Laying his head in his lap, Casper closed his tired eyes. He stretched out his sore legs and drifted off to sleep ignoring the smell of the half eaten dinners and other trash that surrounded him. At least his lap provided some much needed softness for his head, but the cracked and gravelly cement underneath him did little to help him find a comfortable position.
He had heard whispers in the street about him and how he had gotten to this old and dark town of Nis. For as long as he could remember, he had lived like this. Looking desperately for food, listening to the mean remarks of the people around him, and just surviving day to day, he did not have much time to think about the dreams that came to him every night. His sleep, as fitful as it was, was always a welcome relief from his long days. They seemed to remind him of something better.
These dreams haunted him and comforted him at the same time. The dreams seemed vaguely familiar and he wondered if perhaps they were a distant memory in his mind. If this dream was indeed a distant memory from his life long ago, he desperately wanted to go back. The place in his dreams was beautiful and safe, but even more than that, he loved that place most because King Esmund was there. With King Esmund there, Casper felt safe from everything. He felt loved, understood and most of all he felt wanted.
Every once in awhile, Casper would dare to mention his dreams, but the townspeople were none too kind when he did. They would yell insults and laugh at him, telling him that he certainly was mistaken. Not only that, but they said they had heard about someone far away by the name of King Esmund and he certainly was not good. If he existed, how could a town as ugly, sad and lonely as Nis even exist? King Esmund did much they did not understand so they decided that if he did indeed exist, he was most certainly not good. “Oh Casper,” they would laugh, “You are so crazy to believe in King Esmund. He is just in your dreams. If he is real then why are you here?.”
Casper shifted to a more comfortable position and his eyes closed as he drifted off to sleep. Once again he was in that safe place of his dreams. The same one he had every single night.
King Esmund looked at him with his kind eyes. King Esmund was gentle, kind and good. His house was filled with beautiful things, but what Casper liked the best about being in that house was the safety he felt just by being near King Esmund. Casper didn’t always like what King Esmund did, but he knew that because of King Esmund’s great love for him, he could trust him. When Casper was with King Esmund he wasn’t afraid. Not only that but so many of the mean things that people had said to him over the years seemed not to be true when he was with King Esmund.
In the street he was called boring, friendless, unloved, unwanted, disappointing, poor, dumb, silly, ugly and unimportant. Some even called him unloveable and bad. Casper did some things that other people did not like such as not do what he was told, call other kids names or even steal some food occasionally. All of these things made him feel bad, but the strangest thing happened to him when he was with King Esmund. King Esmund would hold him close and tell him that he was loved, wanted and such a delight. King Esmund loved to be with Casper just as much as Casper loved to be with King Esmund. Even in his dreams, Casper would do the wrong thing sometimes, but whenever that happened, King Esmund would look deep into his eyes and say, “Oh Casper, that is not who you are. This thing that you have done is not who I made you to be. My forgiveness is great and I can fix those things in you that make you do things that you do not want to do. But Casper, you have to let me. You have to trust me. You have to choose me.”
Casper woke with a start. Suddenly he remembered! He rubbed his eyes and slowly lifted his head off his knees and laid his head against the crumbling brick wall and stared at the blue, morning sky and the thoughts flooded his mind with the memories of how he had gotten to this horrible town of Nis.
What was that day so long ago? Oh yes, there was a party. That was it. King Esmund had thrown a large party in his great big house. Abbadon, with his fancy clothes and arms full of gifts, had shown up making a spectacular entrance.
Abbadon was a smooth talker who often got his way. People always loved him at first because he made great big promises, but what came to be known about him was that he never kept them. In fact, the people who believed him usually ended up losing everything. He was very jealous of people’s love for King Esmund and would do everything he could to make them believe that he loved them more. Abbadon didn’t really love the people, he just wanted them to love him instead of King Esmund because of his great hatred and jealousy toward King Esmund. Abbadon would promise big promises if only they would no longer talk to Esmund. Because people often didn’t understand King Esmund, many people made fun of those who loved him. Abbadon promised people that if they would love him instead and believe the things he said, they would be understood and loved by everyone far and near. People wanted to be loved and admired by others so this seemed good to them. It was more important to them to be loved by others than to be stay close to Esmund. Besides, many of them believed they could be friends with both Abbadon and King Esmund. They didn’t know that loving Abbadon would make them forget all about King Esmund. King Esmund never made anyone stay with him for he knew that for people to be free, they must be free to choose. King Esmund loved freedom for his people.
As the memories flooded his mind, Casper leaned his head against the wall and cried. Abbadon had promised that if Casper would come with him, he would give him everything he ever wanted. Walking in King Esmund’s beautiful gardens, Abbadon had reminded Casper about the time that King Esmund had told him that he couldn’t have some things he wanted very much because it wouldn’t be good for him. Even though he was sad, Casper had been okay with that because he knew that King Esmund always did what was best for him, but then Abbadon began to question if King Esmund really was good.
“Do you think he really loves you?” Abbadon had asked. “I think if he loved you he would have given you what you wanted. King Esmund is not good and he’s keeping very special and wonderful things from you.” Casper had stood still looking at the great big house remembering how safe he felt with King Esmund and how much he really enjoyed their long talks. All felt right in the world when he was with King Esmund, but maybe Abbadon was right? Maybe King Esmund wasn’t really good like Casper had believed him to be. Looking up at Abbadon, Casper said, “I’ve made my decision. It must be you who loves me because you will give me what I want when I want it. Besides, I can still visit King Esmund whenever I want.” Abbadon smiled and Casper walked away from King Esmund’s house down the long, winding road with Abbadon toward the town of Nis. Looking back at the great big house, Casper thought he saw the curtain in the window move, but he wasn’t sure.
Abaddon’s promises had looked good at first, but now he was alone, living on the streets with a lonely heart. Abbadon had been the liar and not King Esmund. When he had gotten to Nis, Abbadon had taken the few things that Casper owned and left him alone. In fact,Casper rarely saw Abbadon and when he did, Abbadon only repeated what the townspeople said. In fact, the rumor was that it was Abbadon himself who asked the people to shout out the words disappointing, unloved, friendless, dumb, unwanted and the other names that Casper was called whenever he passed by. Abbadon knew that if Casper heard those names enough, he would forget that King Esmund had said he was loved, wanted and a delight. Casper would forget who he really was. Not only that but he would also forget all about King Esmund himself.
But Casper had not forgotten. Something deep in his heart had remembered and he made a decision. He was going back to find King Esmund.
Casper, standing up quickly and swinging his pack over his shoulder, set out with a new purpose for his day. He was going to do whatever it took to find King Esmund. Not long after he began walking along the old street with crumbling brick buildings in search of someone or something that would help him find King Esmund, a girl with short dark hair and dark soft eyes staring at him. “Casper?!” She said softly, a bit unsure of herself. “I am Casper,” he said not sure what this girl wanted with him. He usually didn’t respond to people when they talked to him anymore because he was so tired of the mean things people said, but this girl seemed different.
“What’s your name?” he asked. “Saadya!” she said excitedly. “You’re never going to believe this! I talk to King Esmund every single day and he can’t stop talking about you. He has been looking for you since you left and he asked me and many others to help find you. He said he knew you would want to come home. I even saw him cry tears at night as he looked out the window waiting for you. He said that you would remember! When you have been with him you cannot completely forget. Oh Casper, he is looking for YOU!”
Saadya ran ahead to the country road leading the way. “King Esmund is going to be so happy!” she cried. Casper looked down the road and in the distance saw a familiar man with sparkling, kind eyes running toward him. “Casper! Casper! I have been waiting for you!!” Casper put his head down, not sure that he was worth celebrating. All of his fear melted away when King Esmund wrapped him in his arms, lifted his face toward his and said, “Casper, you are mine. NOTHING can separate you from my love for you.” Casper’s heart filled with joy and he knew that he had once again found that place in his dreams.
Based on Romans 8:31-39
Esmund – gracious protector
Abbadon – destroyer
Saadya – God’s helper
Casper – treasure
*photo credit – By Manfred Heyde at the German language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2185917