For Lewis Dean Sinift
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
– John 1:14
Edited by Katrina Sinift
Although many do not remember it, there once was a great and powerful king in a distant land who loved his people as a father loves his children. In the northern regions of this forgotten soil, he created a magnificent kingdom filled with all kinds of living creatures – horses as swift as the wind, birds with voices of angels, deer as gentle as a loving mother. But of all that he crafted, the Creator King loved the humans most for he created them to be in his image.
The land that he created was saturated with great and wondrous forests, cool streams, and rich gardens. There was no dead thing in the entire land. Everything was beautiful, green, and alive. Soft hills rolled throughout the countryside. Extravagant and beautiful snowy mountains lay in the south with pleasant grasslands in the north stretching all the way to the sea. When the king saw all that he had made and how his people loved it so, he concluded that it was very good.
In the first years of this mighty kingdom, all the people loved the king intensely. The king and his people were always together in community with one another. The king would often hold grand parties in his wondrous citadel in the south, inviting all of his people to be with him. The king identified them as his children and as his friends. The people were affectionate to one another likewise. They loved and cared for their neighbors as much as they loved and cared for themselves. Everyone was equal among them. There were no lords or masters, save the Creator King. Everyone was joyful and the king knew that everything was as it should be.
As time moved on, new generations filled the land and started to wonder about and question their way of life. Their thoughts inquired if the king was truly necessary; seeing him as a pointless authority and believing that they could manage the kingdom just as well without him. They desired to do what they saw right in their own eyes. The king was aggrieved by the thoughts of his people but respected the freedom that he had chosen to give to them. When the new generations requested that he leave, the king obliged and left his home in despair. The people then began to rule themselves and no longer had relationship with the Creator King.
Togetherness began to break between the people in the kingdom and their communion turned to discord. The stronger folk turned to taunting the weak. Men started seeing women as inferior and commenced to ruling over them. Over the course of the age, the people cast out those that they characterized as being “Peasants.” Those given this title were exiled to a far-off land in the north. The Royals, as the stronger folk called themselves, claimed that it was for the Peasants own good and protection. They even claimed that it would have been the will of the Creator King that the Peasants no longer resided with Royals. And thus the Peasants and Royals were divided – as it has been such ever since.
As the years progressed, much of the land grew to be barren. The people no longer cared for the land that their lord had given to them and let it be laid to waste. The earth that remained ripe and green was kept by the Royals but what was parched and dry was left to the Peasants.
The land where the Peasants lived was a wasteland. Much of what the king had created was now desolate and broken – the grass, dead and dry; the rolling hills, barren; the landscape, lifeless. It was as if a painter had destroyed a beautiful masterpiece with just a few quick strokes of a brush. What beauty there once was became lost and destroyed. Sharp rocks covered the soil mixed with thorns and thistles. There was hardly any green left in the land and even the few things that still bore shades of it appeared just as lifeless as they would without it. The light green of the sage brush offered little hope or sign of life. If anything, it served only as a reminder of the fruitful gardens of distant lands that would never be seen again by Peasants.
A narrow river trickled through the countryside; its voice being the closest thing to music one could find in the land of Peasants. Many of the Peasants would meander by it, dreaming of where it might go and where it had been. They hoped to believe that the river offered life somewhere else even if it did nothing for their own home. Of course, if it did bring life elsewhere, it would suggest that somehow it had forgotten to bring it to them – but just the thought of life beyond death can strangely warm a heart.
The homes of the Peasants were plainly and simply built. Sheds, they were called – nothing more than a few hastily nailed boards thrown together to give the pretense of civilization. Old stables that once housed horses were turned into homes when they were no longer suitable for animals. Flies and other insects flooded the rooms and covered the faces of the children, mixing with dirt and tears. The sorrow of the Peasants could be felt in the air and the people were suffocated by it day by day.
The cruelty that humans can afflict on one another – in the name of what is great and good! For this affliction was done in the name of the Creator King! The name of what is right and just has been forever tarnished. For this became the reality of Peasants – not lush green gardens, not ever pouring streams! Rather, the sharp rocks, the thorns, the thistles, and all the dead things among a fallen creation! O’ what mankind can do with such beauty – what mankind can do to each other! Everything became loss, everything became dead. And thus all hope left the Peasants. They realized that they would live and die in the wretched land that the Royals had forced upon them. Every day they prayed for a savior but there was never hope that one would come. For only fools hope in the land of Peasants.
Yet it was in this land of Peasants that the Creator King, after leaving his home, went to dwell among his people. And he lived among them and became one of them.
Most never realized that the one true king lived among them for he did not present the appearance of a great lord. He dressed like a Peasant rather than one of the Royals. Dirt covered his face just as it did the faces of his neighbors. His flesh was beaten and torn. Scars covered his entire being. His dark hair was tattered and frayed. His unshaven face showed stains of grey. His eyes showed signs of weariness. His clothes were little more than rags loosely sown together. He blended in perfectly with the rest of his people. No one perceived him being anything special. In truth, he appeared even poorer than the majority. He did not have a shed to call his own. Instead, he lived in the homes of what friends he could find. The only thing that really seemed different about him was his willingness to love and accept others. This was a hard thing to find among the Peasants – one willing to serve out of love rather than profit.
The king would never hesitate to reveal himself to those who sought him. Many labeled him as insane when he claimed to be king – yet others believed in him. But whoever inquired of who he was would be told the truth. And the king entered into relationship with whoever desired it. Perhaps his closest friend was the Peasant named Adam.
One evening, before he knew the king, Adam trekked outside the village to an unkempt cemetery. He drew near to the grave of his wife whom he had lost the previous year. She had been executed during a Peasant trial. It was custom in the land that if a Peasant were under trial by the Royals, they could redeem their charge if they were to end the life of a fellow Peasant. Adam’s wife had been sought out during a trial and executed. Adam had not found peace since. His wife had been the only thing worth living for in his wretched existence.
On that dark night, Adam knelt by the tombstone of his wife and allowed his tears to flow freely. He grieved for his wife but also for his loss of faith and hope. He had always believed in the Creator King as a child and prayed that if there was a king beyond the wasteland of his home that someday the Peasants would be set free. But now Adam found himself doubting that a loving lord of any kind could exist. For how could there be a great and loving lord and king who could allow such evil to happen?
The king saw Adam grieving that hour and heard his cries. His heart was filled with compassion for his child. So he followed Adam that night to the gravesite and kneeling beside him, they wept together.
After some time, Adam asked the stranger, “Who are you and why do you mourn with me?”
Wiping the tears from his eyes, the king answered, “I am who I am – and I mourn because I loved her as well and I feel your pain.”
“How did you know my wife?” Adam demanded.
“Because I am the king and I created her,” he gently replied.
“I don’t believe you,” Adam alleged through his tears. “I don’t believe in the Creator King for I am so lost that I don’t rightly know if I can believe in anything anymore. I’m not sure that I even know this day what it means to be human.”
“Well then, I can teach you,” the king replied with a smile.
Adam reluctantly consented and welcomed the king into his home that night giving him food and a place to sleep. He only had one bed and offered it to his guest but the king genially settled for the floor.
The following day, Adam and the king went about their business in the village and the fields. Adam assumed he had seen the last of his friend so it was surprising when the king brought bread and meat to Adam’s home for dinner.
After the supper, the king inquired, “What do you desire to drink?”
“Oh, my guest,” Adam replied with laughter. “All us Peasants ever have to drink is water. Surely you must know this!”
“I know more than you can imagine,” the king answered returning a smile. His face then grew grave, “I know that the water which you drink is old and filled with dust. But this, my friend, is not what I inquired of you. What do you desire to drink?”
Adam thought of this before replying, “I have heard that wine is a pleasant drink. But of course, only the Royals can enjoy such luxuries!”
“Then so be it – we shall have wine,” the king affirmed. “Go to the well and bring some water.”
Even in his unbelief, Adam did as he was told. He fetched some water from the well and poured it into two cups, sitting one in front of his guest while keeping the other cup for himself.
“See, my guest,” Adam sighed. “All I can offer is what I have – water.”
“Look into your cup. Drink and see if you then believe,” the king grinned.
Adam obeyed and saw that his water had turned to red. Slowly, he brought the wooden cup to his lips and let the liquid drip onto his tongue. The taste of grapes was so sweet on his taste buds. It was the best thing that had ever passed his lips – it was like honey. He savored the wine for as long as he could before swallowing.
“I see now that your claims are true,” Adam said. “You are the king that I heard about as a child. Teach me, my lord, how to follow you – show me what it means to be human.”
And so Adam believed in the king. The two formed a strong bond and Adam followed the king wherever he went – and he was always welcome. They discussed life – the good and the bad. The king began teaching Adam about what it meant to be human. Yet, not all their talk was earnest. They often joined in laughter together. For the king was not merely Adam’s mentor, but also his friend.
One day the king told Adam, “You were not created to be alone. I will introduce you to some friends and we will be in community together.”
So the king brought Adam to the others who believed in and followed him.
“One cannot be human alone,” the king told his followers. “If you are to love me, you must love each other. If one of your sisters or brothers is sick, nurse them back to health. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are without shelter, house them. You would not let yourself go through these things – nor should you let others.”
And so the followers of the king entered into community and looked after one another. Each of them loved each other just as they loved themselves. Though the heartaches of life still came upon them, they never endured them alone.
Many of the king’s followers were still not satisfied. The Royals would often enter the village and destroy their crops and other works. They begged and pleaded for their lord to set them free.
“My lord,” Adam asked. “Will you ever redeem the Peasants? When will you overthrow the Royals?”
The king replied, “Know that these matters are being looked out for. Control what you can control. Remember, I would not be with you if I had forgotten you. You cannot control the treatment of the Peasants by the Royals but you can control how you love me and how you love others.”
So the king, Adam, and the rest of the followers engaged in each other’s lives and worked in their community. The other Peasants could see that there was something different about the followers of the king because they did not only care about themselves.
One morning the king went to Adam and said, “Come, let me take you to a place in the wilderness. No one knows of it but me.”
And so Adam went with the king to the land south of the Peasant village. The terrain grew steep and grew to be more like mountains. Green shades could be seen in the grass and soon there were trees as well. They passed over several streams and at last they found themselves engulfed in a small forest. Then king entered a small, dark clearing and sat down.
“My lord, how do know of this place?” Adam inquired. “This land is forbidden for us to enter.”
“Worry not, Adam,” the king replied. “This land is the land that I have made and it is under my authority that we are here.”
Adam sat down next to the king and they resided in silence for some time. Any instance that Adam began speaking, the king quietly and graciously quieted him. For hours they sat and just listened. The sound of the wind surrounding them created a peace. The coolness of the breeze on their faces strangely warmed their spirits. The sounds of insects and birds mixed with the hush of the wind and though there were no instruments being played – it was the most beautiful music Adam had ever heard.
After a great amount of time, the king broke the silence.
“Adam, of all the days you labored in the fields, of all the days you spent with your wife, when was the last time that you allowed yourself to simply exist? For it is in silence and solitude that you will find yourself.”
“My lord,” Adam replied. “How can I when there is work to be done?”
“There is always work to be done,” the king returned. “If you wait for the end of chores to be human then you will die without having ever lived.”
“But sire, haven’t you been teaching me – as well as others – all these days that your truth is found in togetherness – that we are not meant to be alone?”
“This is true,” the king replied in seriousness. “I do not ask you to live a life of solitude. But I tell you the truth, if you never take time to listen, how will you ever hear me calling? How can you hear when you do not listen? I do not merely call you to be alone – I call you to be alone with me. For I am jealous for you, as I am of all in my kingdom. I love spending time with each of you but so often you become so distracted. So I desire to spend time with you in your solitude where distractions are removed.”
“My lord!” Adam exclaimed. “What do you mean when you say that I do not listen? Every time you call I answer.”
The king sat in silence for a few moments longer but finally he answered, “My friend, a day is coming when I will no longer walk among you. It is in these times that I will ask of you to be still and listen for me. Never forget that even if you can’t see me, I am always with you. When you suffer, I am holding you and suffering with and for you.”
This brought tears to Adam’s eyes but he did not reply. Adam and the king spent the rest of their day in silence. They did not speak more words but rather just breathed and existed. When the sun began setting, they got up and returned to the village.
On their journey back, Adam finally broke silence and asked the king, “Lord, you could dwell anywhere that your heart desires. Why do you dwell with mere Peasants?”
“My friend,” the king said with a smile, “I love the Peasants. I never want you to be without me. Know that even during the darkest nights and the most painful hours of your life, that I am with you. My feet are cut by the rocks just as yours are. I bleed just like you do. I suffer just like you suffer. Thus, I know you even more – and now you know this. Adam, in life you will experience suffering, evil, and death – never forget that I experience these thing as well – and can overcome them.”
Adam was intensely comforted by these words. Yet, at the same time, he was puzzled by what the king had been saying throughout the day. Why would he leave his followers? And how could he say that he would experience death – surely the lord of the Peasants couldn’t die!
Word began to spread through the village of the Peasants of all the king had been doing. More and more people began following him. News of the revival in the village of the Peasants reached the ears of the Royals. They heard of the man who named himself king.
“How dare a man declare himself a king in our land!” they cried. “He shall be made an example of!”
So the Royals ordered their soldiers to the land of Peasants and searched for the one who claimed to be king. When word of this reached the ears of Adam, he began to fear for his lord’s life.
“My lord!” He cried to his king. “You must go into hiding! Surely these men will kill you without mercy!”
“Let come what may come my friend,” the king replied. “A day will arrive for each of us to experience death. So I shall experience it as well.”
“But my lord!” Adam protested. “All others deserve it! You do not! We are wicked and rotten people, we have all done terrible things. You, my king, are perfect!”
The king smiled at his child. “This may be true, but I am stronger than death and shall show it to you.”
So despite what Adam said and the warnings of the other followers, the king did not go into hiding. It was not long before he was taken captive and dragged to the center of the village to be beaten and bruised. His captors spit in his face, mocking him.
“You call yourself a king?” they challenged. “You’re just a filthy Peasant!” They laughed and cursed the king further.
Many of the Peasants joined in the mocking. Several of the king’s followers abandoned the scene and returned to their sheds in hiding; fearing the Royals would seek them out as well. But Adam stayed and watched as the soldiers ridiculed and beat his lord. How could these men do this to the only man who did not deserve it?
The king was brought to the point of total despair. His flesh was ripped and torn. He lay on the ground weeping. But somehow, through his busted and broken lips, he uttered the words, “I love you all.”
“Get up!” one of the soldiers ordered, pulling the king up from the ground. He spit in his face and then forced a sword into his hands. “Here you go my king,” he scoffed. “Kill one of these Peasants and show your loyalty to the kingdom. Choose any one you like – even a sick one will do. Maybe then we’ll set you free.”
This was, after all, the Royal’s custom in trials. The king became tempted in this moment – not out of a lack of love for the peasants – but the reality and brutality of death was laying heavy on him and he could hardly bare it any longer. He desired to use the sword on his attackers and show them that he was lord. But the Creator King knew that he must go through with death so that he could show his children that he was stronger than death itself. His eyes made contact with his child, Adam. Adam could see the pain and humiliation in the king’s red and bloody eyes. He would still love his king if he accepted the terms of the Royals – nothing would change his love for his lord.
But the king replied, “These Peasants are like my children. I would never kill one for I love them.” He then handed his sword back to the soldier.
The soldier laughed at the king, spitting in his face, “So be it,” he muttered as he took the sword piercing the king through his heart.
Adam watched in agony as his king fell dead and lifeless before him. He could see the blood pouring from the chest of the one he loved. He could not bear to watch any longer, fleeing back to his home. He tried to forget all that he had witnessed but the images would not leave his mind. In his bed he wept through the night.
Lengthy were the days after the death of the king. Adam and majority of the other followers still met but suffered deep distress. They could not help but feel forsaken by their lord. They wailed and they mourned together, but they did not forget the lessons that the king had taught them.
One day, the week after the king had died, Adam led the remaining followers of the king to the clearing in the forest that the king had revealed to him. They took their time in silence – listening for the king; praying that he would answer. When evening approached and the followers prepared to leave, they heard footsteps nearing in the forest. They feared that the Royals were drawing near. But it was soon clear that these were the steps of but one man.
The followers were amazed when they finally saw the man who was approaching and fell to their knees as they witnessed the Creator King alive.
“My lord!” exclaimed Adam. “How can this be?”
The other followers were just as awed. The king’s body still showed scars from his beating and execution. His clothing was still torn from the trial. But his face somehow seemed brighter than ever. He smiled at his friends and let out laughter.
“My friends,” the king finally replied. “I am the Creator King. Death has no grip on me. My foes tossed me into the grave but not even the power of death can hold me. Nor will it hold you if you put your faith in me. Do not forget all that I have taught you.”
“Do you mean to leave us, lord?” they asked.
“There are things that I must tend to.” The king replied. “Bur remember this: I desire above all else relationship with you – all of you. I have lived among you to show you that I am with you. Just because you cannot see me does not mean that I am not with you. Know that in your darkest hours I am right beside you feeling what you feel – hurting because you hurt. You have seen me suffer, you have seen evil afflicted on me, you have seen me tempted, and you have seen me die. But you have also seen me overcome those very things – the things you experience daily. Now you know that I can suffer with you and that I can help you overcome. Do not give up hope! Not even in the end! For I am with you and will return for you!”
The king embraced each of his followers and said farewell before disappearing off into the wilderness.
Adam and the other followers returned to the village and told the other Peasants what they had seen. They never forgot the love the king had showed them. In their darkest hours they remembered their lord and trusted that he was with them. The legends grew among the Peasants and they forever looked toward his return. The Peasants never forgot about him. They would always tell the tale of the great and mighty king who became a Peasant – the Lord of Peasants.