Heavenly Trek and Handcarts
Harold was an upright and honest young man. Truly anyone would be proud to be his friend. He believed; "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." His mother had taught him this creed from his youth and he believed it! She called it the "Golden Rule." Harold lived this law most of his life, treating others with kindness, love, and respect. His mother reverently recounted to him the story of the Savior. He tried hard to be like Him. Jesus was Harold's hero.
Harold learned while traveling the wide road, that many people do not know, nor want to know the "Golden Rule." The Savior, to most of them, was an enigma, not a reality. Nevertheless, Harold would be true to the teachings his mother had so prayerfully taught him.
Sometimes these uninstructed and misguided individuals would behave without conscience: lying, deceiving, and hurting those around them. Harold had heard of the acts of wicked men, but never witnessed it until he traveled this road. He had been warned about the adversary and the influence of dark beings who inhabited obscure crevasses and shadows aside the road ahead. He knew that he must be careful and cautious if he were to finish what he had started.
At the starting point of the journey, all were admonished to bring a handcart, a wagon, or a homemade trailer. Harold felt unsure about which he should choose, so he selected a handcart knowing this was used by the early pioneers. No instruction was given but all were told they may need it while on their sojourn ahead.
Harold was excited to start his quest. He was anxious to reach the summit and set the goal to never be distracted. He would focus each day never losing a step.
Early into his trek, he stopped to get acquainted with a few fellow beings resting by the side of the road. To his surprise, they were rude, and insulting. They criticized his appearance, and excluded him from their inner circle of friends.
He was hurt. Nobody had ever treated him that way before. So, he picked up a few small stones and put them into his handcart. The stones would remind him of the hurt. He would choose other friends and then move on.
Further up the road and part way up a small hill, he met Bill. They became friends and walked the road together. For some time they shared companionship. They had much in common and worked for the same company for a few years.
An opportunity came where Harold could get a promotion. This would be good for him and his new bride. He did not know that his friend Bill was interested in the same position. He applied for the job, hoping for the best.
Bill found out about Harold's application and was upset. He did not want to compete for the new title because he knew that Harold was more qualified. His colleague and friend, Bill, pulled the boss and supervisors aside, and told them lies about Harold. The slander was untrue, but believed. The company offered Bill the coveted position.
Harold learned through a supervisor, what his good friend and associate had done. Harold was deeply hurt! He felt that he had no choice but to leave that job and find another. Before moving on he picked up a large rock and put it into his handcart. He remembered what his Grandma Lewis had said, "I can forgive, but I can never forget." Harold would keep the rock and never forget the hurt.
Years passed and he found a new friend, Brian. They would travel the road together for many years. Brian saw something off the side of the road that he wanted to investigate. He encouraged Harold to continue on the trek and he would catch up later.
Harold noticed an older man on the road who had a wagon completely filled with rocks, stones, and boulders. He was struggling and could barely pull it up the hill. Harold stopped to help and asked the old man how long he had been traveling. The old codger responded, "Many, many years."
Harold was curious and asked, "Why are you carrying so many rocks?"
The tired gent replied, "Look closer at these stones and rocks! Are they not beautiful? See the gold veins running through them? Notice the green veins, the red veins, the blue veins! They are full of gold, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires! When I reach the summit, I will exchange them for money, and then build a fantastic mansion on top of the mountain!"
Harold inquired, "Where did you find them?"
The old fellow smiled and said, "I took the off-ramp several miles back. It was there that I spent most of my life accumulating my beautiful treasure of gems."
Harold suggested the load would be lighter if he discarded some stones. The senior became irate and insisted that Harold wanted his fortune. He told Harold that those rocks represented his life, and he could never part with them. Harold was puzzled and thought, "All that time and so little distance traveled."
Harold continued on, realizing that he could be of little assistance to the tired old man.
In the mean time, Brian caught up to Harold. As they traveled, Harold questioned Brian as to where he had gone and what he had done. Brian was reluctant to say and only shared that he took an off-ramp to see something new.
That night after they bedded down, Harold was awakened in the wee hours of the morning to lights in his eyes and men in uniforms grabbing his arms. Four large law enforcement officers pulled him up from the ground and started interrogating him. Harold had no clue as to what was going on. He knew that he was innocent of any wrongdoing. The lawmen handcuffed him and hauled him off to jail. In court, he was tried and found guilty of several felonies.
Harold was confused. His traveling companion Brian, was nowhere to be found. Surely Brian would clear up this mess. Sadly, Brian was nowhere to be found. Harold received five years jail time for bank fraud, embezzlement, and identity theft. He had to pay fines, and bear the burden of an ugly criminal trial.
Harold hired an attorney at great expense to appeal the verdict. Upon thorough investigation, his lawyer discovered that Brian had falsely incriminated him. Harold was being punished for Brian's transgressions. Through a long legal process of near five years, Harold was vindicated and freed. Most of his money was spent defending his honor. Now penniless, jobless, and scared he moved on wanting to forget this terrible experience. The jailer returned his handcart and what few possessions were left.
Emotionally, his pain was overwhelming. "How could a friend that he trusted do such a horrible thing?"
He returned to the road and lifted a large boulder maneuvering it into the his handcart. He was thankful to have the miscarriage of justice behind him.
Feeling angry and wanting revenge, he sat down under a tree by the side of the road, and thought it through. "Feelings of anger and revenge never produce good results." Harold would move on, but he would never forget the hurt. The boulder would remind him each day of his sorrow, and the dreadful betrayal that his friend had committed.
Harold resumed his travel toward the mountain peaks. The road was starting to get narrower, rougher, and steeper. He felt exhausted, and his hands bore several blisters. The handcart was getting very heavy. So many stones, so many rocks, so many hurtful memories! Harold's pace was slower. His head hung lower. Sometimes he got lost in the thoughts of the past, reflecting upon all the stones and rocks which he had gathered so carefully. The bad memories seemed to haunt him.
Further up the road stood a woman by a wagon. She looked as if she were in distress. Harold felt that he barely had enough energy to help himself, let alone another person. His first thought was to pass her by. His second thought was to help her. If he could help her, he would try.
She was very attractive and wore classy jewelry and revealing clothing. She was contending with a wagon that was far too overloaded! She would never be able to hoist it up that incline. Harold stopped and offered assistance. She rejected the idea of removing any part of the load. She wanted it all. To remove it would mean a change to her lifestyle. She claimed to love her rocks more than anything else.
Harold noticed her rocks all had inscriptions. They read, "Permission to have fun, party, and club; permission to smoke and drink; permission to not go to church. Other stones had different messages engraved on them, such as; permission to take the finer things of life from others; permission not to serve others; permission to do whatever makes me feel good."
Her wagon was nearly immobile from all of the weight.
From behind the wagon, in the shadows, appeared a very handsome man. Harold stopped and conversed awhile; he found the man quite charismatic. Harold could see his tastes were expensive and exquisite. The polished bachelor was trying to encourage the woman to return to the last off-ramp.
By that off-ramp, stood several tall and magnificent buildings. They were breathtaking and adorned with lights of all colors. The small city invited excitement and adventure. It looked like a risk-taker's paradise. Those who were drawn to the tantalizing club atmosphere could find every pleasure of the natural man.
The debonaire man invited Harold to see real life and excitement. He promised him the "time of his life!" Whatever he wanted, he could have; wine, women, gambling. The polished host offered him introductions to men and women of influence. Money, power, prestige, were all present in those great and eloquent buildings.
Harold politely dismissed himself. He had not forgotten his goal and oath to climb the majestic peaks that stood at road's end. His time was running out and there was still much road to travel.
Now more than half way to his destination he met Carl. For five years they traveled side by side. A trust was developed. They often talked about their future. Carl suggested that they start a business together. Wisely invested, their funds could solve many problems. Harold agreed and entrusted half of his life savings to the venture. Things went well for six months, but then Carl vanished.
Harold was beside himself. Crushed, he thought, "How could I have trusted again?" With inexplicable hurt, he picked up another boulder, and added it to the pile in the handcart. This would be a hurt that he would carry with him the rest of his life.
Despite being discouraged by another travesty, he kept moving on. He reassured himself, "It's okay; Life is not always fair." However, his posture changed. Pulling the handcart up the mountain was now a great burden. His shoulders were hunched over; his head hung low. His eyes were focused on the ground; he watched his feet in the worn out shoes. No longer were his eyes focused or concentrated on the mountain tops.
Harold now fatigued easily. His stops were more frequent. The youthful steps that once climbed the mountain, were a thing of the past.
He was very tired. Each time he rested, he would reflect on the history of each stone, each rock, and each boulder. Questions haunted him, "What if I had made different decisions? Would my burden of grief and sorrow be lighter?" Drowning in his emotional pain, his movement became more winded and demanding.
Voices from the shadows whispered at him. "You brought your pain on yourself! You are a failure! You have achieved nothing of value! You will never make it! You are a pitiful excuse of a man! You have nothing to offer anyone, nor to show for yourself! Why try? Just give up right now! It will make you feel better! You know you will never succeed! It's impossible!"
The emotional pain was becoming overwhelming. It began to affect his physical health as well. Harold felt frozen, motionless, numb. No longer were his senses cognizant of the ponderosa pines, the clear blue sky, the rainbow above, the gleaming dew, and light rays piecing the clouds. The vision of celestial heights had faded into a dream of the past. All the beauties around him were lost in his despair. He could only see dark shadows and the silhouettes of what once was beautiful.
The time spent carrying the load of hurt interfered with his ability to serve others. In fact, his self pity created a victim syndrome in his mind. Fearful of being hurt, he ceased doing good deeds; he avoided people, and no longer lived the "Golden Rule." Why should he? Nobody else did!
His goal to reach a glorious eternal destination was now dissipating. He fell into a deep depression, and his health was progressively deteriorating. Harold dreaded tomorrow, believing things would get worse. Hope seemed lost; he saw no bright future. He laid on the dusty ground by the handcart reflecting on his desperate situation. Would he die there? Did anyone care? Perhaps God could take him out of his misery right now!
But then a glimmer of light touched his mind. Having recalled what his mother had admonished him to do during troubled times, he pulled himself up to his knees and poured out his heart to the Lord. Perhaps the Lord could give him the strength he needed to carry on.
Soon an angel saw his anguish, and approached him to administer relief.
"Why so sad?" Asked the comforter.
"I so hoped to reach the mountain summit where all is peaceful, perfect, and beautiful."
"What is holding you back?" Inquired the spiritual guide.
Harold replied; "My handcart is too heavy to bear. I can no longer lift or pull it."
"Why do you hold onto to that load?" The heavenly messenger probed.
"Because I never want to forget the hurt." Harold insisted.
The angel with sweet and soft encouragement posed the question; "How bad do you want to make it to the top of the mountain?"
"With all my heart, with all my strength, with all my soul!"
Wise, divine counsel was then delivered.
"Then forgive and leave the hurt behind. Empty your wagon! The fruit trees, the vegetable plants, the nuts, and berries that adorned the edge of the highway from beginning to end have been ignored. Gather these fruits and vegetables. They will give you the strength you need to reach your chosen destination."
Harold humbled himself, and acknowledged that the hurts served no worthy purpose. In fact, they were a burden, inhibiting him from progressing toward light and truth. This obstacle was now eradicated. He emptied the wagon!
Anxiously, he harvested the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries along the path. As he feasted upon them, he felt renewed and reborn. It was a spiritual return to his prior strength and vigor. The flame of faith and hope were re-ignited. The nuts and berries reminded him of the small blessings, those that went unnoticed day to day; the fruits and vegetables were bigger blessings that provided hope and increased his faith.
He ceased thinking of the hurts. His mind focused on all of the wonderful things that had happened to him during his lifetime on his sojourn. He remembered every blessing, every sacred moment, every inspiration, every revelation, every answered prayer. A light reemerged and emanated from him.
How could he feel anything but joy? He anticipated the excitement that he would feel upon his arrival at the crown of the lofty heights where he would be endowed with the reward of the kingdom that he sought so earnestly.
He was hiking faster now with a joyful countenance and a special enthusiasm in his eyes. With the restored brightness of hope, he regained his capacity to love all of his fellowman. His first desire was to serve, assist, and help others to the top. There were no more distractions, or obstacles.
With his cart full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries, he could hardly wait to share the bounteous harvest with his family and fellow beings. He would do this on the final arm of the trail, and upon his completed trek at the sacred crest of the mountain.
Harold was filled with gratitude for the angelic and divine counsel that would seal his fate. No longer would he carry hurt; but instead, he would carry hope, faith, and charity. With his cheerful heart, he would see only the good. He would appreciate the precious life that he was given. He would stay positive and optimistic.
The day had come, when Harold realized his life long desire. He stood on the vertex of the mountain admiring the world from a panoramic view. How fortunate to see what few men would ever see; feel what few men would ever feel!
His celestial mentor was there to meet him. Harold was near speechless. "I am blessed beyond words! I feel so free! How is it possible?"
The messenger with a confident and peaceful smile, calmly answered; "You let go of the hurt; and then, you finally forgave with all of your heart."
Tears of gratitude filled his eyes. Near weeping, his appreciation could scarcely be contained. Harold fell to his knees, bowed his head, and reverently poured our his heart in thanks to God.
The rocks of "failing to fully forgive" would never burden his soul again.