Story is the framework of our lives and it seems our souls can absorb story at a deeper level than principle or lecture. That is probably why Jesus so often broke the mold of his time and used stories to preach the truth and tell us what his Kingdom is like. Using story to communicate a mythic reality that illuminates the truth of the Kingdom of God will penetrate past our neatly created internal filing system that keeps information categorized in the brain, but achingly distant from the heart.
With that being said, I am thrilled to introduce Laurèn Heffner’s Children’s story, The City on a Hill, today as the latest installment in our missional living series. Enjoy!
The City On a Hill
by Laurèn Heffner
Once there was an orphaned boy who lived on the side of a hill in a small house among other children he called family. The darkness was familiar to him because he and many other boys lived in this darkness their whole life and knew very little about the city of light above them.
Every night, he stared at the lights at the top of the hill and thought of how beautiful they were against the night sky.
He thought about following the narrow path up to the city, but the older boys assured him there was nothing he needed in the city of light, and the people who lived there were different.
While the boy believed what they told him, he quietly watched these people from a distance and wondered what they were doing when they came down to the hillside with lanterns and candles. Though he felt drawn to their illuminated faces, he could not imagine them seeing his.
One night, a girl his age walked down the narrow path holding a bright lantern and spotted him hiding in the bushes not too far from his house. She asked the boy to step out of the bush and promised he would be safe.
The boy stepped forward and met her on the path. He asked her to tell him about the city she was from, and she welcomed him to follow her back so that he could learn for himself.
The boy was skeptical. He remembered how his friend said these people were different and told the girl he did not know if he could trust her. Understanding his concern, the girl replied, “We’re from the city on that hilltop; we cannot be hidden! There’s nothing to be afraid of here because nothing and no one can hide in the light.”
He listened to this mysterious girl as they walked upward toward the beautiful city. Interested in the way she talked about family in her city, the boy was at the gates before he realized she had drawn him to this point.
Peering through the gate out of curiosity, he watched as men and women, and children of all ages, shared a blanket in the grass where they sat together and passed food along to each other, making sure that each one had plenty to eat.
Some took their bread in baskets to other homes and shared whatever was necessary. They cared for each other, and patiently met the needs of everyone who could be seen in the light.
“I would like to be apart of this city, and live in the light with you,” the boy whispered to his new friend. The girl stepped back and frowned.
“There is something you should know about my family,” she fumbled for the words.
“What is it?” the boy asked with wide eyes.
“Well,” she began, “Our city was not always bright. The city reflects our King, and He is no ordinary King. He traveled far below where any royalty would go to be like us, and took on every part of our darkness so that we could live in the light. He knows each of us and loves each of us, and when our city gleams in the darkness, we know it is because he first brought us light so that we could see and enjoy him forever!”
“That sounds wonderful,” the boy thought out loud, “So what is the problem?”
“The problem is that there is no darkness in him at all, and you cannot live in the city of light with him and in the darkness at the same time, so you must be willing to give up the shadows you’ve been living in.” The girl began to search his face for a decision.
Up until this point, his eyes gleamed with expectation, but at the mention of his home, the boy began to weep. He no longer thought of the darkness as a comfort. It was his world for so long, and yet, suddenly it was not enough. “I’ve been told all my life that there is nothing for me in your city, but now that I’ve seen it I can’t look away. I’m afraid to give up my home in the shadows, but nothing and no one can be truly known there,” he reasoned. He wanted more for himself and for the others living on the hillside.
The girl took his hand and said to him, “If you lose your home in the shadows, you will get a home in the light with a King who will keep you safe in his kingdom, and not only that but he will adopt you as his son. You will be apart of his family with me, and we would be brother and sister, and together, we could bring his kingdom down into the dark hillside until there is no more darkness at all!”
The boy wiped his face with the sleeves of his tattered shirt and said, “I cannot live in the darkness alone anymore. Please take me to your King and ask him to adopt me just as you said he would.”
She held his hand and assured the boy that they were in the King’s presence right now and that he had heard everything the boy said. The gates of the city of light opened to them, and a man greeted the boy with new clothes and a lantern of his own. The boy grinned at the man and at his sister with new hope as they walked down the main street of his new home.
It was not long, as he was walking with the girl, that he began to feel sick thinking of his friends in his old home. “I had no reason to believe I could live in the city on the hill, but you told me that I could be your brother and we would bring this kingdom into the darkness until there is no more darkness at all! Please, let’s go back with more lanterns for my friends.”
The girl saw a new spark of joy in the boy’s eyes as he pointed to the path beyond the bushes where he once hid from the city.
“Don’t be afraid,” he took her hand and turned her around to face the lower regions of the hill. “I saw the love our King had for you, and it changed my heart forever. Let’s convince the rest of our city to travel down to the hillside where I came from, so that everyone who lives there may be exposed to the city of light!”
The girl agreed to this, and after rallying their brothers and sisters together in the name of the King, they planned to journey down the hill to the houses below with the glow of their lanterns and candles. One by one, they circled the hill until the lights expanded along the hillside. From a distance, the hill appeared brighter with loops of strung lights like a garland on a Christmas tree.
The people who only knew of darkness until this point, came out of their homes and took a deep breath of fresh air as they observed the countryside by the light of the lanterns. Some ran and hid but could still be seen by the light, and others embraced it, asking to be apart of the King’s family and the city of light.
It appeared to the boy and the girl that expanding the kingdom down the side of the hill increased its visibility to the regions beyond. And as the boy took a narrow path toward the edge of their new city limits, he discovered the river below and the people who lived in the shadows on the banks. One girl in particular was sitting on a rock, watching him from a distance, considering what it was like to be apart of the city on the hill. “Don’t be afraid,” he said to her as he invited her to step into the light.
Story by Laurèn Heffner