A Precious Gift
[This started out as a Sufi story.]
A monk was walking along a path when he noticed a shiny object by the wayside. He discovered it was a large and obviously precious ruby. He put it in his pack and continued on his way. He stopped and spent the night at an Inn. When he was washing his hands in preparation for breakfast the next morning, a fellow traveler noticed the jewel in the monk's pack and asked for the monk to give it to him. The monk did so and the traveler departed, overjoyed with such a valuable and unexpected gift. It would easily provide him security for years to come. Time passed and one day, by chance, the two met once again. The traveler presented the ruby to the monk and said, “Now, I pray, give me that which enabled you to give the ruby to me in the first place.”
I told this story once to university students in a worship service. I asked the students to finish the story and was met by an unusually long silence. Finally, a young woman began to cry and said, “You're the preacher, you are supposed to give us the answers. We aren't supposed to think.” Later, I cried.
Since that day, I have imagined several possible endings to the story. The monk could have given him lectures on self esteem, how to achieve happiness, ten ways to personal wealth, perhaps a guide to holistic health or philosophies to win by. The monk could have enrolled the pilgrim in a thirteen week comprehensive study of the Holy Scriptures, including an examination of the plants of the Holy Land and a compendium of little known facts. Or, perhaps, the monk could have accepted the pilgrim as a disciple and they could have gone throughout the country doing good and meditating. Now that I have begun the process, maybe you can come up with some endings of your own.
In truth, however, the story stands on its own. The monk said nothing because he knew that what the pilgrim was asking for can neither be given or taken. Instead, he rejoiced because he knew that for the man to ask meant he had begun the search that would save his soul.
Let him/her who hears, rejoice.