I often judge books by their cover, and it would appear that the same goes for children's books. At the library, I was quickly filing through the bookcases looking for ones that seemed interesting for the children. I had to look quickly, as it was crowded and there were several more errands to complete. This evening, I read one of those books to the children....and it utterly fascinated me.
The book was about a mother and father who are devastated over their only son's illness. With the presence of the Angel of Death hovering so close, the mother begs her husband to go seek the old wise man at the end of the village. This old man is known far and wide to have prayers powerful enough to unlock the gates of heaven, causing miracles to happen. Desperate, the father gathers all the money they have and sets out for the old man's home.
As you can imagine, the sad story of the man's only son tugs at the old man's heart. He promises to pray that night for the little boy. The next morning, however, the prayers have gone unanswered. The old man assures the father that his prayers made it to heaven, but the gates were locked. He promised to pray again that night...in hopes the gates would be open this time.
After the father goes home, the old man sends out his grandson to gather up as many pickpockets and thieves that he can find, of which seven scoundrels return with the boy. The old man asks them to pray for the dying boy with him. The thieves are confused, but recognizing the sincerity in the old man's plea...they drop, one by one, and pray through the night with the old man.
When the little boy wakes up healed the next morning, the old man's grandson asks why the gates of heaven were locked when it was only his grandfather that prayed (his grandfather that is so good and pure) but the gates were unlocked when the wicked thieves prayed.
With a gleam in his eyes, the old man explains:
"You see, the thieves represent the things in us that are bad or wrong or selfish--the parts we need to change to be happy. When we want to make miracles happen, we have to recognize and acknowledge our bad traits. And when we turn away from our naughty behavior and embrace good deeds, as the thieves did with their prayers, we are turning the key and unlocking the gates in heaven. And then, we can receive blessings and good fortune."
As I said, I judged this book by its cover...glimmering gold design around crisp illustrations. I never even bothered to pay attention to the name of the author--as I never really know who they are anyway. But tonight, after reading such a profound book...the words washing more over my soul that my children's...I closed the book...and my eyes rested on the author's name.
Yes, that's the woman that spun this story...of something very deep and profound.
At the front of the book, Madonna writes:
"This is a story about how all of us have the ability to unlock the gates of heaven--no matter how unworthy we think we are. For when we go against our selfish natures, we make miracles happen, in our lives and in the lives of others. We must never forget that hidden behind a large amount of darkness is a large amount of light."
Just goes to show you...don't judge a book by its cover.