The following rather random piece of writing was something I composed a few years ago when I was leading and preaching at an evening service – yes, the whole kit and caboodle. It’s a strange little story, not to everyone’s taste, designed to be read aloud, like an old fashioned children’s story. You may find it a little corny! Originally I performed it in two parts, but I’m pasting it here in full.
The King of all the World
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a prince. He was a very young prince, still a boy, but he had great ambition to be the very best he could be. Having said that, he was not arrogant, or proud, and wished only to do the best for his small kingdom.
From the window of his palace the prince could see for miles. The plains to the east, the mountains of the north, the river winding south. And in the west he could see valleys, vast numbers of them, hills dipping down and up and down again into indistinguishable places. It was said that somewhere in these valleys lived the king of all the world. And the prince daily looked out of his window towards these valleys and wondered about this king of all the world.
One day he made up his mind. He packed all the jewels he possessed; he wore his most ornate of robes. He put his heavy crown on his head. He would need to be the most princely of princes to gain an audience with the king of all the world.
He set off with a staff to lean on, and walked the miles to the deep, deep valleys. It was further than he thought, and the crown weighed heavy on his head, his robes dragged in the dust, the jewels clinked in the sacks strapped to his back. When he reached the valleys it only grew worse. For as he walked through each deep dark valley the load grew heavier, the robes ripped and torn, his head aching and his body tired. And still he could not find the king of all the world. Many times he wondered if his search was in vain, if there was no king, if he had been told myths and lies. And when he reached what seemed to be the muddiest deepest darkest valley of them all, he began to weep. He was bruised. His feet were blistered. He ached more than he thought it was possible to ache. And worse than all of this, he lost his hope.
And with that he flew into a rage. He tossed his crown into the mud and stamped on it. He flung his jewels away from him with a scream. He tore off the rest of his sodden, damaged robes and sank to the ground.
‘Where are you?’ he raged, half desperate, half mocking. ‘Are you really the king of all the world? I have brought you everything I could. I am a prince, and came dressed for you. I wanted to see you. I believed you would help me. What more can you want of me? What have I not done? Why do you live here where no one can find you? I hate you!… I hate you!’
Shaken to the core by his own admission, by his own sense of desperation, he curled up, lost, confused.
And the silence was the biggest silence you have ever heard.
And then the king of all the world said: ‘Ah. There you are.’
And now the prince, still right where we left him, raised his head and squinted in the darkness.
‘Do you think,’ said the king, ‘that I did not see you, wrapped up in your finery, in all you thought you should be, going through all the correct procedure, all you thought was fine and good?’
‘But you were not yourself until you knelt in the dark and flung all your rage at me. Every hurt you’ve ever had, every dream that has ever been broken, every disillusionment with the world around you. All of these, also did I see. But you could not see me.’
The prince was struggling; never had he felt so out of control, so vulnerable, so transparent.
‘Your robes did not help you see me, neither did your crown. I have no need of jewels or finery. Only you in all your honesty could truly encounter me. Only when you could admit the darkness around you, could your eyes be opened.’
‘I am the king of all the world. And you did not find me. I found you.’