Monday, December 8, 2008

The Expectation of Faith and the Impulse of Love

It was in the mid 1960’s that I discovered in the used book section of the Good Will Store in Spokane, Washington the little book of short stories written by Henry Van Dyke. The Blue Flower was published in 1902. I purchased the book because I liked old books and this one was embossed with gold leaf and colored art that made it particularly attractive to me. I was later to discover a story within that book that has lived in my heart ever since. In fact, I had used the story as my Christmas sermon in 1966. I had hoped that our family might make a tradition of sharing the story each Christmas. While that did not develop, the story has continued to move me each time I read it.

What follows is briefer, but based upon that story: The Other Wiseman.

Artaban had missed the appointed meeting with Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, the three other wisemen who had agreed to go to greet the newborn King, each bringing his special gift.

Now, nearing the end of his life, Artaban was confronted with giving his last of three gifts for the King—a most beautiful pearl--as ransom for a young girl being sold into slavery. His long journey of 33 years seeking the King had brought him back to Jerusalem just at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. He had already given away his other two gifts, the sapphire to buy food and herbs for a dying man, and the ruby to save a newborn child from the sword of Herod’s soldiers. As he gave his last gift for the King to the girl, the sky darkened and the ground shook in heavy pains of labor. Stones tumbled from the walls of homes along the street. One fell and hit Artaban on the head. As he lay with his head on the girl’s shoulder resigned that his search for the King had ended without his finding Him, the girl saw the old man’s lips move as though in answer:

“Not so, my Lord! For when saw I thee an hungered and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw I thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? When saw I thee sick or in prison, and came unto thee? Three-and-thirty hears have I looked for thee; but I have never seen thy face, nor ministered to thee, my King.”

Then Artaban as well as the girl heard the words, faint and far away:
"Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me."
His journey was ended. His treasures were accepted. The Other Wise Man had found the King.

As I finished reading this story on Christmas Day 2006 in a flood of tears of deep love and admiration, I realized a Truth about myself. Within minutes I flashed back over my life from birth to the present. I had been told all my life that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. The circumstances of my birth were special in that I was conceived  to a woman who had been told that her very life would be in danger if she were to carry her third child to term. In my early twenties when I learned of this story of my birth many things fell into place in my mind. I began to realize that there was a great expectation about me; that I was born into this life to make a difference. I flashed forward to a later time in my forties while meeting with a small group of three other persons and in a deep altered state. I was again impressed with the calling that I was here to do something significant, something that would have implications to the course of humanity.

Then I was in the moment of a recent session with a therapist who skillfully freed the lock I had imposed upon myself all my life about the expectation that I was to do something special. That expectation, buried deep in my psyche, had the result of my feeling as though I had never lived up to my potential, that I had let not only myself down, but also those for whom I cared. I could never do enough and often what I did do fell short of satisfaction.

At last I came to a recent day and once again to the story of The Other Wiseman. All of the life story I had just flashed upon was true in one sense, but not as I had believed it all of my 70 plus years! Yes, I am special! And, you are special too. We all are. What I have come to realize is that I am an expression of love. Even though I have not expressed that love as well as I might have in the past, I now feel an overwhelming sense of that wondrous, unconditional love in my being. I feel the breaking apart of limitations and of clouds of darkness and ignorance. I hear not only the commendation, but also the injunction to love even the least of these, my brethren.

I have grown up with an expectation embodied in the faith others had in me and have discovered the impulse of love within my being. No words can adequately describe the freedom granted in this love. It is first a freedom for my own expression, to be who I am and to enjoy who I am. It is the realization that true love is always enough because it will inevitably lead one to doing those things that bring healing, peace and satisfying fulfillment. Will this change the world? Perhaps not. This new impulse of love is my understanding of my gift and the motivation to be that love as clearly and as completely as I am able. Change the world? I only know it has started me on the path of change. To that extent my world, and maybe yours, is changed.

(This is an excerpt from the complete article written for my hoped-for upcoming book: Moments.)

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