The Frozen River – a parable about faith
A man and a young boy met one day as they walked through the woods on their way to the nearby town. It was winter, and the sound of the snow crunching under their feet was all they could hear. This was odd, the boy thought, as last time he travelled this way he could also hear the raging sound of the river. He began to wonder if he had been walking in the wrong direction when finally the woods began to clear and the river revealed itself.
It had been a particularly cold winter that year and the surface of the river was frozen stiff.
The man stood next to the young boy on the bank of the frozen river and scratched his head looking as confused as he was. Neither of them knew how they were going to get across as their usual practise in times long past was to use a raft to cross the cold waters. Well, the raft was there by the river’s edge, covered in snow and clearly now, useless.
The man said to the boy, “I’ve heard of this happening when it’s particularly cold. The river is frozen solid. Like a giant ice cube. We can walk right across!”
The boy immediately grabbed the man’s coat and tugged at it to get his attention. Then he pointed to a sign that was sticking out of the surface of the frozen lake. It read: “Danger. Thin ice.”
“Poppycock!” the man said with a laugh, “Don’t believe everything you read, young lad! That sign could have been put there by anyone at any time! It may have been true once or it may never have been true. Be a man! I bet that it’s perfectly safe to walk across.”
The young boy admired the man’s confidence. He wished he could be so brave, but the boy was often scared and was always second-guessing himself.
As he looked away in embarrassment, the boy noticed something a little further down the river that had not been there last time he had crossed this way. It was a bridge. The boy tugged again at the coat of the man and pointed to the large stone bridge that stretched across the frozen river.
The boy and the man walked down to it and noticed another sign at the entrance of the bridge. It read: “Due to the common occurrence of freezing of the lake during the particularly cold winter months, this bridge has been erected by order of the king of the land to assist travellers to safely cross the lake and protect them from falling in the fatally icy waters. Do not attempt to cross the lake by any means other than this bridge as the ice is thin and you will surely drown.”
The boy pointed to the sign and the king’s royal seal which authenticated it at the bottom.
“Balderdash!” the man said with a laugh, “Use a bridge?? What nonsense! The king of the land doesn’t want wimps as subjects! Be a man! If you believe in yourself, you can do anything you put your mind to!”
The man walked back to the river’s edge near where the warning sign stuck out of the frozen surface. He gave the boy a small wave and stepped out onto the ice with a smile.
Once again, the young boy admired the man’s confidence. If only he could believe, he knew he could be like the man, but he was just a boy and he doubted. He could hear in his mind the echo of the words of the Faith Healer that sometimes visited his village… “Ye of little faith!” That’s what he was. He was ye of little faith.
Every summer the Faith Healer would come to his village and everyone would come out to hear him preach and hope for a miracle. They would bring out their sick and lamed – old women, coughing babies, even ducks with broken wings! But each time, many from the village would go home sad and disheartened as once again they were not granted the miracle they had been praying for. The Faith Healer would simply shake his head and say those solemn words… “Ye of little faith”.
So the young boy had no excuse as he stood by the frozen lake. He knew how it was supposed to work. The strong of faith would be saved, while the weak of faith would go home empty-handed. He wished his faith could be stronger, but he knew, deep down, that it wasn’t. He was always filled with doubts and fears. And so he stood before the bridge, wishing he had the strength of faith to cross the lake by walking across the ice, but knowing he didn’t.
He took one step on to the bridge and then another. As he started walking on the bridge, he began to worry. Would he be able to make it? What if the bridge collapsed? What if it crumbled beneath him?? What if he stumbled and fell over the side of the bridge?? He’d be a goner for sure then! Oh why didn’t he listen to the man? Oh ye of little faith!!
His faith was suddenly so weak and his confidence was so shaken that he collapsed to the ground in fear. Having all his belief in himself and the reliability of the bridge almost completely shattered, he closed his eyes and slowly crawled along clutching at the stones that made up the bridge with only the glimmer of hope that they would hold his weight.
For what seemed like hours, with the little faith he could muster, he crawled and crawled, putting his weak trust in the strength of the bridge. He half expected to drop at any moment into the river’s icy depths, and he scolded himself for being such a wimp and for proving the Faith Healer’s words to be true. He was ashamed too that he crawled upon a bridge that the king of the land had commissioned to be built. Surely, the man was right and the king would prefer for him to have had the confidence to walk across the ice rather than use the bridge to get across the lake.
As these thoughts continued to rattle around in his mind, suddenly, his hand felt the cold, wet touch of snow. The young boy opened his eyes and realised he had crawled over the bridge and had reached the other side! He was confused for a moment and then he stood up, shook off the layer of snow that had fallen over him as he had been crawling, and with a sense of amazement and awe, continued on his way with a spring in his step.
He gave no more thought to the doubts that still threatened to cripple the rest of his journey. He forgot the words of the Faith Healer. He didn’t even remember the man of great confidence who had been travelling with him before, or look back to see how successfully he had walked across the ice.
All he remembered was the words of his father who had sent him on this errand to buy a small bag of mustard seeds from the market in the nearby town. And so he went on his way, alone.
It does not matter how strong your faith is.
What really matters is the strength of the thing you put your faith in.
Click HERE if you’d like to see Simon read the story.