There once was a king who wanted to throw a party. He prepared the finest food and drink and adorned the palace with lavish decorations. But more shocking than all of the extravagance were the unprecedented surprises he planned unveil at the feast. Unknown to the attendees, the king prepared three envelopes for every invitee. The first was a cancellation of all financial and legal debts. The second was a certificate of adoption, giving any person the right to become a son or daughter of the king. The third was the most scandalous of all. It contained a deed of co-ownership of the kingdom and a royal edict to share all authority with the king. Nothing like this had ever been done. The king was beside himself with gleeful anticipation of the big night.
The first wave of invitations went out to the ones he knew, so they would have first pick of the best seats at the banquet. But very few responded. Temporarily hurt by the rejection he felt, he determined not to let it ruin the event. He quickly sent out invitations to the rest of the kingdom. Some thought an invitation to dine with the king was a hoax. “Impossible,” they said. Some thought themselves unworthy and made up excuses about their lack of suitable clothes. Some had heard nasty rumors of the king and didn’t like his policies. Yet, many still came. On the day of the feast, as the guests arrived at the palace, they were required to open the first envelope upon entry: All debts cancelled. Great rejoicing ensued. The guests were then required to change into white party clothes. No one complained. They were all elated by the king’s Jubilee edict. The banqueting hall was full to overflowing with people and with joy.
After the extravagant main course, cheerful conversation and satisfied burping brought the noise level in the room to a loud din. Then the king stood with glass raised and shhhh’s spread quiet through the crowd as eyes and ears turned to the host. The king made an official announcement again welcoming the people into his home. He expressed his joy and delight to see his people happy. He finally told them there was a second envelope that would change their lives forever. The King ensured them that none of them would be forced to open the envelope, but that those who did would be consenting to the conditions of its contents. Those who did not want to open the envelope would be asked to first leave the palace before the envelopes were passed out. Their belongings would be returned to them and they would be sent home with the blessing of the king.
Much whispered speculation arose regarding what the contents of the second envelope could be. Some guessed that it might undo the first envelope’s good news. Others worried that it was a certificate of slavery or an agreement of conscription into the king’s army. And others, because of how the king made them feel that night (loved, accepted, understood), reasoned that the king was good and worthy to be trusted. A handful, without so much as a thank you, made a sullen and quick exit from the banquet. The majority remained. The envelopes were passed out by attendants. Once all had received, the king gave permission to open the envelopes.
As the sound of rustling paper echoed through the hall, the king’s eyebrows disappeared under his crown and his grin was larger than seemed physically possible. There were gasps. Overcome with emotion, some fell to their knees. Questions bubbled up around the room. “What does this mean?” “How could this be?” “Is this for real?” “Is this some sort of joke?” One worked up the courage to address the king, “Your Highness, we don’t understand. What do you mean by this?”
The king, full of emotion, responded, “It means you are all my children now! Consider yourself adopted into the royal family!” The king then stepped down from his chair and walked among the people. He hugged some. He placed his hands upon shoulders. He smiled huge smiles of gladness until his expression was mirrored on their faces. He knelt and held others who confessed to him that they had never felt belonging before. Some said that they had never had parents. “Well, now you do,” was all he replied, “now you do.”
The next two hours were like a large but intimate family reunion. Desserts and dessert wines floated around the room on trays. Everyone got to know one another, but more importantly, everyone got a personal introduction to the king. He generally said the same thing to every person, “Now you are my son.” (Or “daughter” to the women). “You belong here. I love you.” It was very late in the night at that point. The king then made an announcement that accommodations had been prepared and that each would be shown to their private room. He added, “I have a third envelope for those who are interested. Meet me in the courtyard before sunrise to receive it. Breakfast will follow.” Some complained that it was too early, especially after such a late night. Others determined they wouldn’t miss it for the world.
The cock crowed, and most were eager to rise and meet with the King. Again, a majority came, but not all. Some figured now that they were royalty, they deserved a little more sleep. Others reasoned they had arrived at the high life—nothing could be better than adoption. All of their anxious energies, which for their whole lives had been their only fuel source, were now satisfied. There was nothing else they could imagine that needed to be done. So, why get up early?
Down in the courtyard, the king personally handed the third envelope out to the smitten majority. They opened them. Again, stunned silence. Someone spoke up, “Your Majesty, this is impossible. This is blasphemy. We could never share in your glory.”
The king laughed and retorted, “How do you know so much about what I can and can’t do? Why not?” No one had an answer. Someone dropped to one knee and then others followed the example. Soon, everyone was in the position to be knighted. The king walked to each one, tapped them on the shoulder with his sword and spoke words over them. This time his words were unique and perfect for each person’s talents, dreams and resources, and came with gravity—a significance that felt heavy and joyful at the same time. As each person rose, attendants would drape them in a royal robe, place a signet ring on their finger and a crown on their head. After everyone had been coronated, he addressed them all again. “You are now royalty with authority. Learn the ways of my kingdom and spread them throughout the whole earth. As I have done to you, do to others.”
One of the king’s attendants pulled him aside and spoke to him in private.
“How long have you been planning this?”
“For a very long time,” the king said.
“You intended more to come, didn’t you?”
“I intended all of this for those who would come.”