Once upon a time, in a town not so very far from here, there lived a young woman; broken, abandoned and forgotten. Or so she thought.
One dark day she walked a lonely path and noticed, in a ray of sunshine, a man sitting on a rock. He was staring at her, smiling. The moment they saw each other, making eye contact, he beckoned her to come and sit for a while. Despite herself and her fears she was compelled toward him and soon realized the hours had turned into years.
The story he told her that first day, on that rocky sunlit bend in the path, was a love story. And the time they had spent together since was also the same love story. She had been found, claimed and renewed.
The love story she now knew so well was beyond her. It was beyond her town. It was, in fact, beyond her world. But it was perfectly hers and she could imagine no greater joy than, moment by moment, walking the path with her Rescuer.
As they walked together, he pointed to gems alongside the path. They were beautiful. They were pure. As she studied them she began to understand her Rescuer in new ways. Not only were the gems gifts from him, they were insights into his very nature and character - they told his story again to her, each gem in its own colourful way.
Soon she had collected more gems than she could hold in her hands. She made a special carry bag for the gems. She so treasured the gems that she became fixated upon them. The gem bag never left her sight. In truth, she struggled to set the bag aside at night while she slept, often wearing it to bed.
During the day, where once she had passionately told others of her Rescuer and introduced them to him, now she held out the gems compelling people to look upon and love the gems. She even demanded that others must gather and proclaim the value of the gems.
The gems were, of course, innocent of all this. They were still of and from the Rescuer. But they shone less and less as she focused upon them. She feared she was loosing her ability to fully appreciate the gems. The only remedy for their fading glory, that she could fathom, was to show them to more people — louder, bolder, braver in her presentation of the gems.
People quickly became wary of the gems and the gem woman. Some tried to talk her out of her gem collecting. But, she knew the gems were of and from the Rescuer and she would not be swayed. It was lonely work but she continued with the resolve of a martyr. She was whole-hearted in her daily work.
One overcast day, as she stood on the town's busiest street corner presenting and proclaiming the gems, she noticed a man watching her. While the townspeople bustled past, the man sat beyond the crowd, under a tree. She thought she recognised him from her past life, before the gems.
As they locked eyes, the sun came out and he smiled. He beckoned to her in a way she remembered fondly. Tears ran down her cheeks as she ran through the crowd and into his embrace.
They sat under the tree, in the sun, and talked for hours. He told her the story of the universe. She told him the story of the gems. She told him of the many rejections, the broken friendships, the scoffers on the street. His eyes filled with tears at her remembered pain. And then she showed him the bag.
The Rescuer leaned forward from the tree, his eyebrows arched. The bag had his undivided interest. She poured the gems out on the ground between them. The Rescuer's hands involuntarily went to his face in dismay. He asked how the gems came to be here, in her bag.
She explained that in her bliss, as she followed him on the path, she had seen them and collected each gem to have and to hold - and to show to others so they too might admire them.
The Rescuer picked up the now empty bag and sighed. He told the woman he had wondered where she had gone, what she had busied herself with. And then he embraced her again, telling her he was so glad she was back.
"The gems," he told her, "are not meant to be collected. They are meant to be discovered and enjoyed as we travel the path together. They should never be bagged and flogged like common wares."
The woman's brow furrowed, trying to understand. "How," she asked, "are others to discover the gems if they are not gathered and proclaimed?"
The Rescuer took one of the gems between thumb and finger, blew off the dust, and held it up in the sunlight. The woman gasped as the gem glowed as it had the first day she found it, but not since.
The Rescuer smiled. "Every person who receives my smile and story walks the path," he explained. "And the gems are there, along the path, to remind and renew their faith. The gems are effective only on the path, as the traveller walks alongside me. Away from the path, they are ever dimming reminders of sunnier days."
The Rescuer quickly gathered the gems and returned them to the bag. He stood and dusted himself off before offering his hand to the woman, helping her to her feet. He handed her the gem bag and they walked — hand in hand — away from the busy city street corners, down a sunlit path, dropping gems right and left as they went.