to the prom- ise of the beautiful songs. But her friends teased her when she mentioned the King or the hope of His city. So she grew up and learned the ways of the world: how to push to get ahead and how to grab all she could. Most of the time, she thought she was happy enough, but there were moments when she realized that deep down she felt very lonely. Although life in Slouching City was full of comfort and ease, there was no machine that could create love or keep it alive when it began to fade. As the years went by, she yearned to find a love that would never change or die.
Then one day she found the King’s guidebook her grandfather had left. She went back to the broken ramparts to read it. Captivated by the poems and history and visions and stories, she hummed along as she read, for she could hear the echo of her grandfather’s songs. Soon tears began to stream down her cheeks; to her grown- up heart the old songs sounded even more hopeful than before.
Every afternoon Celeste returned to the ramparts to study the guidebook and learn more about the King. Just as the songs had said, He loved every person in the world. He had sent His Son, the Servant, not to condemn men and women, but to bring them back home to His city where they would be part of His family for- ever. For He loved them enough to give them His life, first by dying for them and then by giving them His very Breath.
The more Celeste read the guidebook, the more she longed to experience the love of the King and to make her way to His city. But every time she thought about starting the journey, she gave up the idea. All of her outfits were stained and ripped from years of playing in the back lanes of Slouching City. She didn’t see how she would be allowed into the King’s City wearing such shabby clothes. The doorkeeper would think she was an imposter—not a daughter of the King—and turn her out.
But one day when she came to the ramparts, she found a spotless cloak of fine white linen. “This is My robe of righteousness to cover the stains of your guilt,” she heard the King say to her. “Come and take it, because I want you to be My beloved daughter.”
Celeste gazed at the bright, radiant robe which was perfect in every way. She could hardly believe that the King would let her wear it. Then she became very sad. “But I have no money to buy such a wonderful robe.”
“You cannot pay for it. It is a free gift,” the King said. “My Son purchased it for you.”
Celeste hesitated a moment, then she took the robe and put it on. The transformation was instantaneous: she had become a member of the King’s family. She beamed with delight. Now she could start her journey to His city. “Thank you, thank you,” she told the King.
“As you follow the trail I have blazed to My city, go with joy and remain always in My love. Your great adventure begins!”
Like a powerful wind pouring through her being, the Breath of the King filled Celeste—never had she felt so light and free. Then, on the other side of the ramparts, a path opened before her. Hurrying to it, she started on her way. As soon as she stepped out of Slouching City, a glorious country appeared before her, and it seemed that she was looking at the world for the very first time. The sky was bluer than she had ever seen, and there were so many birds singing, it sounded like a symphony. The air held a fra- grance whose sweet-smelling bouquet was deeper and fuller than any perfume made in Slouching City. She took one last look at its tumbled-down walls. Now in the bright sunlight, she could see what a small, dark place the city was. Then she turned. Grateful to leave it behind, she set her gaze on the far horizon, and headed to the King’s City.
That first day of Celeste’s journey the path was straight and flat, bordered with soft ferns. She swung her arms as she walked, singing the King’s songs out loud and smiling at the beauty she saw all around. She expected the journey would be smooth and easy the entire way. However the next day, the trail became studded with tree roots and stubby stones. The years she had spent pacing the dead-end alleys of Slouching City had left her legs weak. By early afternoon, she was exhausted. But she pressed on, working to strengthen her flabby muscles.