The once was a little boy...
To be clear, this is NOT 'Once upon a time there was a little boy.' This little boy was once a real little boy and the story I am about to tell you is true, even if I have taken the liberty of filling in some of the blank spaces in the story. It really happened and it really happened something like this...
There once was a little boy who, through no fault of his own, grew up crippled. He wasn't always crippled. He started life just like any other little boy; mischievous, rambunctious, and adventuresome. He had a name, but if I told you his name you would think, "What a strange name to give a child!" So, instead, let me tell you what his name meant: "Beloved of the Lord."
And so he was.
As Beloved ran down the halls of the palace fighting the bad guys and disrupting the servants trying to do their work, smiles would cross faces. Everyone enjoyed watching Beloved grow up!
What's that? Oh, the palace. Yes. I suppose you need to know that this was no ordinary child. You see, Beloved of the Lord was the king's grandson. Not only that, his dad was the 1st born son of the king, which, everybody knows, meant that he would one day be king. No, Beloved was anything but ordinary, he was beloved. Certainly beloved by God, after all he was born and raised in the palace. Certainly beloved by all who knew this delightful, if mischievous, boy. His name fit him perfectly.
It all happened so suddenly. Such things usually do. Without warning Beloved of the Lord heard the panic in the palace. He saw people running whom he had never seen run before. He was only a small boy but he knew that something must be terribly wrong. At first he was just curious but when his nanny grabbed him and started running he got scared and, as little boys are want to do when they get scared, he started crying. He didn't know why he was afraid. He just knew he was afraid.
His nanny was a wonderful woman who loved little Beloved as if he was he own. She certainly didn't mean to change his life that day, but in her haste she did. As she ran through the halls of the palace, trying desperately to get Beloved to safety, she tripped and fell crushing Beloved's ankles beneath her. Now the little boy was truly frightened and in terrible pain.
This was a little boy caught up in something much bigger than him. How could he possibly know that on this terrible day God was already at work creating another beautiful masterpiece of reconciliation? How could he possibly understand that he, Beloved of the Lord, was to be at the center of it all?
The bones never healed properly. Beloved never ran another step, and oh, how he used to run! That's when the whispers started, "Maybe he's not 'Beloved' after all. Maybe he's something else. Maybe, instead, he is the shameful one." It wasn't long before everyone was calling him by this new name and he began to forget his real name. He began to believe that he was, indeed, a shame. And, as shame is want to do, he hid.
Shame was afraid. People were telling him that this new king would hunt him down one day and kill him. That's what kings did.
Shame was bitter. You see, even though he had forgotten his real name, he sometimes had memories of running through the palace. When he did remember he wept because he was certainly not running now and he was certainly not living in a palace. There were moments when he thought he heard someone call him by that once familiar but now forgotten name. He would always think, "Pah! If this is what being "Beloved of the Lord" is like I'll just keep my shame. It surely fits me better. A crippled outcast with no future."
Shame woke one morning to the sounds of strange men in the village. King's men! And they were looking for him! So, this new king who was living in the palace where he should be living had finally found him. The king was going to have his way with this crippled, shame of a man. This crippled, shame of a life.
Shame hobbled into the court of the king. His heart was racing, his hands were sweating, his eyes were darting from side to side, expecting a knife in the back at any moment. Though he had eaten nothing all morning he felt sure he was about to throw up. The metallic taste in his mouth made him think of the cold steel of bitterness that had been forged and re-forged in his heart all these many years of being Shame.
He somehow found himself on his face before this king. Did he trip? Did someone push him? Did he just naturally do what people do before a king? He wasn't sure why, but there he was; before the king and expecting the very worst.
Surely there would be gloating over another victory. ("Some victory!" thought Shame. "I'm just a cripple!) Surely there would be speeches about the superiority of this king as compared to that other king (who, just to remind you, was Shame's grandfather.) Surely there would be a pronouncement of judgment. Surely Shame was breathing his last breaths here on his face in front of this king.
Yes, come to think of it, especially at this moment, "Shame" was a more appropriate name for him after all. He had stopped believing he was "Beloved of the Lord" a long time ago.
Shame sensed that the king was now standing to his feet. His guts clenched in anticipation of the words that were about to come. And those words did come. But those words came in a way he had never dreamed.
This king was calling him by his name!
This king was not angry!
This king was kind and gentle of heart!
This king was taking this shame-filled cripple by the hand and lifting him to his broken feet!
This king was inviting him to lunch, and then dinner, and then breakfast, and then every other meal that was to ever be served at the king's table!
This king was restoring Shame to the palace, forever!
In the days and weeks and months that followed Shame pondered all that had happened to him. He discovered that this king was looking for an enemy to love. How astonishing it was to be the enemy who gets invited to dinner!
On a clear evening Shame heard the king playing one of his favorite songs. He was quite the musician. Near the end of this song Shame thought he heard the king's voice waver with emotion as he sang, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." Shame began to weep because in that moment he realized something truly marvelous. Something that changed him much like those broken ankles changed him so many years ago.
At that moment he knew that even though everyone called him Shame, his real name was Beloved of the Lord.
There is a king calling your name. You may fear what He has to say. I assure you He is inviting you to come and live with Him in the palace.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." -Revelation 3:20
(If you would like to read the story of the cripple and the king you can find it in 2 Samuel 4:4 & 9:1-13)