When books were scribed on felt and the ink smeared from the blood of Red Heifers, there was a kibbutz among the lands of Gobi, erected at the foothills of the Altay mountain ranges.
When the sun opened her eye at the break of dawn, the people bore her naked fury, but after mid-day she would be eclipsed by the unmoving giants of the land. Every morning was initiated with worship to the Lord – the people would fall on their knees, and facing the sun’s glory, pray with great fervor.
The settlers were petite Chinese christian converts who had fled from the suffocating shackles of the Xin Dynasty. For months they had braved the nocturnal stares of the wilderness, the numbing of the winters and also the searing sun-rays of the desert to come to the haven that they reside in now.
The head of this tribe, Han Xu, had also been their spiritual guide through this perilous journey. Time passed, and when he crossed over to the gates of Heaven, the settlers constructed a life-size statue of him using a rare ore mined from deep in the mountains, an ore they called Iftah.
In order to select a new leader, the people congregated and prayed on the matter. Many solar revolutions passed before it was declared that their next leader would be chosen by God’s will, and the Lord Father alone will decide who it will be.
For all travelers that chanced upon this small settlement in the decades to come, they stood in awe of this paragon of excellence. Its glistening exterior caused many an eye to shun in amazement and fear.
On every occasion, the people would challenge their guests.
“He who has the belief and perseverance to shatter this statue of one into many, is blessed by the Holy Spirit and thus chosen and worthy to be our spiritual leader.”
Everyone who was approached swiftly turned down the challenge, for it was a time of wariness and suspicion.
But 32 years after Han Xu’s death, a man from the lands of Sidon stepped up. The Bearded One, as he was called for his hairy mane, was handed a sledge hammer with a mallet also made from Iftah.
He lifted up the massive object and with a overhead swing, the blow landed like the mighty Mjollner and the statue shook.
But it did not shatter.
Second attempt from the left; third and fourth from the right. Each blow was greater than the last, but still it did not shatter.
Discouraged but undefeated, The Bearded One from Sidon stayed on with the people to embark on this personal journey of faith. He became a part of their daily routines as much as being an outsider of different color and heritage.
Over the next 3 years, he pounded at the statue ten times every day, with unseen effects. With each passing day, he lost more and more of his heart. On the 137th day after the third year and after his tenth swing, he roared to the heavens so ferociously that even the carnivores of the land cowered in their dwellings.
When the people came to him, the Bearded One threw down the mighty hammer.
“I am finished.”
“Why do you give up on faith, when it is faith that keeps you going?” someone voiced out determinedly.
There was a momentary silence; the head of the Bearded One was bowed.
“My faith of now is no larger than a seed buried in the fields,” he finally whispered.
“My Brother, faith is something you must carry with you till your death, and even beyond. For if you stop now, it would be no different than if you stopped after your first try.”
The man who said those words then approached the statue and took out a ball peen hammer no larger than a small dagger. It had the same glint and texture as the magnificent statue.
The sage merely tapped the statue at the mid-torso, and in a breath the statue crashed into a thousand portions. Although the villagers seemed unsurprised, the Bearded One gaped in disbelief.
He staggered to the crumbled debris. “How did you achieve in one stroke what I could not in ten thousand?”
“I simply finished what you started. Had you not yielded till tomorrow, you would have been victorious. It only needed one more strike. Now you see why you cannot give up on faith, because one day faith will repay you; you only need to keep striving towards that day.”
The Bearded One was ashamed for words, but the teacher of his lesson smiled and indicated to the spot where the statue once stood.
“This is where your statue will be perched while you await your successor.”
© Ted K. Chen
* * *
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1 : 2-4