The King’s Gift


By: Greg Michaels

This allegory was originally written to spark discussion about spiritual matters with a Muslim friend. The author says it has effectively provoked dialogue with other women with whom she has shared it as well. The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a housewife and a graduate student working on a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. She is developing creative ways to make Christ more real to Middle Eastern women.

Once upon a time there lived a wise and benevolent king. Though all kinds of rare and exotic animals lived in his vast kingdom, the songbirds were his favorites. Each sang a unique melody that delighted the king. By royal decree, he had made it known that he would pay a dear price to acquire more songbirds for his estate.

One day, merchants from a caravan told the king about an exquisite bird with deep rose and turquoise plumage who sang the most enchanting song they’d ever heard. But this bird lived in a far-away land, imprisoned in a delicately-crafted golden cage that hung outside a tailor’s shop.
The wicked tailor struck her cage often in fits of anger. Frightened and confused, the poor little bird dared to sing only at night. The king grew angry at hearing the story, and he was determined to rescue this helpless creature. So he commissioned his most trusted servant to find the bird and purchase it. The servant saddled a strong horse and prepared many provisions, for the journey would be long. He also took a large sack of gold coins, for the king was willing to pay a
very high price.

Weeks passed. Then, on a warm spring day, the king’s servant returned, holding aloft the glittering cage with a triumphant smile. The journey had been quite difficult, and the tailor had demanded a very high price indeed.

The king took the golden cage to a special place in the lush garden where he spent his evenings reveling in the great variety of songs the birds sang. In this garden he tenderly hung the golden cage, gazing with compassion at the frightened creature within.

He opened the cage’s tiny door, leaving it ajar. Then he walked away, for the bird was fearful and struck her frail body against the sides of the cage again and again.

After some weeks had passed, and spring gave way to summer, the jewel-colored bird was no longer afraid. This garden was a place of peace. Her cage door was still open, and no one had harmed her. She was especially glad that no one beat on her cage anymore.

Day after day she watched the gentle king as he strolled in the garden speaking to the birds and caressing them. They all responded in outbursts of song.

All the birds seemed so happy. They freely flew in and out of their cages, singing and chirping to the king for hours on end. Some of them were brightly hued, others were only a common brown. Some were young, others had streaks of gray in their feathers. Nevertheless, the king
loved them equally, as if he didn’t even notice they were all different.

One sunny day, a cheerful canary went to visit the beautiful bird in the golden cage. Flying in through the open door, she fluffed her feathers and settled herself on the swing. Soon the two birds were chatting about nearly everything. The canary admired the fancy feeding dish and mirror. She had never seen such luxury! The canary also told her new friend of the most wonderful privilege of all–eating grain from the king’s own hand. But the lovely bird chose to eat alone in her cage.

They talked about the open door. The richly-colored bird explained to the canary that even though she was curious about life in the garden, she really had no desire to venture out. Besides, her father and mother, her grandparents, and many of her relatives had all been born and raised in cages. To her, they all seemed to have happy and fulfilled lives.

The canary tried patiently to explain that the king was offering an invitation to leave the golden cage, as beautiful as it was. The lovely bird would be free to fly. And she could even eat choice grain from the king’s hand. The canary reminded her that the king had paid a very high price to bring her to his garden.

Day after day the king walked past, holding out his hand at the door of the golden cage. He yearned for the little bird to come to him, but she was still too frightened of the unknown to move beyond her swing and feeding dish. Being a perfect gentleman, the king would never force her to leave the home she had always known. He had simply opened the door, waiting patiently for her to decide to fly out on her own. The king longed for her to experience the true joy and peace of mind that
awaited her.

Several years passed. The happy little canary still with news about happenings all over the kingdom. The imprisoned bird continued to preen and fluff her feathers, satisfied only with glimpses of the king. And her small golden door remained open.

(The above material appeared in the June 1992 issue of the Discipleship

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