Once upon a time, in a kingdom nearer to us than we think, there lived a girl named Sara Unitarian. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Unitarian, were courtiers, and every day they dressed in their best clothes to visit the King and worship him. Naturally, Mr. and Mrs. Unitarian wanted Sara to be like them in the future so they dressed her in her best clothes and took her with them to worship the King. Sometimes Sara forgot to be on her best behavior and did things like crawl up to the throne or throw her skirt over her head. Fortunately, their King is very good and understands that little children sometimes do embarrassing things.
During one of her lessons on how to be a courtier, Sara asked, “What would happen if I don’t want to be a courtier?”
Mr. Unitarian said, “You will be banished from the court and have to live in dark and dirty caves. Every year, the King’s messengers will ask if you are ready to return to court, and you have to decide.”
“What if I always decide not to return?”
“You will be given 100 chances to change your mind. If after the last invitation to return you still refuse, you will be thrown into the fiery prison.”
“I don’t want to be thrown in the fiery prison,” said Sara. “I don’t want to live in dark and dirty caves. I want to wear beautiful clothes and pay court to the King.” This pleased her parents very much.
However, as she got older, more was expected of Sara. She was no longer excused if she didn’t behave well because, her parents argued, she ought to know better. Every year the list of rules got longer and longer, and it seemed to Sara that being a courtier was no fun at all. One day, while she and her parents were paying court to the King, Sara finally broke down and said loudly to her parents, “I don’t want to be like you! I don’t want to pay court to the King! I don’t want to wear these clothes and I don’t want to worry about how to execute the perfect bow!” Saying thus, she ran off without even bowing to the King as she was expected to.
Mr. and Mrs. Unitarian were shocked. They expected the King to punish Sara as they knew he had done to others who rejected him. Mrs. Unitarian fell to her knees because she was afraid her daughter would be thrown into the fiery prison, and Mr. Unitarian mumbled in a shaky voice, “Sire, my Lord, we have educated her. We do not know why she has run off.”
“Do not worry,” said the King. “I will bring her back.”
Mr. and Mrs. Unitarian thought the King meant he will send his messenger to ask Sara to come back. They were very surprised to see that the King himself stood up from his throne and told everybody there that he will fetch Sara himself.
“But Sire,” said Mr. Unitarian. “Your robes will become dirty if you follow her to the caves.”
“Never mind,” said the King. Saying thus, he left the throne room.
“Look, my dear,” said Mrs. Unitarian. “But the King has not left. He is still sitting on his throne.”
Indeed, when Mr. Unitarian turned around he saw that the throne was still occupied by none other than their King. Confused, he asked, “Sire, who was that who had just left to fetch my daughter?”
“My son,” said the King.
This further confused Mr. and Mrs. Unitarian. In all their years as courtiers, they never heard of the King having a son. They asked the other courtiers for an explanation, but the explanation gave them a headache. Finally, the King smiled at them and said, “Do not worry too much if you cannot understand. Go home and get some sleep. Your daughter will be home soon.”
Meanwhile, Sara shed her court robes and forgot about everything she had learned from her parents. She lived in the dirty and dark caves assigned to those who chose not to be courtiers. During the first few years, she told herself that the darkness was better than the blinding bright light of the King’s throne room, and the dirt was better too because she didn’t have to worry about always acting properly and taking care never to spill anything on her court robes.
As her parents had told her, every once in a while a messenger came to invite them back to the King’s court, but always Sara and her companions rejected the invitation. They all said, “If we are going to the fiery prison, so much the better! All of us will be there, and though it might be a little hot, it will be so much fun!”
One day, as Sara again said “No” to the messenger, she noticed that he looked a little like the King as she remembered him. “Impossible!” she told herself. “Why would the King lower himself to come here?”
The next time the messenger came she made the same observation, and again the third time. At the fourth time, the messenger surprised her by asking her directly, “Are you sure that’s a ‘No’ again, miss?”
Sara snickered. “Of course!”
The messenger smiled. “Better luck to me next time, I guess. By the way, your cave doesn’t look very safe. I see some cracks over there, and the water level here seems to be higher than last year.”
At that, Sara’s companions pushed the messenger out and said, “That’s none of your business.”
But what the messenger said made Sara more observant of her chosen dwelling place. She saw that indeed there were more cracks, and the water level was also higher. She tried not to worry, but she sometimes couldn’t help herself. She found herself reminiscing about her experiences at court but her companions made fun of her. “Those messengers are sneaky,” said one of her companions. “Next time, don’t talk to him. Just say ‘No’ then turn your back immediately before he tries to persuade you.”
Unfortunately, there was not going to be a next time. Before the messenger even came back, the cave where Sara had been living collapsed. Some of her companions died. The rest scattered to find other caves to live in. They invited Sara to come with them, but the shock of waking up to a collapsing cave and escaping at the nick of time made her wary of living in another cave.
“Where will you go?” asked her companions. “You’re not going back to the Kingdom, are you?”
“I’m not sure,” she said. When they abandoned her, she started wandering around the desolate lands surrounding the Kingdom. The only habitable places outside of the Kingdom were the caves, but she still could not make herself return to another. After several days of wandering, she met the messenger who used to be assigned to her cave.
“It’s you!” he said. “I was wondering what happened to you. Are you lost? Let me help you.”
Not wanting the messenger to think she needed help from anyone connected to the King, Sara said, “No! Leave me alone.”
“Look, I can see you’re hungry,” said the messenger. “I still have half of my lunch but I’m already full. I’ll leave it with you in case you want to eat it. If not, it’s ok.”
Sara frowned at him, but after he left she ate the food. The next day the messenger came back. When he asked if she ate the food she said, “It was rotten. I threw it away because it smelled bad.” She could not look the messenger in the eye. He took another packet of food, laid it beside her and said, “Maybe this will taste better.” When he left, she ate it all.
Every day the messenger came back with more food, and every day Sara pretended to not be interested even if she ate it all after he left. Then one day she came across some of her former cave companions. When they learned that she had been eating food from the Kingdom, they laughed at her for giving in to the enemy. They said to her, “We thought you were a cave-dweller like us. Apparently, you are one of them.”
“I’m not!” cried Sara. “I have not returned to the Kingdom, as you see.”
“No, but neither have you returned to the caves either. You cannot stay here in the desolate lands, as you know. The only reason you are not yet dead is because you have been sustained by food from the Kingdom. Sooner or later you have to make a decision. Either return to the caves or to the Kingdom.”
Upon hearing that speech Sara became distraught because she knew she was being a hypocrite. She did not want to return to the caves, but neither did she want to return to the Kingdom. She felt very confused.
When the messenger arrived the next day, he said, “I have brought your favorite sandwich, Sara.” When he smiled at her, she recalled the smile the King gave her when as a toddler she crawled up to his throne and threw her skirt over her head. That memory felt like a stab to her heart and it made her angry. Even if she was hungry, she threw the sandwich at the messenger’s face. “I don’t want your food,” she shouted. “I don’t want you here. I hate you! Leave me alone!”
Her words hurt the messenger, but he said, “All right.” He hurriedly left, but in his haste he forgot his white scarf. Sara looked at the scarf in disgust, kicked it and walked away. She was hungry, but she told herself it was better to be hungry than eat food from the Kingdom. She fell asleep dreaming about food.
When Sara awoke, she was surprised to see that the messenger’s white scarf was wrapped around her shoulders. “What’s this?” she asked. She could not recall bringing the scarf with her let alone wrapping it around her. She tore it, balled it up and buried it before walking away.
The longer Sara went without food, the weaker she felt, but she still would not make a decision whether to return to the caves or to the Kingdom. Sometimes she saw the messenger who seemed to be waiting for her to come to him, but she always turned her back to him no matter how hungry she felt. Finally, very weak from hunger but still adamant not to give in, she collapsed.
When she opened her eyes, she saw the white scarf fluttering in the wind. “How is that possible?” she thought. “I had buried that damn scarf.”
It was beautiful. There was no trace of dirt on it and it was not torn. She suddenly forgot about her hunger and felt an overwhelming desire to grab the scarf. It was inexplicable, but her weak legs gained strength and she found herself standing up. Her weak arms reached out, but the wind blew the scarf out of her reach. She stepped forward to reach it but again the wind blew it away. “Come to me!” she cried, but the scarf resisted. It flew away from her. Unable to accept that she would never see the scarf again, Sara ran after it.
Before she knew it, she found herself a few meters away from the messenger who was having a picnic. He did not seem surprised to see her, nor did he show any hard feelings towards her though she had rejected him before. “Come,” he said with a smile, the same smile which reminded Sara of the King’s smile. “I’ve brought a lot of your favorite sandwiches with me, as you see.” He did not come to her like he did before. He stayed where he was as if to say, ‘If you want to eat, you must come to me, not the other way around.’
But Sara still felt a few traces of stubbornness in her heart. “Wouldn’t that mean an admittance of my defeat?” she asked herself. “After all those years of living as a cave-dweller, am I simply supposed to give in?”
As she asked herself those questions the white scarf settled on her shoulders; and then in a rather inexplicable way she saw that giving in did not mean defeat. Rather, it meant victory. It meant admitting that she was hungry and receiving food rather than dying. Now she had to make a choice – the choice which she had for so long delayed – of returning to the light of the Kingdom or to the darkness of the caves.
The moment Sara stepped forward towards the messenger her surroundings whirled around her. To prevent dizziness, she closed her eyes. When she opened them again she saw that she was back in the Kingdom in the King’s throne room. She was wearing her court robes and she was no longer hungry and dirty. Her parents were there. They cried to her, “Daughter! You are home again! Come and bow to the King!”
Sara allowed herself to be brought before the King, but since she was still stunned after her unusual experiences, she forgot all about the proper court etiquette. Fearing that her daughter might be sent away for being impolite, Mrs. Unitarian whispered, “Bow, child, like you were taught.”
Rather than become angry, the King smiled at Sara and said, “There will be time to relearn all of that.”
“Oh, my Lord,” exclaimed Mr. Unitarian. “You are indeed merciful. You forgive those who return to you.” Glancing at his daughter, he noticed that Sara was wearing a white scarf over her court robes. “What is that? Take that off!” he said.
“No Papa!” she replied.
Mr. and Mrs. Unitarian were shocked by this reply, and they turned to see if the King would punish their daughter. She had returned to the Kingdom, but maybe her heart is still in the caves.
Again the King only smiled. He stood up, picked up a tray of sandwiches and took it to Sara. “Here you are child. As promised, your favorite sandwiches.”
Mr. and Mrs. Unitarian’s mouths dropped when they saw the King serving their daughter. “My dear,” said Mrs. Unitarian, “why would the King serve our daughter? Look, he will not even let her carry the tray. Indeed? He made those sandwiches himself specifically for her? But why? And what is that white scarf over her shoulders? My dear! I had just noticed. Everybody but us is wearing a white scarf over their shoulders. Why have we not noticed that before? And my dear! Look! The King is with everybody, and he is attending to them as if he is the servant and not the master. But he has not even left his throne. Look, he is still there! How can he be there and at the same time be beside everyone else? My dear, I am very, very confused …”
Happy Trinity Sunday!