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The Altar and the Crown

The miner carefully chipped at the piece of rock in front of him. He shone his light on the remaining pieces, considering carefully where to strike his hammer and chisel to retain the precious metals and gems that were embedded within.

“There. That should do it,” he said as the strike of his hammer sounded against the stone. He smiled broadly as he caught the stone as it fell away from the rest of the tunnel. He carefully placed the rock within his bag and rose to leave the mine.

He left the stone in the hands of his daughter. It was a risk to do so, and time would reveal whether it was cared for or whether the rock would retain its current state, with all its flaws and imperfections.

His daughter ignored the rock for years, thinking it worthless and the foolish imagining of an old man. “This rock is precious? All it is, or ever could be, is a lump of stone.” She scoffed at his insistence that it contained precious metals or gems.

But she carried it around for years. Time chipped away at the rock and removed some of its rough edges. She would retrieve it periodically and inspect it for signs of value. Time also added dust and dirt to the lump of stone, causing its value to be hidden even further.

One day, she woke up different. Her life was broken. She had lost everything she had ever loved. Her relationships were in shambles, and her life was a mess. As she packed her few meager belongings, she considered everything she had left. She had little resources. She was bankrupt – emotionally, financially, and spiritually. She had nothing of value. But as she cleaned out her closet to move out of her apartment, she found the stone that her father had left her. And she grew thoughtful.

“He always said that it contained precious metals and gems.” She pondered on it for days, wondering what she should do. Finally, it struck her. “I will give it back to him. He is a miner. He can remove anything extra and find the value in it.”

She carried the stone back to her father. As she handed it to him, she gasped with shock as he immediately threw it into the fire. “No!” she screamed in horror. How was he to find the gold or silver if it is in the fire?

Her amazement grew as she watched him. He reached in with a long pair of tongs and retrieved the stone. As he placed it on the steel in front of him, she gasped again as he struck the stone over and over, feeling every strike in her bones. Weeping, she continued to watch as he threw it in the fire and forced herself to observe the process over and over.

Slumping the floor, her strength left her. The process was too hard. Her only remaining hope was disappearing with the cruel actions of her father.

“Watch child,” he encouraged her.

“I can’t. You are destroying it.”

“Just watch.”

She lifted her eyes and watched her father. Fascinated, she now glimpsed streaks of gold and flashes of colored stones.

Her tears diminishing, she continued to watch the actions of her father.

“Will you allow me to go on?” He asked gently.

“Yes, please. Please go on,” her voice tremulous.

He continued to return it to the fire, then removing extra bits of useless stone. He would remove a colored gem every now and then and set is aside.

Soon, his actions changed. He took the remaining gold and put it in a pot. He created a very large fire and heat up the ore, carefully skimming off impure debris from the top. He continued to do this over and over until the gold was shiny and pure.

“Child. Listen to me. I’m going to send you to see the King.”

“Wait! What? The King? I don’t have anything to bring him.”

“Just wait and trust me. Now go home for now. I will call you back soon.”

She returned to her home perplexed. She looked through her meager belongings, finding nothing to wear to an audience with a king. What was her father thinking?

Time passed, and soon her father called her to his side.

“It is time. Here is your rock, although in a slightly different form.” He reached behind him and placed a crown of gold and gems on her head. “Because you allowed me to re-form it and reshape it, it now shows the value it always had. But the value was hidden, until you placed it in my hands.”

Tears fell from her eyes as she remembered the horror of the process, still feeling every blow of the hammer in her bones. She still felt the heat of the flames as she watched beauty being formed from an ugly stone.

He then wrapped in her in a soft white cloak, made sure the crown was secure on her hand.

“Now go. Meet the king. You will know what to do.”

She timidly left and traveled to the king. As she entered the throne room, she noted that everyone else was also wearing a cloak. However, whereas some where crowns on their heads, some carried rocks and stones, still in the old familiar form of a mined lump of stone. She reached up to touch her crown.

Finally it was her turn to gain audience with the King.

“Hurry, hurry,” workers ushered her along. As she entered his presence, she was astounded at the beauty and light and abundance surrounding her. She grew more and more nervous with each passing step. She saw others carrying platters of food, or baskets of money, or boxes full of trophies and accolades. She became self-conscious of her empty hands, but knew the time was past for her to bring anything to offer to the king.

She noted that the ones that carried baskets and platters full of other things, usually didn’t wear a crown. And time and time again, she observed their dejection as they left the presence of the King, their offerings still in their hands.

“Why are they dejected?” she asked of one worker.

“Their offerings were not pleasing to the King,” he said sadly. “If only…”

“If only what?” she asked of the worker, but his answer was lost in the noise of the crowd as they moved forward.

Finally it was her turn.

Eyes down and averted from the gaze of the King, she bowed deeply and wordlessly. Her words were not even good enough to offer him.

“Child. Welcome.” The king reached out his arms and she took his hands.

“Oh my King, I have nothing to bring you. I am sorry.”

“Look around child. I don’t need anything.” He chuckled softly.

She smiled, whispered and said, “Wait. I do have something.” She took the crown from her brow and gave it to him. “This is all that is left of my life. It is yours.”

“Perfect! This is what I’ve always wanted!” He smiled and laughed and danced with joy, grabbing her hands, and spinning her around. “I am so glad you are here!”