Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.
There once was a great King who ruled over a vast land. In the center of his capital city sat his great palace which housed the many offices of his government, his treasury, and his most precious possession: his family. The king had a very large family, with sons and daughters filling his halls with life and laughter. The King was very particular about the way he wanted his children to be raised, and to that end they were given the Book of Guidance. The Book of Guidance was compiled by the king’s servants and ministers, and contained a vast amount of facts, stories, and rules that the King’s servants had determined were values held dear by the King. Much of its material was made up of actual quotes from the King himself, or stories in which he featured heavily.
The children each received a copy of the Book of Guidance in order to help them learn more about their father’s heart and his hopes for their lives. This was their only formal schooling; they had no classrooms, no teachers, and no homework. The only additional part of their education was individual meetings with their father. In each child’s bedchambers there was a silver rope near the door. Whenever one of the princes or princesses desired to meet with the king, it was necessary only to pull the silver rope and then walk to the royal gardens. The King would be waiting for his child just inside the gate, and together they would walk and talk for a time.
Some of the royal children took advantage of this, and spent their walks engaging with their father about the things they had read in the Book of Guidance. Others took greater liberty, and began to speak with their father about things that had nothing to do with the Book of Guidance. One or two of the wisest princes and princesses thought to ask their father directly about what he valued and what he wished for them to do with their lives.
As the children grew, and as more and more royal children were born, the palace officials began to grow concerned. As far as they understood, the purpose of the Book of Guidance was to help the royal children learn to become more like the King. Surely then as time went on the children would begin to resemble the King better? And since all of the children were on the same quest, surely they should begin to look more uniform? Surely, they thought, it should resemble the something akin to the Palace Guards? A soldier chosen for the Palace Guard at first didn’t fit in; didn’t look the same. But as he went through the rigid training programs and received his uniform, he ceased to be the individual soldier and became an interchangeable member of the guard; exactly as protocol dictated.
The officials began to meet with some of the elder princes and princesses. They chose the ones that showed the most promise in meeting their ultimate goal: a Royal House of the King’s children that uniformly resembled their sovereign’s heart. The elder royals began to call their other brothers and sisters together and share with them the new vision of their royal education. To ensure a proper understanding of our royal father’s heart, they explained, everyone needed to work together in the new system to find out how best to know it.
Most of the royal children found this new approach vastly easier than before. Only the wisest children, the ones who had asked their father directly about their education, chose to remain with their previous form of study. The officials and elder royals founded a school for the royal children to attend. In the school they would learn from the officials and their older brothers and sisters. There they would hear from the very men and women who had the great privilege to have seen their father govern and interact with his subjects. All that the children had seen of their father was the man in the garden, walking and talking with them in the cool of the evening. Many of them had never even experienced that. Here was a chance for them to finally learn who their father really was! And, just as the officials hoped, the children began to act more and more like a uniform group. The only problem was that the more the children excelled in the system, the less the silver ropes were rung. The officials decided that since the king had said nothing about the declining walks then it must not be an urgent concern, and so the school’s curriculum continued unchanged.
One day a young prince was scampering along the palace halls on his way to the school. He passed one of his older sisters in the hallway, and she was headed towards the gardens. He called to her, reminding her that school began in just a few moments. The older princess smiled at him and knelt down to speak to him, straightening his collar as she did so.
“My dear brother,” she said. “I am on my way to the garden to learn from our beloved Father himself. If you wish, you may come with me and take my spot for today. I happen to know that Father would like that very much.”
The boy looked eagerly back towards the hallway that would take him to school, and then back at his sister.
“How could you know that Father would like this?” he asked her. “There is nothing about that in the Book of Guidance.”
A tear slid down the princess’s cheek as she absorbed her brother’s comment. Finally she answered him, “My brother, I know this because our Father told me so himself. He is always with us, you see. He will always meet us in the gardens, and speak to us about what he values and how he desires us to live our lives.”
She stood up and walked over to a bench and sat down, patting the seat next to her. The young prince joined her.
“Royal brother, does not the Book of Guidance quote our Father as saying that there is much that he wishes to speak with us about, but we may not always be ready to hear it?”
“Yes,” the prince answered. “The Book of Guidance says that our Father will reveal those things to us in time.”
“Then my brother, how can you hope to learn more of our Father’s heart when you never listen to his living voice?”
The young prince’s mouth fell open, and he followed his sister’s gaze towards the gate of the royal gardens. Looking up at her, he pointed to the gates. She smiled down at him and held her hand out, inviting him to walk with her. As they approached the gates, he heard his father’s voice call out for his sister. She stopped walking, and urged her brother on alone.
The young prince stepped through the gates and immediately saw his father seated under an apple tree. His father’s face lit up with surprise, and the king ran to his son. After a tender embrace, the prince nervously squeaked out that his sister had invited him to take her place today.
“Of course she has!” the King responded, an infectious smile on his face. “She well understands my heart towards you, my boy. Come, and let us walk and talk.”
As they paced the garden paths, the boy waited for his father to begin speaking. After some minutes, the prince realized that his father was waiting for him to start.
“Father?” he asked. “The… the Book of Guidance says that you value clean robes.” The prince put all of his hopes for approval into his next sentence. “Father, I keep my robes clean as best I can!”
The king stopped walking, took his son by the hand, and sat him down by a reflection pool.
“My son, the Book of Guidance says many things. And for every word you find in it, each of my children could find a dozen different ways to interpret the meaning.”
The boy allowed this to sink in before exclaiming, “But my father! Is the Book of Guidance useless then?”
“Never, my boy. It was I who first instructed my counselors to write it. It was I who supervised their work. I have always intended for you and your brothers and sisters to have the book. But my dear son, the Book of Guidance is only of use to you so long as you can interpret it through me. I will always meet you here, and you can learn all that you need to know about my heart and my plan for you from me. Read the book, my son, and talk with me about it. Ask me about things that you don’t understand. Ask me about things that you do not like. Ask me about things that are nowhere to be found in the book. Listen to my voice, my son, and heed what I tell you, and you shall do well.”
They rose and resumed walking. Presently the boy asked another question.
“Father, what if I hear your voice and don’t understand what you meant? What if I act on something only to find that it isn’t what you wish for me to do?”
The king grinned, bent down until he was face to face with the prince, and said, “Dear one, you will undoubtedly do so. But remember what I say to you now. Whenever you make a mistake, remember this. Whenever you think you may be wrong, remember this. Whenever your brothers and sisters, or my counselors and officals, tell you that you’re wrong or chastise you, remember this: You are my son, and I love you with all my heart. You wear on your finger my royal seal, and as such you walk in the full authority of my crown. When you are wrong, I alone will be your judge. When you are right, my praise alone is sufficient for you. Each and every day, you are clothed and fed and cared for by my word alone. And each and every day, my boy, you have my love.”
The boy wrapped his arms around his father’s neck, and the great king lifted his son up in his arms. They walked on like this for some time until the prince asked yet another question.
“Father, what of my brothers and sisters, and your officials?”
“What of them, my son?”
“They teach in the school about you, and now that I have talked with you, I think that they are teaching about you wrongly.”
“Ah, my child, rest your mind. Whether they are right or wrong is for me to discuss with them, is it not? Just like yourself, they each answer to me and me alone. I will deal with the school when the time is right, and I will determine what good and harm it has caused in each and every individual case. But be at peace, child. The school can do nothing that I cannot set right.”
The prince lifted his head from the king’s shoulder and asked whether or not the school did any good at all.
“Of course it does, my son. If not for the school, would you know what is in the Book of Guidance? Many of your siblings left their books to collect dust in the library before the school was opened. Now, those same children learn from the book I commissioned. Through the school, the foundation of my desires is made known to them. And one day, my boy, they will find themselves in the garden with me, just as you have today. In time, my son, everything will be made right. In time my will shall be done.”
With that, the king set the young boy down on the ground again. The prince looked around and saw to his surprise that they had returned to the gate. He looked up at his father, and saw that the great king had tears in his eyes. His father reached down and ever so gently cupped the prince’s face in his hands.
“One last thing for today, my dear boy. You will find, as you grow, that some of the others in the palace may grow to dislike the changes that will take place if you continue to listen to my voice. They will attempt to rein you in towards what they see as my desire for your life and how it should be lived. They may even become hostile and very angry. The root of their intentions is a strong desire to heed my commands, my son, but that doesn’t mean that you should ever value their plan above mine. They desire to make my children as the Palace Guard are ordered, unified and interchangeable. It was never my design for my royal heirs to be so ordered. The guards, son, are guards. But you are my son. My son.”
The prince reached up with his tiny hand and touched a tear streaking down his father’s face.
“My father,” he whispered. “Is this another thing that shall be made right when the time comes?”
The king smiled, kissed his son on the forehead, and said, “You have listened and learned well. Now run along and think on these things, lad. We’ve covered much in a very short time.”
The boy walked towards the gate that would take him back into the halls of the palace in which he lived, but as he reached the massive stone pillars that framed the gateway, he suddenly turned back around.
“Father? What should I do when I have questions about what we’ve talked about, or if I forget some of it?”
The king was walking down the center path that led off into a maze of hedges. He flashed a pleased smile, and shouted in a jovial voice, “My love, use the silver rope! Rest assured that you can ring it as often as you wish, and I will always come.”
The young prince’s heart was ready to burst with joy as he ran from the garden into his sister’s waiting arms. They walked slowly down the corridors and talked of their father and the garden for the rest of the day. Many hours later, as the castle slept, the young prince slipped from his bedsheets, tip-toed to the silver cord, and pulled it firmly. Securing his bathrobe about his waist, he opened his door and made for the garden gate to see his father.