This story takes place in a distant kingdom not far from here. At a time long ago, just like yesterday. This kingdom was there long before anyone could recall, surely created by the heart and hand of a master builder.
To the West lay an ocean of majestic measures. Blues and greens amid grays and whites teaming with life of unlimited design. Creatures that breathed air, creatures that breathed through the water and creatures that didn’t breathe at all. In this ocean was life so small it was unseen and life so large that even seeing was not believing.
To the East of this kingdom were mountains so high that no bird could fly over their peaks covered with the snow of a thousand winters. Waterfalls and rushing rivers cut deep gorges, flanked by sheer cliffs. It was never known what was on the other sides of those mountains but life was such in the kingdom that nobody cared to look.
To the North lay forests so rich and lush with growth that when a tree was cut to use for building it seemed a sapling would almost instantly take its place. There were stands with trees so colossal that whole families could not surround them hand in hand in hand. Wild game was so plentiful that a royal feast was guaranteed.
To the South was a vast desert dotted with natural springs creating oasis’ of pure cool water for man or beast.
In this kingdom there was a king. The king was of a good heart. He was trained, as all kings are, in the arts, philosophy, languages, manners, religion, and sports. The people loved their king. Many citizens remember when he was born and the happiness it brought throughout the kingdom. They watched their boy prince grow into a fine and handsome young king. He liked nothing better than to make everyone he came in contact with happy, and this he did from the highest of noble to the lowest of peasant. He went out of his way to give his people what he thought they wanted and this endeared him to the people even more. During his time as king, the greatest gift he ever bestowed on the citizens was a prince. This prince was received as a son by all in the kingdom, especially following the death of his mother, the queen, at the time of his birth.
On the morning of the young prince’s 14th birthday he was awakened by the regal sounds of royal horns. He gathered himself as quickly as he could, even forgetting to brush his royal teeth, and rushed to the highest wall of the palace. There before his sleepy eyes, docked at the royal docks were the three fastest sailing ships from his father’s fleet. Each decorated with banners, colors streaming in the wind. He ran as fast as his legs would let him, and arriving at dockside he ran into his father’s open arms. His father, the King, thereby proclaimed that he was setting off across the majestic ocean to find new lands and fortunes. Everyone seemed so proud and happy for the king that the young prince didn’t want to show his feelings of fear. Instantly a wave of loneliness rushed over him as if from the ocean itself. The king left that day with a rousing send off filled with music and laughter and feasting, but the prince felt an uneasiness he had never felt before.
Sadness came in the winter of that year when parts of the king’s fleet washed up on the shores of the Kingdom. The people were crushed with the loss of their king, but grateful to have known him and hopeful for the future. The prince was also crushed with the loss of his father, but he was neither grateful nor hopeful, he was depressed and scared. Once again, he felt that he could not show this for he was now King and he must appear cheerful so that his subjects would be cheerful.
It was not long before things started changing. The father’s advisors, seeing the new King’s youth and inexperience, started using him to advance themselves and their fortunes. The boy king could sense this, but they were, after all, trusted by his father and he didn’t want to cause any unhappiness. The boy king was still a boy, but the songs that he sang, and the dances he dances, and the beauty that was around him started to fade.
The magnificent trees that grew in the forest to the North were being cut to build estates for the privileged on the majestic beaches. The mountains on the East were mined for gold, silver, copper and iron ores. The once crystal rivers and towering waterfalls were now delivering dirt and mud to the ocean and beaches to the West of the kingdom.
To the South, the desert was being used as a dumping ground for all of the excesses and wastes of the people. The king looked at all of the busyness that surrounded him. The smiles on his people didn’t seem as big as before, but they seemed happy, and they had so many more things than before. Even if he was still lonely and burdened, his advisors told him that the people were better off and that he was a great king, greatly loved by all the people. These words relieved the king, but only for a moment. As soon as the royal court left, and even sometimes before, the king would sit engulfed in his thoughts. At royal festivities his heart seemed to be crying louder than the music and merriment that he was drowning in. The boy king searched for someone, anyone that he could unload his burden on, but he didn’t want to put his unhappiness on another’s shoulders. He would simply be a part of the prevailing mood.
One evening, during a party that was too loud and lasting too long for the young king he simply got up from his throne and left the room. Since his advisors and their friends were so engrossed in the partying no one noticed his departure. When he got outside he drew in the fresh, cool air that cleaned the off him like the water of a bath. Strangely, it seemed that being away from the crowd made him feel less alone. He started walking first in the direction he was facing, but then he chose a course that took him straight toward the moon. Hours passed and he walked as if in a trance until he noticed the moon slipping peacefully behind the horizon. He watched the moon and held tight to the discovery that it was a fundamental peace that his soul was crying out for. He cried out to the moon jealous of its quiet calm as its final light disappeared leaving him lost and alone. Standing in the dark he looked around him seeing only the mist filled darkness. He thought of his father on the sea about to perish, and wondered about the last words his heart had uttered. It was then that he heard a most unusual sound.
He turned and ran toward a song that was ringing through the night silence. As he grew closer he was stunned to hear words to a song that had no meaning and no message, yet was more beautiful that any lyrics he had ever heard. When he finally arrived at the source he peered into the window of a cottage he had seen from the path. Inside was a woman of stunning plainness and three identical boys. One of the boys was singing, one was moving in a way that looked like dancing and the third sat at a tiny table writing furiously on a pad of paper. There was so much joy in the room that it seemed as if the light streaming through the window was like a golden welcome mat illuminating the night.
The king realized that he could never get back to the palace that night. Of greater importance was that within this cottage was something unexplainable that he wanted. Without hesitating he shed his royal upbringing and knocked on the door. When there was no response, he knocked again, this time harder than the first. A quiet suddenly filled the air, and he waited. Finally the door opened, and there stood the woman he had seen through the window. She bowed low and bid him come into her home. She was astonished, as you would be, to see the king alone at her front door. The boy king entered the one room cottage with its dirt floor and saw the three boys not much younger than himself standing between him and the fireplace. The warming fire was the only source of light in the room. The room was uncluttered, lacking the extravagance he had grown up with. There were only four chairs for the four inhabitants of the house, so when the mother offered her chair the king knew that someone would have to stand. When he politely declined her offer she gently, but forcefully, as only a mother can do, sat him down without expecting anything back in return. He had not seen a selfless offer like this since before his father’s departure, and warmth filled his soul. That late night and early morning the five, one royal and four common born, sat and shared, laughed, danced, and loved in a way that this young king didn’t know was possible. Late the next morning they awoke in exactly the same spots that they had started in: the boys on the chairs, the mother on the ground. After the morning meal they all set off in the family’s rickety wagon to the palace of the king.
At first the guards would not allow the wagon passage into the courtyards of the palace, but when their king rose up and ordered them out of the way, they lowered their weapons and made way for the peasant wagon to enter. Arriving at the living quarters the king quickly called out to his servants to come and care for his guests with baths, fine garments, food and any other need or want that they might have. He then ran and gathered his staff together and ordered them to arrange the biggest feast the kingdom had ever seen. He issued a call to all of his subjects inviting them to share in this occasion.
Immediately the royal huntsmen went in search of the finest meats. The royal bakers baked, the tailors tailored, the entertainers prepared to entertain, the party goers got ready to party. The whole kingdom was set into motion. What was busyness before became a frenzy now. The excitement in the kingdom became unbearable. There were fights on the roads as people tried to get a jump on the others rushing here and there, the shops became battlefields over just the right thing to wear to the king’s feast. Coaches were being cleaned and shoes shined to make the right impression on the king at this awesome occasion. The response was so grand that feast had to be moved from the grandest hall in the palace to the largest square in the kingdom directly next to the docks. The very docks were the king’s father had left on his voyage of exploration. Grandstands had to be erected, tables built. A platform was constructed to seat the king and his royal court. The citizens of the kingdom had truly never seen anything like it, and as the night approached, the excitement grew to a dizzying level. Speculation became wilder since it had never been mentioned why the king had called the feast. Most believed that he was going to announce the selection of a wife, but other more creative and crazy suggestions blew around the kingdom like a tornado fueling the fires of the frenzy.
When the night arrived, emotions had left their confines and were being worn on the outside. If they had had electrical appliances back then they wouldn’t have had to plug them in. People started arriving for the best seats before the sun rose, and they kept coming through the day. The earliest arrivals with the best seats started the festivities on their own with games, songs, and merriment of all varieties. By midday everything and everybody were in place except the king and his guests. The party was in full swing with food and beverage flowing freely when without warning the blare of royal horns announced the arrival of the king. Silence instantly overcame the noise.
All heads spun in the direction of the platform set up for the king’s table. The silence was so great that it seemed as if sound had been banished from the kingdom forever. Without further fanfare the young king, radiating peace, crossed the wooden platform to the place reserved for him alone. Looking out over the assembled throng he slowly lifted his right arm and gestured to the right of the platform. Feeling that this was the moment they had come for everyone unconsciously breathed in at the same time, and held that breathe. From the corner of the platform entered a small, very plain woman looking frightfully uncomfortable in a gown that was obviously grander than her. At that moment more air was sucked into already full lungs. Three identical brothers appeared behind her, and at this sight the rush of air and the accompanying sound coming from the crowd was like that of desert winds racing through the canyons to the sea. The king gestured for the woman and boys to come sit next to him at the head table. As if in shock the woman led the boys to the table. Instantly it was noticed that one of the boys was blind and being guided by his brother. One of the boys carried a large scroll, a quill for writing, and an ink pot. The third brother seemed unaffected by the noise of the crowd and followed the example of the mother.
The odd looking group stopped and stood next to the king looking confused and embarrassed. The king looked at the crowd, he looked as if he was going to make a great pronouncement but simply said, “Thank you. Please be seated.” Instead of the thunderous applause that would normally come at a time such as this there was only the noise of bodies on benches and one lone voice that rang out, “Hey, it’s a party so let’s party!” The crowd yelled its approval and the night of great festivities began.
Hours went by and the merriment seemed that it would go on forever until, without notice, one of the brothers rose from his seat and without speaking walked to where the musicians played. For the first time he lifted his eyes from the ground, he tilted back his head and set free a voice that filled the town square. He sang a sound so filled with love and passion that it stopped the band and the noise of the crowd. The same crowd that had just a moment earlier had been screaming and laughing was now moved to rapture by a song that could not be understood, in a voice that to the ears was like that of a wagon wheel that needed grease. This brother was born deaf and had never heard music or speech, but he heard a song that came from the heaven about that was impossible to lock inside. While the song was streaming from the soul of his brother, the blind brother rose from his seat and without help walked to a clear spot on the platform and started to sway. The swaying soon overtook his body and his legs and feet started move. He moved about the raised platform in a way that looked clumsy and out of control, but from his face radiated a love so dynamic, so living that the partygoers started to feel it. The movement itself was spastic and uncontrolled, but his dance represented every cell of his body, and every cell proclaimed love to each person there that night. Then, just as suddenly as the singing and dancing had started it stopped. The blind brother led by the deaf brother returned to their seats. The subjects of the kingdom stared in awe at what they had just experienced. Silent tears flowed down the faces in the crowd. Just when it seemed people could contain their emotions no longer the third brother, the one with the quill and scroll stood up and handed the paper to the king.
The king read the scroll to himself in the silence of the crowd then walked to the foot of the platform and started to read… “Beloved brethren, even though I am unable to speak and have never studied in a school, God has given me the ability to express myself in words unspoken. The words I write to you come from deep within my soul and appear in picture, prose and poetry. God has chosen me to speak of Him only by the written word and I am honored to be used of God in such a fashion. My brother who cannot hear knows only that the music inside of him is so loud and clear that it cannot stay inside of him. To let the songs of your hearts go unsung is to kill a piece of your heart. To feel the songs of God and sing them brings God from deep inside to a place on the outside where we can meet with Him. My brother who is blind has no idea what he looks like when he dances. He knows only that he is expressing his love for God. He is not there to please anyone but the God who has given him this need of expression. Our word to you is to seek out the gift and thereby honor the giver. When the Almighty God comes to you shout it, move it, write it. Express it, don’t suppress it. Come now receive the peace that obedience brings.”
The king slowly lowered the scroll. He looked at the crowd, then at the brothers and then to heaven itself and said, “Oh Lord in Heaven, I have sinned against you and against these my people. I was more interested in their happiness than their well being. I must admit, you have put a new song in me that was there for me to sing, but since it wasn’t my father’s song I pushed it away. Lord. You have filled me with a joy that begged to be shared, but I didn’t want to appear foolish so I jammed it back inside of me. You have given me words to speak, and they have gone unspoken because of my fear. Lord, please give me the gift of knowing my gift and using it. Help me make you happy and rule with you on the throne beside me.”
Everyone simply stood in silence until once again the king spoke.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Kingdom, tonight you have met three remarkable boys. Until the other night I didn’t know them or know of them, but it is time you did. These three common boys are not common at all! They are my father’s sons; they are therefore your princes. This woman was married to my father.” The reaction of the crowd was different than the boy king expected, instead of condemnation they responded with enthusiastic praise.
“After my mother died, my father met a girl not of royal birth, and they fell in love. Soon they were secretly married, but my grandfather disapproved. He built her a simple house outside of the village and proclaimed the marriage annulled. There she was, banished until I came upon them. My father never fell in love again, and it was unknown even to him that he had three sons besides me. From this day forward the ruling of this kingdom will be blessed by the addition of these simple, honest people.”
Like the flames of a windblown fire the love for the new princes consumed the hearts of the people. That is all except for the greedy advisors and their friends. Until the end of his reign the king was faithful to God, and never forgot his promise. He always seemed to have a song in his heart and on his lips. He still made people happy, this time though, it wasn’t because of what he gave them, but because of the joy God had given him that he gave away.