For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4: 15-16
It felt odd to have both feet on solid ground that didn’t sway. Even though, we had docked over a day ago, I wanted to wait on my spy to return with intelligence of the locals. Instead, we made camp on the beach. Anxiety began to worm its way into my thoughts. What if I am leading my men into danger? My spy deftly returned to camp without drawing attention. In like manner, the young teenage boy who none would suspect came to my side. “Fairly prosperous and thriving town. Plenty of resources. No obvious military presence.” With a curt nod of thanks, I dismissed the young boy, and we parted ways without ever making eye contact. It was almost time to head out.
I gathered the men to delegate tasks. Some I told to stay behind to finish repairs and guard the ship. With some hesitation, I left Marcus in charge of that. I really wanted my most trusted friend to stay with me to keep me accountable and levelheaded, but I knew he was in no shape for an arduous journey on foot. “Rest of you, come with me. Let’s find Harmony,” I ordered. The remaining dozen or so began to gather their meager belongings. Everyone was careful to hide their weapons under their cloaks. I was no exception. There was no need to draw unwanted attention to ourselves. To a few individuals, I asked to keep an eye out for horses for sale.
By the time we reached the outskirts of the town on foot, we could hear laughs and music in the air. This felt oddly familiar. I sent out the assigned men to procure the essential items from the town, the rest of us walked toward the public. If anyone knew the information, I would find it here. Torches were lit along the pathway leading to the throng of people. Then I saw jugglers and acrobats. As we got closer, I could feel my heartbeat increase in tempo. Could this be the Lost Circus?
I didn’t recognize anyone. After asking a passerby, I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that it was merely a local carnival. I could finally get to business. Within minutes, my remaining crewmembers fanned out among the crowd to find any information on Harmony/Harper’s whereabouts. I went from stall to stall asking the carnies and the townsfolk. Every few minutes, my eyes couldn’t help but gravitate toward the betting booths and card tables. After an hour of talking to strangers, I got nothing pertinent. Even my people were meeting difficulty. Just when we were about to give up, my crewmember Lucas found me with news, “Madame Lucia may know how to help. Someone told me that if anyone would know she will.”
I told the other men to keep their ears open as I followed Lucas to a small purple tent. Once I spied the sign “Fortune Teller”, I was beginning to lose hope before the encounter. “Lucas, I can take it from here. Go on and see if you can find out anything else.” The older gentleman nodded and sauntered off into the throng.
As soon as I opened the curtain of the tent and entered the dimly lit interior, my eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness and focused on a table at the center. I sat down on the available seat, but I saw no signs of Madame Lucia. Was she on her dinner break?
I suddenly felt two hands grasp my hands from across the table. It was then that I noticed that Madame Lucia has somehow sitting in front of me wearing a very smug smile. She wasn’t what I had imagined. To be honest, she was breathtaking. Long blonde flowing curls reached down to her waist. With ruby red lips against porcelain skin, she looked more like a living doll than a fortune teller.
Clearing my throat, I began my entreaty, “Madame Lucia, tell me if you know the whereabouts of a woman named Harper who now goes by the name Harmony.”
Ignoring my words, Madame Lucia traced one fingernail across my eye patch and smiled, “You look so distinguished…I don’t think you’re as fearsome as other people perceive. Am I right?” Before I could reply with an intelligible answer, she continued with a different tone, “I will help you, but only if you are able to face yourself and leave this tent.”
“So be it,” I said confidently not fully understanding what the woman meant. Out of nowhere, blue flames consumed Madame Lucia and in her place was someone I never imagined seeing ever again. “Well, Cole, fancy seeing you here. What’s wrong? You look like you just saw a ghost,” he said with derision.
He was more than a past ghost. He was the embodiment of my failures, regrets, and enslavement. This demon before me was none other than my dead self, Rick. My chair fell backwards as I stood to face him. Then I realized that my surroundings had changed. We were no longer in the tent. Instead, we were in the one place that I was my weakest: the Reveling Club. There were scantily clad women pressing themselves against me and writhing to the music. I could smell the sickly sweet scent of cigars mixed with alcohol in the air. That wasn’t what seized my body. No, it was the sounds of the dice being thrown against the table, the clatter of chips being slid, and the clicks of the roulette table spinning that captured my attention.
Without even realizing it, I was already standing by the poker table salivating at the cash being thrown about. My fingers tingled with anticipation. “Go ahead. You earned it. Play. Have some fun,” Rick whispered over my shoulder. I wanted to play the game so badly that my heart ached, but I reluctantly closed my eyes and took a few steps backward.
“No, I am not going to fall for your tricks. I won’t be controlled by lust, drinking, or gambling anymore. That’s not part of me anymore!” I said breathlessly.
Rick began laughing uncontrollably until tears began rolling down, “Wow, do you actually believe the bull you’re saying right now, or are you just that naïve?” With a snicker, he walked into my personal space and jabbed a finger into my chest repeatedly. “I may not be in control primarily anymore, but don’t you dare forget that I’m still inside here waiting for the most opportune time to come out and play.” His words somehow felt like daggers into my weakening composure.
Rick continued with his tirade, “I saw you staring longingly at those betting tables. You are nothing but a slave to your addictions.” Then with a mocking smirk, he leaned in closer, “Stop fighting me all the time. What’s so wrong with enjoying your life? Just give in to your desires.”
He was right. Yeah, I was given a new identity as Cole, but I’m still on the brink of regressing back to the version of myself standing arrogantly before me. Just before I could succumb to the mounting weight, I heard the sweetest of voices cut through the doubts of my heart, “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Son, you are washed, sanctified, and justified by MY name.”
“Ha, thank you for the reminder Comforter,” I said with a laugh. As I looked at Rick, I could finally see the broken, abandoned, and afraid version of myself. With a confidence that could only come from the King, I began to speak with authority to Rick, “You’re right. You will be constantly warring within me until I draw my last breath, but as long as I can call on my Father I will be victorious every single time.”
Just like that, Rick disappeared like smoke, and I had returned to the tent. With a grateful heart to Father for literally saving me from myself, I left the darkness and walked out into the open to meet with Madame Lucia. I won this battle, and I have no doubt that I will win this war with the King’s help.