There once lived a king of a small but beautiful castle. He had everything a king could want – a beautiful queen, lovely princesses, bountiful land, friends and plentiful resources. He was also quite proud of his walls. He had built them sufficiently high and strong so they could withstand attack but not so foreboding that they repelled callers of good repute.
Near his castle were other industrious kings, all working toward the common good of the people and the land. These small kingdoms lived in relative peace save the occasional border dispute – always quickly solved with diplomacy and understanding. To the north lay a massive kingdom that ruled the entire known world. It was long-rumored that this land was perfect and its people well-loved. Inside that castle was a good and great king who treated the lesser kings with abundant mercy. Although this king had the power to easily crush any rival beneath his feet, he preferred to rule with honor, civility, and justice. The smaller kings attempted to emulate this king in every facet. Always generous in his teaching, the good king sent letters and even a royal emissary to instruct in his ways. And the people were better for it.
One day our king noticed an unfamiliar soldier staring up at his walls. He called, but the dark soldier ran and hid in the surrounding forest. With little cause for alarm, the king went about his duties until he saw the strange soldier again – this time very close to the wall, inspecting it for weakness. The king yelled down once more and once more, the soldier fled.
Days went by and the king fell back into his work. One night however, a harbinger came and told him his walls were under attack. With no time to spare, the king ran to the wall and looked down to see an army of dark soldiers preparing for war below.
“Wake the troops, send for our allies,” he called. “We will defend our walls!”
Messages sent to his fellow kings far and wide were answered immediately. From the moment of the siege, allies rallied to the cause. Some were intimate friends, some merely acquaintances, and many were men our king had never met. Of course, the great king to the north sent every resource requested. Even in this dark time, because of the support, our king felt a warmth of love he had never experienced. He marshalled his troops, beat back at the enemy, and for a time seemed to be repelling the attack.
But the darkest days of the war came. Rocks and stones tumbled from the wall, each one hurting our king in ways he didn’t expect. Though his friends never wavered, he knew more was required.
A messenger was dispatched to the great king of the north requesting men and weapons. To our king’s dismay, the messenger returned with a large supply of riches – gold, diamonds, and rubies. Knowing these were of no use to him in his current dilemma, the king once again sent his messenger. This time, he made certain the message was clear – men and weapons of war were required.
To this request, the great king sent eloquent letters of love and encouragement.
Frustrated, angry, and confused, our king once more wrote a desperate message in his own hand begging the great king for what he needed.
The messenger returned empty-handed.
“He gave you nothing?” the king shouted above the sound of his castle’s demise.
“When he read your letter,” replied the weary messenger. “The great king only wept and said, ‘tell your king that I am with him’.”
This saddened our king, for he knew all was lost. The barbarians were quickly upon the defenders. In a final push, the wall came down. The loss was great. Although the defenseless kingdom was now theirs for the taking, the invaders seemed content to leave the king exposed and melted back into the forest.
But what of our king?
Our king stood atop his ruble looking out over tumbled walls, carnage, smoking debris, and immeasurable loss – broken. All that he had presumed to own was no longer his. The safety of his walls proved to be an illusion. Never before had our confident king found himself at a loss for direction. But now he fell into utter confusion.
Should he rebuild these walls or find a different way to protect his kingdom? Although he had built, he did not know how to rebuild and from where he stood, there seemed a vast difference between the two. How would he build the walls high enough to protect… to stop the pain… to quench his aching heart? And what of the great loss?
How would he ever reconcile the seeming indifference of the great king?
* * * * *
One by one, old friend and new marched past our lonely king and offered condolences and aid for which he was grateful.
Yet when they were gone, he stood alone among the ruins.
And for the first time in his life, he had no idea how to lead.