A couple of years ago, I wrote this story for my eighth graders. I wanted them to never forget that God has a special plan for them and faith and hope are born out of a passion for Jesus. When we lose that passion for Jesus, He comes to us and restores us. I pray that this story will inspire you and encourage you to pursue Him. Please share it with anyone who might be encouraged by His message and give me any feedback you might have. God bless you.
Buried deep in the busy city, nestled between the crowded streets there was an abandoned, forgotten park. The once manicured and attractive shrubbery was now overgrown and repulsive. What once drew hundreds of children out of their homes, now only collected trash and a large variety of unwanted insects. It was almost as if the city no longer needed the park or remembered its purpose.
The park itself had felt the abandonment of its neighbors. It felt ugly and ashamed, and that somehow it had done something wrong. The busyness of the crowds and the carelessness of the children daily reminded the park of its worthlessness. With each passing day the park would try to put on the façade that it was still the park it had always been. It would straighten its shrubbery, weave its unmanageable vines, and sweep its trash deep within it foliage, but still people hurried by with only a glance. Tired of pretending that nothing was wrong, the park eventually allowed the pain of rejection and the carelessness of her inattentive neighbors to overwhelm her. She began to sleep in as the sun arose. She no longer cleaned up the trash or straightened her greenery. Sullen and depressed she sat, day after day hoping her life would change, yet unwilling and unable to risk another rejection. Her vines became more overgrown and unattractive, while the trash of the city cluttered every crevice, until one day she looked more like a dump than a park.
It was upon this day, that an unexpected guest came to visit the park. This guest was not like the others, who looked upon her with disgust. Instead he looked upon her with potential and love. Peering into the cluttered mess of trash, and dusty foliage, he saw the purpose and the potential of this park. He saw the treasure and value within. As he reached to unlock the rusted gate, the park lashed out in fear and tore the man’s hand with her cruel claws hoping to detour him from entering her painful world. This however did not detour the guest, for he knew that he could restore the park to what it was meant to be, but it would take time.
So, he began to gently pick up the trash on the outskirts of the park, and whistle a sweet song as he worked, until others began to see her beauty as well. With each passing hour, people began to see the park again, and remembered back to the days when they had played on her jungle gym and had rolled in her grass. Yet still they hurried past, which again crushed the park.
Exhausted, but unrelenting the guest continued to work day after day. Day and night he would trim her foliage and weave her vines. He would clean up her trash and polish her gate, until eventually her cruel claws no long attacked him. She now allowed him to enter her gate, exposing her heart. As he sang, however, she would continue to close her ears to his songs, and would reject his kindness, for deep down she believed she was a waste of space.
These feelings were a response to the anger she felt toward others. “Why don’t they appreciate my beauty? Why don’t they notice how miserable I feel? Why doesn’t anyone love me?” she sobbed. These feelings of anger and self-pity boiled within her with each passing day.
Yes, she appreciated the guest’s kindness, but still no one else noticed her. “I deserve more than this!” she would shout nightly into the darkness, until one night the guest came with a flashlight, a ladder, and a pile of silver. This night would be different. This night in the heart of the park, he began to build a beautiful slide. Intrigued the park perked up her foliage, and eagerly awaited the completion of the slide for she knew that this slide would change her life.
This slide seemed to be 50 feet high, and it had twists and turns that would keep children on their toes. The rails of the slide were high enough to protect the children, but low enough to bring both terror and delight. It was the perfect mix of mystery, terror, and joy. This slide was made of pure silver, and it glistened as the sun rose overhead. “Surely now children will come to play here again, and now others will see my worth,” she shouted. “I will be the most famous park in the city.”
However the guest quickly and sternly warned her, “Only if you use this slide for the glory of its Creator will it draw people to itself through her. Only if the neighbors can see past your beauty and purpose will you be blessed.”
Confused and a little annoyed, the park protested, “Why would you spend so much time on me, if this slide was not meant to help me? Why did you even come at all? This is what I need to make people love me again. I will be thankful to you, but why can’t I proclaim to the city my purpose, and use this slide to draw others to me?”
The guest simply smiled and said, “You can, but the glory will only last until your slide tarnishes. You see silver requires constant polishing for it is the only metal to lose its luster over time. If you are not careful, your newness will fade into a distant memory as you did before. When you look at life for only what you can get today, you will miss the plan I have always had for you. You will miss your greater purpose, and you will be sullen, depressed, and overwhelmed again, when the attention fades. However, if you use this gift to proclaim my glory, and the glory of the one who sent me, you will never be overwhelmed. You will remember that it is not for you that you exist. It is much more than that. You were not meant to draw people to you. You were made to draw people to me. I am your designer and I allow you to draw others to you, so that they see me. Sometimes you will draw others through your joys, sometimes you will draw others through your pain, but never will I draw others to you simply for yourself. You were meant to share me, to a city full of people who don’t know me. You have experienced my grace before, yet you have forgotten because you have allowed others to affect you, instead of you affecting others. I will renew your beauty as I prune you and polish your slide daily, if you allow me to. But if you grow too busy or you take the glory for yourself again, you will miss out on your purpose and the blessings I have for you. Please, heed my warning and cherish our time together each day. For I know the plans I have for you and I want nothing to stand between us. Please let me guide you each day, I am your only hope for true happiness and joy.”
Ashamed of her selfishness and limited perspective the park hung her head and humbly replied, “Thank you for loving me when no one else did. Thank you for designing me, and placing me where you did. Please help me to draw others to you, and remind me when I get off course.”
Overwhelmed with love for his creation, the guest straightened the park’s shrubs and closed her gate ever so gently, leaving her to reflect his glory throughout the day. Excited to see the children’s faces each day as they rushed to the slide, the guest beamed with joy. He knew many would be drawn to the splendid, silver slide, but they would be most changed by the work that he had done in the heart of the park.