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STORY: Fathers Against Sons

A thin, dirty boy walked alone through the desert with two empty buckets. The walls of the city shrunk in the distance as he re-enacted the conversation he had with his dad that morning.

“You’re such a sickly boy.” He said in a menacing voice, just like his father had. “Stop complaining. This work will make you stronger.”

The boy spoke into the air, much bolder and more assuredly than when he had really said it to his dad, “But it isn’t fair that we have to carry two buckets for several hours, when one of them goes directly to the King. Why doesn’t he get his own water?! He uses people to get what he wants. He doesn’t care about us!”

He recited mockingly how his father had replied, “Son, you know how important it is that I look like a good and trustworthy servant to this king? If he makes me a royal guard we could live on the royal grounds and eat of his leftovers, and drink of the water that peasants like you bring to him.”

The boy rolled his eyes and now shouted, “You're just like him! You send me to get your water while you drink wine with the other misfit... posers in the market.” The boy hadn’t really said that to his father.

'If only the real king would come back,' he thought. But it had been two generations, 60 years, since the true king had been run out by the tyrants who had turned the city into this.

The boy waited at a distance from the well until some women in frayed clothes were done drawing their water. Ever since the new king had taken power, the expectation was to never make contact with people lower than yourself. It didn’t make much sense to the little boy, though. Their laughter seemed as fresh as water. Both were seldom to come by.

When they were done and at a safe distance, the little boy carried his buckets up to the well and attached them to the rope, one after the other. He let the rope down for each one, and then pulled it up, hand over hand, laboriously lifting the heavy water. It took several minutes and almost all of his strength.

As he sat, catching his breath, on the edge of the well, he looked at the heavy buckets of tepid, dirty water setting on the ground. He looked into the desert in the direction that the city was, an hour and a half away, and sighed, already exhausted.

“Hello.” An unexpected voice came from behind him.

The boy leapt like a skin-and-bones cat from the well, landed on his butt in the dirt, and looked back. A thin man with sun-kissed cheeks and a beard walked up to the well. He was maybe 35 years old. His clothes were crisp and white, unlike the dry, faded fabric the boy was used to seeing. He wore a backpack in which was woven pockets and tools of many types. He wore leather sandals. He wore a big fresh green leaf on his head for shade.  He must be from the mountain jungle country in the other direction.

As he walked to the well, he pulled his backpack off and set it on the well. He pulled a pouch made of animal skin from a pocket in his back pack and unrolled it.  He knelt against the well and rested his elbows on it. He opened the pouch and connected the rope to it. He looked over at the boy and held it out to him. “Will you please draw me some water?”

The boy hesitated. They weren't supposed to speak to outsiders either. But this man's request seemed to have different motives than when his father commanded him to get water. Even just the “please” and his small smile, and the way that he waited for him patiently, made him seem different.

The boy took the rope, took a breath, and lowered it. He let the large pouch fill, and then drew it back up. This one came up easily because the pouch was lighter than the buckets. He handed the leather pouch to the man and started to turn around so he could catch his breath.

But the man said, “Wait.” He dropped a drip from a small vile into the water, and then held the pouch out to the boy and said, “This is for you to drink. All of it.”

The boy looked at him questioningly. “Why would you ask me to draw water for you and then give it to me?”

“Because that is the type of king that I am. You have proven yourself worthy of my kingdom. Now drink it, if you'd like.”

The little boy had known it. There was something different and special about this man. But the tyrannical kingdom had taught the boy to be skeptical so he asked, “Why should I believe that you are a king?”

“Don’t you already know it? The ones who are worthy of my kingdom recognize my ways. Drink, my friend.” The man’s smile was almost brimming over with tears; he was so full of joy! It was as if he had been searching for members of his kingdom for years and he had found another one.

The boy smiled slightly. He put the water skin up to his lips and tasted it.  It was sweet. He glanced down at it. It was clean and glistening as well. The boy lifted it and continued drinking until the whole pouch was emptied. He knew who this man was. He was the son of the king who had been run off years ago. This man spoke justice. He had given water to one who earned it, instead of commanding someone to draw it and then taking it from them. And this man knew how to make the water clean and good.

The boy sighed and let the water run down and fill his stomach. It seemed to rejuvenate his system as it soaked into him. He looked back up at the man and said, “Why did you come here today?”

“I came to talk to you, I had seen you from our forts in the mountains where we have telescopes and science and gardens. But I also came to divide people,” he said.  “I am planting seeds of the necessary war. I came to bring a new way of life to those who want it. Can you tell your parents that you will no longer draw water for that rat king?”

“I don’t know.” The thought of it horrified the little boy. “My mother and father would disown me.”

“Could you do that, if it meant that it would help my kingdom take over in your city?”

The boy thought about it. “But my family is all i have.”

“Could you do it? You would have us as your support.”

The boy swallowed and looked into the moist pouch as he pondered. “I could do it if that’s the only way. They love their kingdom. I hate it.”

“Then you are worthy to live in my courts with me.” The man said with a somber smile. “For now, my strong young son, if I may call you that,"

The boy nodded enthusiastically once he finally understood. "You should do everything your parents say except for things that would help that impostor king. In that way they will see my kingdom coming and will know where you stand, even as you love them and honor them. And if they do reject you, and you have no where to go, come and wait for me here. Now, go do good work, my son. Tell others I am returning soon, and prepare the way for me among those who are your friends.”

“Yes, my new Father," the boy looked hesitantly at him, "if I may call you that?"

The man smiled and said, "That is perfect. For you all will be like sons and daughters to me."

The boy swallowed, just now realizing the gravity of what he was about to go back to. This would divide his household, but it was the only way.

The man saw the heaviness on his face and said, "Here take this. Show them what I bring." He handed the vial to the boy who then looked at the water in his buckets. He looked back up at the man and nodded.

The man helped the boy load up the two buckets onto his shoulders, and put his hand on his neck as he said, "Thank you."

The boy whispered a genuine “Thank you” and set out for home.

He now seemed powered by an inner strength. He wasn’t sure if it was something in that water, or if it was the belief that man truly had the power to bring a new kingdom into the city, and a new life into the hearts of his people.

The quiet revolution had begun and he was ready to risk all to bring it home.

Matthew 10:34-39

Raw Spoon

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