There is an ancient and powerful kingdom. On the throne sits a wise, benevolent king. This story begins long ago. Long before the first memories of the oldest of men. In those days, time did not seem to matter and the business of the kingdom was conducted with a happy heart and, you might even say, with love.
The population of the kingdom was extensive. The king’s subjects had all the advantages that were available in that day. Education in the arts and sciences was wide spread and everywhere the blessings of good society were enjoyed. Neighbor cared for neighbor, and all shared alike in the bounties of the land. For a great span there were no divisions among the people. Differences were respected and those with greater natural abilities were admired. Hate and envy were rare things indeed.
At the head of this idyllic society was the great king. He was revered and respected most of all for his unparalleled wisdom and almost unfathomable love for his citizens. So beloved was he, that his subjects called him Father. And, in turn, he referred to them as his children.
It was difficult for the citizens to fully grasp the heritage of their king. Though he spoke of it often, the pain suffered, the hurt and anguish endured, and, ultimately, the battles won seemed a world away to the inhabitants of this peaceful kingdom. Hidden from view were the scars as well as the true temper of the mettle that had been forged in the fires of adversity.
The day came when the great king surveyed his children. He knew that the time had come for the children to leave the borders of the kingdom, to venture into a world less sheltered and an existence more demanding. As any father knows his children, he knew how each would fare. He smiled as he thought of those who would one day return to the kingdom and humbly offer the fruits of their journeys and then be rewarded with their just place in the kingdom. The heart of the good king was saddened by the thought of those whom he knew would come home having lost their inheritance. But, he knew it must be and, thus, convened a council of the noble among the people.
The king said that though it was expedient that his children leave his presence for a time, he declared that they would not be entirely without his protection. The king proclaimed his wish that one of those present in the council should stand as a caretaker for those who were to leave, that this one soul should act with the same wisdom, sacrifice and discretion that the king himself would exhibit were he to go. Many would have shouted, “Send me!”, for so great was their love for the king, but their tongues were stilled as the king described the extent of the required sacrifice. In the end, only two of the royal household put forth to go.
One said, “I will go.” It was one of the king’s own sons. “I will see to it that not one soul shall be lost. All will return unblemished by the world. All will return as worthy inheritors of the kingdom. All this will I do. But it will have a price. And that price is the throne. I will rule the kingdom from that day forward.”
The council was aghast. Never had such an outrage been uttered. From the confusion rose a quietly powerful voice. It was the crown prince, the first born son of the great king. He spoke saying, “Send me. I will follow your plan, that there may be a way for your children to return home. This I will do because of the love you have shown for me and for the love you have taught me for all of your children. The honor is yours forever.”
The council approved the king’s choice of sending his beloved son. But the approval was not unanimous. There were those who were persuaded by the flattery of the pretender to support him. Their heads were turned by the promise of a share in the kingdom. The weaker among the subjects were beguiled by a vision of guaranteed success in the world beyond the kingdom and of a safe return to the royal court.
The dissension caused the king great pain. He knew that his wishes for the best good for his children could not possibly be satisfied by the counterfeit plan. There was only one way. The debate became hotter as the battle lines were drawn deeper. Fully one in three were lead to oppose the king.
For a time, the king was patient. He was so powerful that he could have quashed the rebellion immediately, but that was not his way. He sought diligently to persuade his subjects to heed his words. But as children sometimes do, the rebellious thought they had a better way and deserved that which they had not yet earned.
The struggle became brutal. The battle was not a physical conflict, but a clash of wills. The contest grew more bitter as the noble of the council fought for the very souls of the people they so loved. As the tide turned against him, the rebellious prince became engulfed in his avarice and swore to have the throne. He threatened vengeance upon those who opposed him.
At last the day came when there were none in the kingdom who had not chosen a side. The king knew that there was no further hope of bringing the insurgents back into the fold. With a heavy heart, the king declared the rebellious prince banished and cast him and his followers out of the kingdom, never more to return.
The rebellious prince vowed revenge and marked the names of the valiant who had opposed him. It was his design to lie in wait outside the gates of the kingdom that he and his followers might yet entice the children to a path less difficult than the one the king had planned. It was still his hope to have the kingdom for his own, that he might have the children to sift as wheat. Knowing it possible that he may fail in his ambition, the dark prince conspired to tarnish the souls of the children, that they would no longer be able to abide the presence of the good king. The dark prince would then reign over his own kingdom outside the gates of the realm of the great king.
The king knew that the journey through the world would be difficult for his children and that their lives away from him would be fraught with great peril. But he also knew that with the help of the crown prince, each of the children would prove himself, triumphing or failing according to their several abilities. He would give the crown prince sufficient power to lead the children back to the kingdom, each to receive the inheritance they had merited.
But of all his children, the king feared most for those who had valiantly opposed the dark prince. These, the king knew, would feel the full brunt of the evil prince’s wrath. These heroic sons and daughters had already proved their worth and determination. The king knew that they would return triumphantly. But these faithful were still required to go forth, for that was the way.
The king called these few together and offered them a brief journey into the world and a speedy return. Some accepted this gracious offer. Others softly asked, “Is there yet more that we can do?” The king replied that, yes, there was more. To these he proposed a mission. The valiant were to go into the world to help the royal prince fulfill the king’s purposes. They were to go in disguise, that the dark prince might not have power over them. The disguise would take many forms. To some, it would be a physical infirmity, to others, an affliction of the mind. The burden of the disguise would be difficult to bear, but to these special children, nothing that the king could ask would ever be too much.
There were others among the king’s children whom he truly desired to return to him. He did not want the time and distance to fade their yearning for the kingdom. Some of these he anointed to accompany his valiant children, in their various guises, along their journey away from the kingdom. On the one part, the king knew that his valiant would be well cared for, in spite of the hardship of the disguise that must be carried through their journey. On the other part, the king knew equally well that those he loved would respond to the mission of his valiant children, and return to the throne with confidence.
So the valiant went out to the world, quietly helping their brothers and sisters. The disguise that acted as a shield for the children became a means for bringing much light and peace, power and perspective to the lives of those whom the king loved.
And so it was that many of those loved by the king returned to the gates of the kingdom after completing an honorable journey. Often their return came many years after the valiant children they had accompanied for so long.
How sweet was the reunion in the court when the valiant were once again with their caretakers. All wished that this moment could last forever. At length, the king came forward. All were quiet as he expressed his own pleasure. He paused, stepped into the midst of the gathering and commanded that the disguises be removed. Those whom the king loved were at first speechless when they recognized those valiant souls who had championed the king’s plan so long ago. They bowed before the great and noble children who condescended to suffer such great affliction in their journey, and wept with the realization that the sacrifice had been for their own poor souls.
The king returned to his throne. He called the valiant children to stand at his right hand alongside the crown prince. Then with a loving smile, he beckoned those whom he loved to take their place at his side. “Your service to these noble children,” he said, “will forever stand as a memorial to your souls. Dreams set aside, courses altered and comforts forgone will be remembered for eternity. The reward I give is just. Well done.”
Ó Copyright 1992 Lance Boldt
Nancy and I have seven children. Our fourth is a beautiful, blue-eyed boy named Joshua – who has Down syndrome. The story behind the story, “Secret Journey” goes back to January 1992, when Josh was six months old. Nancy, Josh and I were in a new friend’s home with about eight other couples with special needs children. The social worker from Josh’s early intervention program had called a meeting to give the dads a chance to meet and share their stories. The moms had already done this at school. When the time came to tell “our stories”, two things happened for me: 1. I became increasingly grateful that Josh only had Down syndrome, a ventricle septal defect, asthma and a threat of cystic fibrosis. Some of the other families were struggling with, what seemed to me, much more difficult problems. 2. I felt a growing despair as I saw these wonderful people anguishing over one word, one question, one prayer – “WHY?” Now don’t get me wrong. We were struggling: medical conditions, a box of medical bills that seemed to come from everywhere and with which we did not have the emotional capacity to deal, feelings of guilt and a tremendous fear of the unknown. We did not feel we had all the answers to the cosmic “WHY”, but at least we felt we had a context. I wanted to offer some relief, share some of what I felt to be true – but how. I went to bed with a heavy heart. I awoke with a story. That is how “Secret Journey” came to be.
Nancy and I have seven children. Our fourth is a beautiful, blue-eyed boy named Joshua – who has Down syndrome. The story behind the story, “Secret Journey” goes back to January 1992, when Josh was six months old. Nancy, Josh and I were in a new friend’s home with about eight other couples with special needs children. The social worker from Josh’s early intervention program had called a meeting to give the dads a chance to meet and share their stories. The moms had already done this at school.
When the time came to tell “our stories”, two things happened for me:
1. I became increasingly grateful that Josh only had Down syndrome, a ventricle septal defect, asthma and a threat of cystic fibrosis. Some of the other families were struggling with, what seemed to me, much more difficult problems.
2. I felt a growing despair as I saw these wonderful people anguishing over one word, one question, one prayer – “WHY?”
Now don’t get me wrong. We were struggling: medical conditions, a box of medical bills that seemed to come from everywhere and with which we did not have the emotional capacity to deal, feelings of guilt and a tremendous fear of the unknown. We did not feel we had all the answers to the cosmic “WHY”, but at least we felt we had a context.
I wanted to offer some relief, share some of what I felt to be true – but how.
I went to bed with a heavy heart. I awoke with a story. That is how “Secret Journey” came to be.