I sat down one day a wrote this story. I realized it was actually the story of my life and my relationship with Christ. It is my story of how I journeyed from struggling to earn Christ’s love to realizing that I already had it. When I first wrote this story, I didn’t like the sour-faced officials. However, I soon realized that many sour-faced officials long for deeper relationship with the king, but don’t understand how to gain it–so they are to be pitied, not hated. I also realized that most (or all) of us start out as self-righteous officials, and at times we still are.
Once upon a time a little waif eagerly skipped to the palace to spend some time with the King. He had invited her to come, you see, because although she didn’t always remember it, she was His precious daughter and He loved her beyond imagining. As she entered His palace, she was met by some well-meaning but sour-faced officials, who looked at her in horror. “You can’t go to the King looking like THAT,” they sputtered. She looked down at her very best dress, which she had put on just for the King, and suddenly saw all the rips and stains and wrinkles that she hadn’t seen before. A couple of the officials, who understood the King a wee bit more than the others but not as much as they thought they did, said, “Don’t worry, dearie, the King probably won’t even notice that big huge ugly stain here or the really long horrible rip there, especially if you keep your hand over the stain and then twist your skirt a little.” The statement drew the waif’s attention to the big huge ugly stain and the really horrible long rip and she felt embarrassed and tried to hide them. Perplexed, she said, “But I thought the invitation said ‘come as you are.'” The well-meaning but sour-faced officials explained condescendingly, “Well, yes, that will get you through the doors, but you have to work very hard to clean yourself up before you actually get to see the King.”
One of the well-meaning but sour-faced officials looked her over more closely and gasped, “You are wearing no shoes!” “And look at all that dirt on your face and hands and feet!” said another. “Tsk. Tsk.” The waif felt discouraged because she really had tried to scrub the dirt all off before she came so she would look her best for the King. “I ain’t too dirty to see the King, am I?” she asked. The well-meaning but sour-faced officials were appalled by her common speech and advised her not to talk at all until she had learned to speak more properly. They gave her a very thick book called, “The High Language of Religiosity” to study and an even bigger book filled with difficult and complicated laws called “The Impossible Rules, Regulations, and Laws of Legalistic Churchianity.” “The King has very high standards and is very demanding so you will need to know all these laws and regulations. If you fail to obey every single one of them the King will declare you guilty and throw you in the dungeon,” they warned darkly as they shoved the books into her arms. Fearfully she opened the book and saw that she was breaking five rules, three regulations, and one law just by standing there. An especially glum-looking sour-faced official said, “She better have this one too,” as he put “The Book of Shoulds – A Complete and Unabridged Guide to Joyless Servitude” on top of the other books. The well-meaning but sour-faced officials took from a nearby closet a stiff and uncomfortable looking robe (with matching shoes) covered with gaudy sequins of artificial gold. “Here,” they said, “You might look good enough if you dress yourself in this before you go see the King.”
The books and robe (with matching shoes) were very heavy and awkward to carry and the waif kept dropping them as she struggled to keep up with the well-meaning but sour-faced officials. They entered a beautiful dining hall that had an elegant table sparkling with gold and silver and crystal. “This is the King’s Table,” explained the well-meaning but sour-faced officials in hushed voices. “Only the deserving get to dine here.” “Oooh,” gasped the waif in awe. “Do you eat here often?” A look of pain flickered on the faces of the well-meaning but sour-faced officials as they said briskly, “Not yet—but we are working VERY hard to deserve it.” Their voices hardened, “I supposed you don’t know how to behave at a properly set and elegant table either,” they sniffed. They called a servant, who was a slave to good appearances, and told him to teach her proper etiquette.
Just then, everyone heard a big croak. “What is that? they gasped in horrified fascination. “Oh, that’s jist the frog I found this morning on my way here.” said the waif as she took it out of her pocket. “I thought it was real purdy and I was going to give it to the King. Oh, and I was going to give Him this too. I’ve been saving it for Him ever since I got His invitation,” she announced proudly as she took out a dirty, lint-covered and unrecognizable piece of candy. The officials shuddered and said that the King was very wealthy and had many costly possessions and wouldn’t want such worthless things.
The waif started feeling deep shame and despair because nothing she was or wore or wanted to give seemed good enough for the King. She thought herself ugly and unacceptable and was no longer quite as eager to see Him. She was afraid He might be disappointed in her because she didn’t know how to talk or act properly and she was certain she couldn’t possibly live up to all the impossible rules, regulations, and laws. She felt very, very miserable and began to cry. All she had wanted was to see the King, but she knew that she would never, ever be good enough or acceptable to Him.
Suddenly the books and heavy robe (with matching shoes) were lifted out of her hands and a kind voice said, “You don’t need these.” She looked up and there stood the King. His eyes shone with love for her. He laughed with delight as He gave her a huge hug that left her breathless. He didn’t seem to even see the dirt or wrinkles or rips. And He didn’t speak the High Language of Religiosity to her but only the simple words that spoke to her heart. Overcome with gratitude and relief, the waif found the courage to give Him the gifts that the well-meaning but sour-faced officials had said were worthless. The King popped the dirty lint-covered and unrecognizable piece of candy into His mouth without hesitation as He marveled at the interesting frog, aware that she was offering Him the best that she had.
The King asked the little waif if she was hungry, as He led her into His beautiful dining hall. She saw the elegant table, shining with gold and silver and crystal, and drew back. “But—but they told me that only the deserving get to eat at Your table,” she stammered in shame. “And I don’t—I don’t deserve it at all!” The King stooped down and looked compassionately into her eyes. “They do not yet understand that none of my gifts can be deserved or earned, they need only be accepted.” He said gently. “Will you dine with Me?” The waif struggled within herself, very aware of her tattered clothing and poor manners. Then she looked into the King’s loved-filled eyes and her reluctance vanished. “Yes!” she exclaimed gladly. “Yes! I accept!” So the King and the waif sat at the elegant table, which sparkled with gold and silver and crystal, and ate the most wonderful meal the waif had ever had. They laughed and sang and joked during the feast and the King didn’t seem to mind her tattered clothing or less-than-perfect table manners.
After they ate, they took a walk in the woods, and later the waif snuggled in the King’s arms while He told her wonderful stories of His kingdom. She enjoyed the King so much that she spent more and more time with Him in the days that followed and began to love Him more and more. He gave her beautiful gifts of things He knew she would enjoy, and didn’t withhold from her anything that was good. He showed her marvelous treasures and whispered to her some of His secrets. They had some exciting adventures together as they battled giants and dragons that occasionally attacked the Kingdom, and after awhile she even learned not to be too afraid because He always protected her. The King sang her love songs and taught her how to sing them also–and then she sang them back to Him. He taught her to dance, and He didn’t mind that she sometimes tripped or stepped on His feet as she attempted to follow His lead. He never condemned her for her failures and roughness, but loved her just as she was. The waif, who remembered that she was His precious daughter, began to watch the King closely and to copy His ways–not to earn His approval but simply because she loved Him and wanted to be just like Him. She never noticed that every day she was becoming more beautiful and graceful and wise–that she was becoming more like Him. Sometimes the well-meaning but sour-faced officials walked by and snorted in disapproval when they saw them together. “Humph, He spoils her scandalously!” But the waif, who was really a princess, didn’t hear them, and wouldn’t have cared if she did, because the King loved her and thought she was beautiful and that was all that mattered. And the King and His daughter lived joyfully forever after.