The Proposal

Once there was a father who had a son of whom he was very proud. As the father watched the boy grow, he dreamed about the future he desired for his son. He loved the boy and wanted him to have a life full of love and happiness. He knew that if the boy stayed in his house forever, he would be lonely. He knew that to be complete, his son needed a young woman. So the man set out on a journey to find the perfect bride. He traveled far and wide in search of a girl who would be the perfect match for his son—someone his son could love and who would love him in return. Someone who would start a life with the young man and would embark with him on the adventure of a lifetime.

After many days, while traveling through a war-torn and impoverished country, he found her. The father saw a girl, and something inside him told him that she would make the perfect bride for his son. She was dressed in stained clothes, with rough patches covering tears in the fabric. She slumped a little when she walked, as if the enormous weight of her life had prematurely bent her spine. And yet.

Image by Vinay R from Pixabay

And yet the man saw something in her that told him she was special. Her eyes occasionally softened with compassion when she passed those who were less fortunate, and she sometimes straightened up and stared at the horizon with something almost like longing in her eyes. The stress lines in her face only just concealed an incomparable beauty. The father was certain that she was the one.

The man asked some of the villagers about her, and they told him her story. The girl had had a rough childhood. She’d made some mistakes, some bad decisions. She had no family that anyone knew of. She kept to herself; and evidently, she had given up hope that anyone would love her. The man listened intently, and despite the girl’s evident poverty, he was convinced that she would be absolutely perfect for his son.

He returned to his own land and told his son all about her. The boy, now a young man, was excited. From the father’s description, it sounded like this girl was everything he dreamed that his bride would be.  

Now their culture was very formal, and because this was such a grand occasion, the father sent an ambassador to the girl. The ambassador put on his finest clothes and journeyed to where the girl lived. He found her and told her about the young man and his father. He told her about the young man’s character and about how he really wanted to meet her. He told her that the son stood to inherit everything that his father owned.

But the girl didn’t believe him. It was just too good to be true. She knew that if this young man found out what her past was like, then he wouldn’t want her anymore. She turned away from the ambassador and shuffled off to her small house.

The ambassador returned and told the father that the girl had refused his offer. The father was disappointed. Not being one to give up easily, he asked the ambassador to try again. The father told him to give the girl beautiful gifts and to make sure she knew how highly he thought of her.

So the ambassador made the long trip once more and knocked on the girl’s door. He gave her the gifts. She looked at them in disbelief; and, for a moment, her eyes glimmered with hope. The ambassador told her that transportation had been arranged. All she had to do was to walk away from her old life and join the young man in a new life. Tears welled up in her eyes as the ambassador described the richness of the new life that the young man would share with her.

Then she looked down at her clothes. She told the ambassador that she couldn’t meet the young man looking like she did.

“Ah,” the ambassador said. “Do not worry. All has been arranged. You will be given beautiful new clothes and anything else you need. All you need to do is to join me for the ride back to your suitor’s country.”

She wavered for a moment, took a step toward the ambassador, then stopped. Insecurity and fear gripped her. She trembled. The tears returned. She shook her head, turned back into her house, and shut the door.

The ambassador hung his head and returned to his carriage, sorrowful that he would have to bring disappointing news back to the young man and his father. He began the long journey home. Alone.

It so happened that the girl’s country was on the brink of war with a neighboring country. The neighboring country was marshaling its army and getting ready to invade. This ruthless army had destroyed many nations, and it now threatened to destroy the girl’s country.

Word of the pending invasion made it back to the father. He talked it over with his son, and they concluded that the only way to rescue the girl was for him to go meet her in person and convince her to come back with him. The young man put on old clothes to make sure he could pass through the borders unimpeded, and he set out on the long journey. He found the girl and immediately recognized the potential that his father had seen in her. He introduced himself, got down on one knee, offered her a gold ring, and proposed to her.

Before she could answer, however, soldiers from her country surrounded the young man and arrested him. They recognized him as an outsider and accused him of being the leader of a band of outlaws that had caused the fighting between their country and the neighboring country with which they were at war. The king of the girl’s country persuaded the king of the invading country to cease hostilities if they executed the young man. The last the girl saw of him, he was being led away in chains.

The kings were pleased with their solution to the fighting and thought they were very clever. They understood political power, but they didn’t understand the power of love and the power of sacrifice. They didn’t know that the power of sacrificial love was far stronger than they could ever conceive.

Life in the small town, such as it was, dragged on. The girl subsisted day to day. Any hope she might have entertained had long since been crushed; but a year later, something astounding happened.

The young man rode back into the town where the girl lived; but this time, he was dressed in fine clothes and had a massive entourage with him. The king of the girl’s country was too terrified to confront him. The procession stopped at a small house, and the king’s frightened soldiers watched from a distance as the young man got down on one knee and proposed once again to the girl who answered the door.

Photo by Ricardo Moura

_____________________

There is nothing I would like more than to leave you with a happy ending to this story and tell you that the girl accepted the proposal, that she joined the young man, and that they lived happily ever after. But I can’t. Because the ending of this story doesn’t belong to me. The ending of this story belongs to each of us. We must individually decide how it ends, because that proposal has been made to every one of us.  

Do we leave our impoverished life behind to pursue a life of love? Or do we turn our back on love and remain crushed by the enormous weight of a lonely existence?

My hope and prayer is that each of us will get a glimpse of the unconquerable love that beckons us to a life beyond our imagination. And I hope that glimpse shakes you enough so that you will answer the proposal with a resounding “Yes!” Because that one decision will change you forever.

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