TRANSITIONING TO THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS
THE PARABLE OF A FATHER'S
May 15, 2015
Arthur was the paragon of the ideal father. He embodied all that was true, beautiful and good. He loved children and fostered a large family of eight boys and girls. There was his beloved oldest son Alexander, followed by twin boys, Thomas and Terrence. Beneath them in age was their sister Linda and under her were twin girls, Jeanie and Janet. And last but not least toddler boys Austin and Andrew.
Arthur and his family lived on a beautiful island, and you could not imagine a more idyllic home setting. Due to Arthur’s extraordinary wealth from a number of very successful business ventures, he owned the largest estate on the island. He invested a large sum of his earnings in providing the ideal home and surroundings to raise children. Architects were hired to design buildings that children would find fascinating to live in. Horticulturist were brought in to develop beautifully landscaped play areas, as well as tranquil resting grounds.
He employed a large staff of workers and nurse maids who were meticulously interviewed from all over the world. They were highly rewarded for applying their specialized skills to keep the estate running smoothly and to look after the children while Arthur was occasionally away managing his successful thriving enterprise. He spared no expense in providing an environment that would bring daily delight to his children. Everything was crafted to stimulate and satisfy their inquisitive minds and wild imaginations as they grew from infancy toward adulthood.
Arthur took great interest in observing the varied traits and habits of each child’s budding personality. Among his most treasured moments was when the children would crawl onto his lap to look into his gentle, penetrating eyes and give him an affectionate hug. They loved hearing his comforting voice, and even when correction had to be administered, they never felt downtrodden. Even Alexander, the oldest of the children, never lost this child like love and admiration for his dad even though he was considered the “man of the house,” being a few years older than the rest of the children.
The future prospects for true happiness and personal fulfillment Arthur made available not only for his immediate family but for the entire staff he employed. The possibilities seemed unlimited!
Unfortunately, it was discovered that a major seismic fault line ran a few miles off the island coast and occasionally the residents would feel mild tremors. These tremors were rare and no one considered them of any real threat since they had occurred for as long as the island inhabitants could remember, going back many generations.
All was going well until one particular day when the father had brought Alexander to work with him as part of his training to one day assume responsibility for the family business. At around 2:30 in the afternoon while Arthur and Alexander were discussing future plans for expansion with the operations manager, the ground began to tremble and stop momentarily only to be followed by more intense shaking. Everyone sensed something unusual was happening and a sickening sense of dread filled the air.
In a short period of about half an hour, the tremors turned into a violent shaking of the ground. The scope and intensity of the upheaval was felt all around. The ceiling of one of the factory buildings gave way and came tumbling down on equipment and merchandise being prepared for shipping. Several workers were injured, some seriously. Large cracks broke through the heavily reinforced building foundation, while walls collapsed like cardboard. Outside trees had fallen and powerlines were broken with live wires causing fires to rage everywhere. The entire island of people were terror stricken. This, however, was only the beginning of a horrendous nightmare that would be experienced on the usually tranquil island.
Right off the coastline one could see an enormous wall of water heading for the island moving with such speed and ferocity it was practically impossible to find a secure place of shelter before the coast land was submerged in water. As soon as the first violent shocks hit the island, three staff workers at Arthur’s estate quickly gathered the seven children and they all took shelter in a small sturdy building used to store equipment and supplies. Here, the small group waited anxiously for the terror to subside.
The earthquake followed by the Tsunami devastated the island. While many on the coastland lost their lives, the inland inhabitants managed to sustain a higher survival rate. But the extensive devastation to land and property left little for them to derive any special comfort from. The roads were no longer passable, electricity had been cut and small fires raged everywhere. Even Arthur’s beautiful estate did not escape the horrendous force of the earthquake and partial effects of the Tsunami. These vast grounds of what were once of indescribable beauty now resembled an embattled war zone. The roads were impassible and all lines of communication were abruptly interrupted and continued unavailable for several days.
After unsuccessfully trying to contact their estate managers, Arthur and Alexander tended to the injured employees until emergency relief workers arrived on the scene. Now they were free to start mapping out plans to return home. The trek would be long and difficult as they now would have to travel on foot. Yet they sustained the hope that the skillful and highly efficient workers on his estate would have been resourceful enough to bring his children to safety.
Not knowing whether the children’s father and older brother survived, two of the estate managers, a husband and wife, took the children under their personal care during the evacuation of the island. Many attempts were made to obtain information regarding the whereabouts or fate of Arthur and Alexander, but to no avail. Being foreign workers on extended visa’s from their home country, the island government was making special provisions to aid and encourage these workers to return home.
This window of opportunity was offered for a very brief time. So the custodians of Arthur’s children, Kuza and his wife Amari, seeing no other option and having no means of sustaining themselves on the island, decided to return to their home country. Due to the inability to locate Arthur, the island government made provision to allow Arthur’s children to travel in the care of Kuza and his wife.
By the time Arthur and Alexander reached the estate, all the workers were long gone, including Kuza and the children. The estate was completely devastated and there was no sign that anyone had survived. They immediately sent out search crews to look for the children. These teams went to every shelter, every home, and every government facility on every island in the cluster of nearby islands. But each team returned without the children or any news of their whereabouts. The team leaders informed Arthur that since the relief agencies had no records of his children having survived, it was likely that they all had perished in the island catastrophe. Nevertheless, neither Arthur nor Alexander lost hope and they insisted that the search teams continue their search until it could be proven conclusively that the children had perished.
Nearly a decade passed and there was no sign of the children. Alexander, out of love for his father and sorely missing his younger brothers and sisters, told his father that he was going to initiate his own search effort to find the children. Confident that he would succeed, Alexander assured his father he would return soon with all seven children. Arthur was also confident he would one day be united with his children, but he was concerned that after such a long absence, his children might be apprehensive about seeing their father. They may have the erroneous idea that the father had somehow abandoned them. But Alexander assured his father that once the children knew the facts regarding the separation and the many years of persistent effort to find them, they would leap at the opportunity to come home.
The very thought of seeing the faces of his children, now teenagers, brought such joyful anticipation to Arthur. Over the past 10 years, he built a new estate vastly superior to the one that was destroyed in the earthquake. He wanted this new home to be a place where his children would want to grow into adulthood, a place that would eclipse their wildest imaginations!
One afternoon while having lunch at an outdoor café in a neighboring island, Alexander caught sight of a man who resembled one of his father’s former staff workers. After confirming he was indeed a former staff worker, Alexander pleaded with him to take a few moments to help him locate his family. After a joyful reunion, the two of them sat down to discuss what had transpired in the intervening years. Alexander indicated his father had assigned him the full time job to locate and make every effort to restore his children to him. He was not to consider the assignment complete until every child had been accounted for whether, living or not. He asked the worker if he could provide any information no matter how seemingly insignificant that might put him on the trail of locating his family.
To Alexander’s surprise, this worker informed him that Kuza and Amari had arranged for the children to return with them to their country of origin. He explained that none of the workers were able to contact the father and so it was assumed both Arthur and Alexander had perished. When the government arranged for free travel to their home country, Kuza and Amari decided to care for the children as their own.
Kuza and Amari had personally experienced extraordinary kindness and generosity from Arthur. They were reminded of the many episodes in their life when he came to their aid when they were required to send additional assistance to their families back home. They just could not bring themselves to leave the children on their own or in the care of complete strangers.
This was just the news Alexander had been searching for. He learned the name of the country and province where Kuza was last known to be living and without delay, Alexander secured a passport and made travel arrangements to depart as soon as possible. Once arriving at his destination he found lodging and began making extensive inquiries to locate Kuza.
Finding the Children
When he found Kuza, he rejoiced, but his rejoicing turned to dismay when he learned that the children had to be turned over to an orphanage as Kuza did not have the means to sustain such a large family. But the good news was that the orphanage agreed to keep all seven children together so they could remain a close united family.
Armed with reliable information he obtained from Kuza, Alexander arranged for the three-hour drive to the small province where the orphanage home was located. He was anxious to see his long lost brothers and sisters. The young man’s heart began pounding with excitement as he anticipated the joy of seeing his family and nervously wondered how his brothers and sisters would receive him after a decade long separation.
When he arrived at the orphanage, Alexander spoke to the director who told him the children were, in fact, there. As another administrator went to retrieve the children, Alexander explained to the director the circumstances that led to the children being left at the orphanage. Just as the director was about to express his sympathies, the children walked in.
At first, only the oldest boys Thomas and Terrence recognized Alexander. They had vague memories of him. The rest of the children had been too young to remember their older brother, yet they seemed curiously drawn to Alexander. The director suggested they all go spend time together to reconnect.
In a short time, all the children drew close to Alexander because of his warmth and affectionate concern. They all seemed relatively healthy and that was a relief considering the impoverished circumstances they were now forced to live under. However, Alexander noticed some unfortunate personality traits. There appeared to be some strife and jealousy between the children due to the decade-long absence from their father. They actually believed that their father just abandoned them at the orphanage to fend for themselves. What a disheartening blow to hear this distorted picture of their father. Accordingly, Alexander felt compelled to set the record straight and took the time to describe in detail how they became separated and why it took so long for him to locate them.
Alexander patiently described their father’s love for them. How from birth to their separation, he had done all he could to make life as rewarding and enjoyable as possible. He explained how their father provided a beautiful and nurturing home environment that they were raised in. He described the painstaking efforts and large outlay of financial resources their father had taken to locate them. Even when it appeared that all efforts had been exhausted, their father never gave up on them. Alexander explained that his presence there was evidence of their father’s untiring search for them.
The description Alexander gave of their father Arthur so enthralled these children some of them broke into tears and were overwhelmed that some one could really love them that greatly and have such a strong desire to be reunited with them. And they all appeared satisfied with his explanation and were anxious to meet their father. Alexander was so affected even he could not hold back the river of tears he had pent up inside because of the indescribable loss of his family and the joy of having found them all.
Alexander spent an entire week with his family. During intimate conversations with them, he told them how their father, in anticipation of finding them, had prepared a new home ideally suited for them. Alexander’s description left them wide eyed and totally mesmerized. The new estate was located in an area where there was no possibility of natural disasters occurring. The new home was large enough for each child to have their own bedroom and study quarters. He was aware that his description would be only a pale facsimile of what his father had actually prepared. Nevertheless, the children were excited and wanted to know how soon they could leave!
Alexander explained that since the children had become citizens of the foreign country, he would have to hire a lawyer to draw up the necessary documents and process the paperwork for their return. He assured them their father would send a passport and make the necessary travel arrangements for each one of them who wanted to return home. None of the children wanted to remain at the orphanage. They all eagerly expressed their desire to see their father. Before departing, they took group and individual photographs with Alexander. They stayed up till late into the night discussing many beautiful things about life and love and goodness which was so foreign to these children just trying to survive from day to day.
As Alexander departed for the return trip home, his farewell words were: “Stay ready, your father will soon send for you. Be patient while we get all the legal documents in order.” They were all sad to see him go, but their hearts welled with anticipation for the day when those passports would arrive for them to leave the orphanage!
During the Wait
Thomas and Steve had developed traits that were completely uncharacteristic of their father and older brother. All of the younger children over the years looked to these two older brothers for guidance and direction. They sought their approval for every small undertaking they pursued and did not feel satisfied with themselves until one or both of their older brothers gave their stamp of approval. Being the oldest of the group, Thomas and Steve began to enjoy the influence and fatherly position they had come to hold even though in reality they were young and quite inexperienced in regards the complexities of life.
Notwithstanding all the wonderful prospects for happiness, the deliverance from the commonplace drudgery in the orphanage and unimaginable potential that Alexander presented to their young fertile minds, Thomas and Steve harbored a lurking sense of resentment. They were not altogether happy with the idea they would have to relinquish their position of honor and influence among their younger brothers and sisters.
After all, they reasoned, we were the ones who had acted as the true caretakers of the family. We were the ones who spoke up when the principals at the orphanage showed partiality against them. We were the ones who slipped out of a window late one night to search for Linda when she tried to run away. We were the ones who took food from our own plates to share with them when the daily rations were not sufficient. We shouldered the responsibility to provide encouragement so that the family would not fall into despair. And we were the ones who risked being punished for our outspokenness when standing up for them.
Arrogantly considering all they had done, the two boys whispered privately among themselves, “How could Alexander not acknowledge all the work we put into the protection and personal sacrifices made in behalf of the family. Our father should have honored us with an extra token of recognition and a special gift above and beyond what he offered the rest of the children for our persistent labors! Now he wants to treat us the same as them as if we have done nothing!”
Rather than recognize it was their moral responsibility to protect the family, envy, jealousy and self-importance became the motivating factor that now drove them. The two brothers began to view Arthur and Alexander as more of a threat to their shallow positions of authority, rather than as benevolent deliverers.
During the three-month intervening period of Alexander’s absence, Terrence and Thomas became increasingly bossy and demanding of their younger brothers and sisters. The older boys never ceased reminding their younger brothers and sisters that they were obligated to them and owed them their obedience as the acting heads of the family. They even asserted that all Alexander did was make promises from a father they barely knew or could hardly remember.
One day Terrence and Thomas called the family together to deliver a stunning message! They said they had received a phone call from their father saying Terrence and Thomas were now in charge of their brothers and sisters. All the management affairs, including travel arrangements, concerning the family would be negotiated through them. As Thomas and Terrence put it, the children were told to comply with whatever instructions were given. They were impressed with the idea that they were to regard the instructions coming from Thomas and Terrence as if they came from father himself.
They further broke the sad news that their father reached the decision that only Steve and Thomas would be going back home and that the rest of the children were to remain at the orphanage. No convincing explanation was given for this stark turn of events. The brothers further related that to compensate for their remaining at the orphanage, the father agreed to make certain provisions for their comfort. Each would be given a generous monthly stipend to care for their needs. He would arrange and finance the building of a small park and zoo on the grounds of the orphanage to make life a little more pleasant for them. While the conditions appeared much better than they were presently experiencing, it was obvious that this offer was nothing in comparison to the offer their older brother Alexander had promised when with them.
This shocking supposed turn of events elicited mixed responses from the children. The youngest set of twins, Andrew and Austin, were saddened but liked the idea of having all their expenses paid for and receiving the monthly stipend. They had grown fond of animals from the nature programs they had watched on television and the city zoo they visited when some wealthy benefactor would extend such kindness to the orphanage.
Linda, who was now a young teenage girl, didn’t like this new proposal at all. She was shattered that her ‘so-called loving father’ would entice her with claims of unabiding love and saying how intently he was looking forward to seeing her, only to renege on his promises and throw them a bone of monetary gifts and pets to satisfy them. Alexander had brought her the message that she had a real daddy and that she was not just an abandoned child left to fend for herself. This gave her a new found optimism for living which made the orphanage environment so much easier to endure. Her heart had become filled with the prospect of being with a father who truly loved her and this meant more to her than any material gift this lonely bewildered child who had been through so much could desire. In the pain of her disillusionment, one evening she walked out of the orphanage to go out on her own, never to be heard from again! She left brokenhearted!
However Jeanie and Janet weren’t buying this story at all! The girls had frequently spoken of the negative changes they observed in their older brothers that made them wary of their frequent demands and distrustful of many of the family decisions they reached. They stood their ground and told Thomas and Steve they could not understand why their father would tell them something totally different than what was related by Alexander. Jeanie and Janet told their older brothers they simply did not believe them!
A serious argument erupted between them, the likes of which had never happened before. Thomas and Steve not accustomed to being challenged responded with horrible name calling and the most vile characterizations of their younger sisters. They did everything in their power to separate them from the rest of the family. These two sisters just could not fathom how their one time loving and caring older brothers could become such acrimonious and abusive manipulators in defiance of all their father stood for. And they never lost faith in their father’s promises as delivered by Alexander.
Every time the two sisters sat down together to view the photographs they took with Alexander, it reignited their firm grip on the promises Alexander had made for them to return home to see their father. Their faith in Alexander’s promises never dimmed and never died. They continued in eager anticipation in spite of the terrible trouble their older brothers had foisted upon them.
At long last the eventful day arrived. The orphanage received word that all the children’s passports and airline tickets were ready for pickup. Steve and Thomas called a cab and headed for the airport, leaving behind their other siblings. Jeanie and Janet, still holding onto their faith, made separate arrangements to travel to the airport. The youngest twins, still believing they were not invited, kissed their brothers and sisters and waved goodbye.
Once they arrived at the airport, Alexander was there waiting for them just as he had promised. He was happy to see Steve, Thomas, Jeanie and Janet, but he asked “Where is Linda, Austin and Andrew?” Before Thomas or Steve could utter a word, Janet angrily blurted out the whole sordid story the older brothers had concocted and foisted off as a new message from their father. Alexander was stunned. He was saddened that Austin and Andrew lost faith. And he was particularly grieved at the effect this charade had on his younger sister Linda, who might never be found.
Instead of feeling embarrassed or guilty for making up a cruel lie, Thomas and Terrence became indignant. They were actually offended that Alexander would focus so much attention on the children who were not there, while failing to recognize all they had done to keep the family together. After all, Alexander had only showed up for a couple of weeks, whereas they had to deal with the antics of their younger siblings for years! “Where was the special recognition for all our hard work,” they wondered. The generous offer the father had extended to all members of the family was looked upon as a slap in the face to them.
All the feelings of disdain and offense they had whispered among themselves in private came pouring out in a torrent of un-appreciation for what their father wanted to bestow upon all of them. They told Alexander their father was wrong to give them all an equal share of his wealth when they had done so much more than their brothers and sisters! They went so far as to intimate that their younger brothers and sisters were slackers and if it were not for them, the family would be in total disarray. They failed to understand that their own actions resulted in the disarray of the family!
Alexander was furious with his younger brothers for the bold deceit they perpetrated and their utter lack of love and appreciation for all the goodness the father was desirous of showering on all his children. He was bewildered at trying to understand how their thinking could become so twisted as to manufacture this deranged plan of theirs. What did they hope to accomplish? Could they not see that their devious plot was bound to be exposed and that they would have to answer for their behavior?
Alexander explained, they were not entitled to anything! He asked; “How could you view the care of your younger brothers and sisters as a duty!” You should have considered it your loving responsibility to care for your helpless siblings, even as your father had done for you for all the years you were cared for before tragedy struck our home. Father tended to your every care and need out of love and deep affection with no strings attached! Now you are angry because you were not given a greater reward than your siblings. What you performed for your little brothers and sisters you had a responsibility to do! Your anger is unjustified and a product of your own pride and jealousy! Our father did you no injustice, my foolish and unreasonable brothers!”
Alexander informed Thomas and Terrence they would not be returning home with him. Any hope they might entertain of ever returning home to their father and having any part in his generous offer would hinge on them locating sister Linda and apologizing to Austin and Andrew. They were to not only find Linda and apologize, but also solicit her forgiveness for the upheaval they inflicted on her young life. They were also required to go back to the orphanage to meet with Andrew and Austin and rectify the erroneous message they had delivered in substitution for what Alexander had told them. Their prospect of ever being allowed to return home would depend on the effort to find and restore Linda to her father and rectify the deceit they used on their youngest brothers. Alexander made it unequivocally clear that the two boys stood in jeopardy of being disowned by their father if they did not do everything in their power to repair the damage they caused! They were informed he would be returning after consulting with his father to see if they had succeeded or failed in restoring the father’s other children. With those final words they were dismissed!
The Trip Home
After a few moments of silent contemplation, Alexander turns his tender gaze upon his two sisters Jeanie and Janet. It was this look and the soulful comfort of his commanding voice that so endeared the two girls to their big brother. Their love and respect for their brother soared to new heights of appreciation when they listened intently to his words of reprimand to their two brothers. They appreciated his fairness and deep concern for Linda as well as Andrew and Austin. All the children were important to him, unlike the principals at the orphanage who often were partial to the children who were their favorites.
As Alexander and his two sisters waited for the announcement to board the airplane for their flight home, Alexander took them into his arms and said how proud he was of them. Their sublime trust in their father and not giving in to the lies of their older brothers was an act of courage and devotion rarely witnessed in the lives of children so young. He assured them upon returning home, their father would give them all that he promised with some additional surprises they couldn’t even imagine! The two girls were giddy with the expectation of seeing their father and trying to imagine what he had in store for them!
The two sisters were sustained by a sublime and wholehearted trust in their father and older brother. While they experienced many turbulent ups and downs of living, they consistently held on to a confident hope that things would get better. In the face of all natural difficulties and contradictions of living, there were periods where they experienced tranquility as if they were in the very presence of their father. No doubt it was this familial connection and genetic endowments from their father, even in children so young, that enabled them to triumphantly face every ordeal that life would throw at them.
No one, not Thomas or Steve, or even the people at the orphanage, could shake the faith and hope Jeanie and Janet held. Their faith protected them from being disturbed by fear and uncertainty. Nothing was able to tear them away from their fervent, sublime and undaunted faith. And during the three months of testing, they unfailingly exhibited an unquestioning trust in the promises of their father.
Now at long last they were rewarded with more than their wildest imaginations could dream!
– The End –
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