Sunday, January 15, 2012

The King’s Parchment

Once upon a time, there was a noble, rich king. He lived in a beautiful palace with many luscious gardens and courtyards. He had valiant steeds, healthy flocks and thriving fields. His wealth was said to be greater than the average man could even imagine. He had a beautiful queen and many children whom he loved dearly. As these children reached adulthood, they decided to go out into the world to seek their fortunes and see what it was like outside of the safe, protected palace.

Their father, the King, agreed with this plan because he knew that the experiences of the outside world would make his children stronger in character and compassion thus making them more fit to rule as kings and queens when they returned. But he also mourned because he knew that it would be very hard for all of them and he feared that some of them might not remember how much he loved them and they might forget the things he had taught them. It might be a long, long time until they came home to him.

But he kept these things in his heart and sent his children off with a smile, good food, a strong horse for each, and a letter telling how much he loved them and longed for them to come home. He also gave each of them a sheet of parchment and a pen. “This parchment,” he told them, “is magical. When you write upon it, the writing appears in a book that I keep with me at all times. You will never run out of room to write and I will always read what you write to me. Please use it to tell me how you are doing, what you need, and how I can help you. Please ask me because I cannot help you unless you ask. I love you so much and I long to give you all I have. God speed, my children.”

At these words the children joyfully embraced their father and set out on their journeys with smiles on their faces and hope in their hearts. Before long, they came to a village. In this village, there were many things that entertained and fascinated the young princes and princesses. There were delicious banquets and wonderful parties. Some of the young royals forgot what their father had taught them about health and proceeded to eat and drink themselves into a stupor. Others had such a good time that they forgot all about their father and the magical parchment. They made new, exciting friends who showed them many ways to fill their days and have fun.

One young princess named Hope was concerned by how flippant her brothers and sisters had become. She wrote to her father about it and soon he sent her a message encouraging her to hold firm to what he had taught her and to love her brothers and sisters despite their weakness; perhaps the time would come when she could remind them of what he had taught them. So, she faithfully stayed true to what her father had taught her. She loved everyone and quietly served the people of the village in her own simple way.

After a time, the other children found the novelties that had been so interesting empty and unfulfilling and they sought other forms of amusement. Hope meekly suggested they try giving service and kindness to others as their father had taught them, but they laughed at her and called her a silly baby. They then decided to continue on their journey. There wasn’t anything worthwhile in this dumpy old village anyway, they reasoned. Hope sadly said goodbye to her friends and joined her siblings when they left the next morning. After all, they were her brothers and sisters and her father had said to love them and stand by them.

The journey was rough and many of the king’s children complained constantly. But Hope was able to find joy in the journey by writing her father about the things she was grateful for every night. One night, her brother Robert came to her and asked her why she was so happy all the time. She eagerly told him that she could only attribute it to her nightly letters to their father and the comfort that he sent her in return. She told him how she would look for things to be grateful for all day and then tell the king about it at night. That night, Robert searched in his saddlebags. At the very bottom, stained by spilt water, covered with bread crumbs and dirt he found the parchment his father had given him. He grabbed his pen and wrote,

“Dear Father, I am sorry I have not written you and I am ashamed to tell you that I have not obeyed the things you taught me when I lived with you. I have sinned in so many ways and I wouldn’t blame you at all if you never responded to this letter. I know I wouldn’t if I were you. But Hope has told me how much comfort she receives from her letters to you, so I thought I would try it. I’m sorry, Father for ignoring you. I love you.

Your Son, Robert

P.S. I am grateful that Hope is my sister.”

As he continued to write his father every night, Robert found that his spirits lifted and his nightly gratitude letters became longer and longer. One day he noticed that his parchment was no longer stained and dirty. It was almost clean and as he continued to write on it, it became whiter and whiter until it was as white as Hope’s. Some time after he first wrote to his father, he received a message from his father, telling him how happy he was that Robert had written him and that all the wrongs he had committed were forgiven. The king told Robert how much he loved him and gave him many instructions that Robert tried very hard to obey. Of course, it was difficult and sometimes he failed, but he kept trying and he had the constant joy of knowing his father loved him and was pleased with his efforts. He tried to share his newfound joy with his brothers and sisters, but they just laughed at him.

One day, Hope received a message from her father that almost broke her heart. After the king’s children had left the village, Hope had rescued a little baby boy from a wild dog. She had nursed his cuts, fed him from her food, and loved him as if he had been her own. The message she received from her father told her that she must return the little boy to his mother who apparently lived in the next town. When she went to give the little boy back, she found the mother living in a squalid alleyway with mangy dogs and other filthy children that she could barely afford to feed. She almost didn’t give the baby back, but she knew she had to obey what her father told her to.

But she wasn’t happy about it. That night she wrote a short terse note to her father then went to bed. The next day she wrote a short message so she wouldn’t be neglecting her duty to her father, but she found no joy in it. She continued to do this for a week before she decided that it was stupid to do something that she didn’t even want to do, so she stopped writing her father altogether. She couldn’t understand why he would ask her to do something so hard. That mother obviously didn’t have the means to take care of another child. The dogs would surely hurt him again. That mother had so many children, what did it matter if Hope took care of one of them? Hope had been doing a better job of it anyway. Why? Why would her father make her give up the only thing she felt she couldn’t give up? Didn’t he love her?

Robert noticed that his sister was unhappy and after days of seeing her suffer, he finally pulled her aside and asked her what was wrong. She sobbed out her grief to him and asked him how their father could be so cruel to ask her to give up her baby. He held her quietly for a moment and then pulled out the letter that their father had given them when they had first left his presence. He found his place and read, “My dear daughters and sons, as you go on your journey you will face many hard things. Some of your burdens I will lift from your backs as soon as you ask. But some of them are necessary for you to experience to become true kings and queens. The fact that I don’t lift your burdens doesn’t mean that I don’t love you; it means that I love you enough to let you grow. I may ask you to do hard things, but this also is because I love you. All things that are taken from you will be restored tenfold. I love you so much, please don’t forget me.”

Robert turned his sister’s face towards him, “Hope, Father loves you very much. I don’t know why he asked you to give up Baby Albert, but I do know that he would not ask you to do anything that would not be better for you in the long run. And it will be better for you in the short run too, but you have to accept Father’s decision and ask him to give you peace about it.” Hope thanked her brother for his love and concern for her and asked for some time alone. He left her and she spent several hours writing a letter to her Father. When she came back to camp, she was much happier.

Very soon afterwards, one of their brothers became very ill. He could barely eat and drink and it was a major struggle for him to even sit up. His brothers and sisters tried everything they could think of for several days, but James didn’t get any better. They began to get very worried because they were miles and miles from the nearest town where they could food and drink. One morning, they held a solemn council and decided to leave James with Hope and their brother, Dalvin, while the rest of them would continue on to find water and more supplies. They set out that afternoon, promising to be back in three days at the most. Day after day passed and the water and food supply began to run alarmingly low. Then the morning came when the water ran out.

Hope had been writing her father about their predicament for days, but when the water ran out she decided it was time to include her brothers in her efforts. They agreed to write to their father and that afternoon they gathered together and wrote imploring letters to their father. As Dalvin and Hope were helping James get ready to go to bed that night, they were startled to hear a rider coming into their camp. He swung out of the saddle and introduced himself as a physician sent by their father to help James. As he hurried to the tent, he told them to unload his pack horse and help themselves to the food and water they would find. Under the physician’s competent care, James quickly recovered and when their siblings returned with food and water they found him fully ready to continue on their journey.

From then on, James always wrote his father a letter when he was struggling. When things were going well, he kind of forgot to write his father, but at least he knew where to turn when he was having a hard time. He sometimes wondered why it took him so much longer to get through his hard times, while they seemed to pass faster and easier for Robert and Hope. But he certainly didn’t let it concern him too much. Maybe they were just better at faking that things were going well.

Dalvin gave it a little more thought and decided that he’d better write his father more often. He forgot some nights, but he found that the journey was much easier and happier when he wrote. After a while, he realized that he was writing every night and by reflecting on his day he was better able to cement the lessons he’d learned during the day. And he was able to become closer to Hope and Robert and learn from them too.

As the siblings journeyed for years, they learned many more things. Dalvin found how wonderful it is to love someone even when they are being stubborn and insisting on being miserable. Robert learned how joyful it is to show someone else how much their Father loved them and longed for them to come back. Hope learned how quickly and abundantly their Father would respond to her requests as long as it was best for her. They all learned to trust their father and his instructions implicitly.

Then one day, many years after they had left him, they received a message from their father asking them to come home to him. Their hearts sang with joy and they invited their siblings to come with them. Only a few decided to come and they sadly left the others to continue on their journey. The journey back to their father seemed much shorter than it did when they were leaving him and soon they arrived at the beautiful palace. They ran into their father’s arms and embraced their beautiful mother. They told them how much they missed them and how glad they were to finally be home.

Then they sobered and told him that many of their brothers and sisters had decided not to come back to him. His face saddened and he said, “I know. This has caused me much sorrow, but the time will come when they will remember how much I love them too and they will begin to write me. Then I will lead them through the experiences that will make them great kings and queens. Then at last they will come home to me and we will have a joyful reunion like this one.” Then with his arms around his children, the king turned and led them into the beautiful palace to live happily ever after.

©Copyright 2011 The King’s Parchment by Jaylee Willis