The following is a little story that I created and scribbled in my diary a few months ago. I’ve decided to share it here.
A man walking along the road met a king. The man bowed down before him and asked if he could be of any service.
“Oh, yes, indeed!” the king cried. “But let me warn you, my friend, it won’t be easy.”
“I will do anything, no matter how hard,” the man responded.
“Alright then, here is my request.” The great king pulled a tattered map out of his coat pocket and handed it to the man. The king pointed to a trail that wound over mountains and twisted through dark valleys. “You must follow this trail. Rain or shine, you must follow it. Do you understand?”
“Yes! Yes, of course, master.”
“The journey is very far.”
“Whenever you meet someone, though, please tell them of me and my kingdom. So many people don’t know of it. And I want to offer all I have to them. Ask them to come along the trail with you.”
“At the end of the trail you will find my palace.”
“Yes. And if you do all that I asked you to do today, I will let you live there with me for the rest of your days.” With that, the king walked away, leaving the man holding the map.
The man was very eager to be on his way. He looked at the path on the map. True to the king’s word, it was terribly difficult to accomplish, but the man was not dismayed… even though the trail stretched on for a thousand miles. Around the first bend, he found himself in a slum. He remembered the king’s words about telling everyone he met about the kingdom—but surely the king could not have meant these people! He hurried on without saying a word. Finally, dusk began to fall. Tired and hungry, he tried to find a place to stay. A woman was standing near the path, so he called out to her, “Tell me, will you, where is the nearest place to stay the night?”
The woman frowned. “There isn’t a place for miles, but if you would like you may stay with my family and I for the night.”
“Where do you live?” the man asked.
She pointed to a small shack built mostly from scraps of tin.
“Never!” the man snapped. “I could not stay in a place like that! Don’t you realize you foolish woman—I am doing business for the king!”
“No,” she responded, “I did not realize, because the last people who traveled this path for the king gladly accepted my offer.”
Grumbling, the man continued on his way until it was too dark for him to see. He crouched in the woods waiting for daylight. When it finally came, he looked at the map again. Why hadn’t he seen it before? There on the map it showed the king’s castle and it was only ten miles away! All he had to do was step off the path onto a highway! It was so simple! And the king would be so happy that he had reached the palace so soon!
The man gleefully leapt off the path and found the highway with ease. Along it, there were many respectable people and he made sure that he told each one about the kingdom. In turn, they all politely nodded and waved him on his way.
Later in the afternoon, the man saw the palace in the distance—and it was a sight to behold! “To think I will soon live there!” he thought to himself. When he reached the gate, a woman opened it for him.
“I’ve come to see the king!” he announced importantly.
“Yes, yes, I know,” she said sadly.
“Do not feel sorrowful,” he told her, “you may not be as great as I, about to live with the king, but even a gatekeeper is a good thing to be.”
“Aye,” she answered. “However, sir, that is not why my heart is broken. My heart is broken for you.”
“For me?” the man gaped at her. Suddenly, he recognized her as the woman who had offered to let him stay in her shack. But now she was clothed in the most beautiful clothes, not rags. Before the man could say anything, though, the king stepped beside him. “Ahhh,” he said. “Back so soon, are you?”
The man knelt to the ground, “Yes, master.”
“Did you tell all you saw about my kingdom?”
“Yes, sir. All those fit to enter.”
“Fit to enter? Who is not fit to enter?”
The man suddenly felt uneasy. “The—the sinful ones, the lazy ones in the slums, the…”
“Did I not tell you to proclaim my kingdom to everyone you met?”
“And you did not, did you?”
“No. No, sir.”
“Did you follow the small path?”
“Yes! Yes! But… but there was nowhere to stay, no good food and…and my feet were already hurting on the first day! Master, the path you mapped out to your palace would have taken me through over a thousand miles of trails! Yet, I found this shortcut. This highway! It would have been very senseless of me to walk a thousand miles when I needed to walk only ten!”
“Ahh, yes. You are one of the ones who left my path. Here, give me the map.”
Reluctantly, the man handed the king the map. “Master… you promised me a place to stay when I arrived here, did you not?”
“Indeed, I did. That was, I promised you a lifetime with me, if you obeyed what I asked of you.”
“Sir!” the man cried out, realizing he was no longer welcome. “Forgive me! Give me back the map! I will follow the path!”
With tired eyes, the king replied, “Your chance had been given, your instructions were clear, yet you chose—you chose—not to follow.” Walking over to a lame child clothed in rags, the king handed the boy the map.
“Master!” the man shouted. “You cannot give the map to him! He’s not even capable to take the first step of the journey!”
The king turned to the man, “What you cannot accomplish, this crippled child will! What you could not do with your strong, straight legs, he will do with his bent, weak ones!” The king then walked back through the gate and motioned for the woman to shut the man out. With great sorrow, the king cried out to the man, “How I loved you! How I loved you!”
In the story I wrote, it’s very easy to see where the man first disobeys the king’s instructions. It’s easy to think, “Uh-oh. What a brainless thing to do; not listen to the king!” But in real life, it’s not that easy to see. Lots of times we come to God burning with excitement to serve him. Then, for a brief amount of time, we keep our promise. Maybe you had an event in your life that made you leap from the narrow path to the highway in one great bound. Or maybe you just eased away little by little, thinking: it’s not bad; it’s okay; God understands why I have to do this, it’d be foolish if I did it His way. All of a sudden, you realize that you aren’t on the path at all, anymore. In fact, you might be so lost that you aren’t sure how to find your way. You can always ask for forgiveness—always wipe your slate clean. But be careful. Once you reach the palace, there’s no starting over.
McKennaugh Kelley is fifteen years old. She lives in Troy, Pennsylvania with a handful of crazy, creative, but mostly wonderful little brothers.