Once upon a time, there was a King who extended an open invitation to all his subjects to visit him at any time. Some people traveled alone to see the King, but most preferred to travel in groups of two or three. The reason for traveling with others was to share with each other what the King meant to them and had done for them. They also shared in their provisions so that none lacked for anything on the journey. The King welcomed all who came to see him, regardless of how they got there.
One day a group of people who traveled together decided the trip would be more comfortable if they bought a bus. This was not a problem for the King himself. He wasn't concerned with how people made the trip. His only concern was that they took the time to visit him.
So the people bought a bus. At first they took turns driving the bus. Some of them were competent mechanics; others helped keep it clean, and all shared in the expenses. On the trips to see the King they also took turns telling about the wonderful things the King had done for them and what he meant in their lives. They sang songs praising him. They also continued to share their resources with each other so that no one had any unmet material needs.
One day someone said that it would be a good idea if they hired a permanent driver for the bus. All they would have to do is get on the bus and let the driver do the work of getting them to the King. This seemed like a good idea, so they all pitched in to pay the driver. They gave the driver the money to keep the bus fueled and in good running condition. For a while, all went smoothly. The driver did a good job taking them to visit the King, and they continued to share in both their experiences and resources.
There were other buses on the road to the King's palace, too. Some were bigger and shinier than theirs. Others were smaller and had faded paint. The people on the bus began to feel superior when they saw a smaller bus and inferior when they saw one of the larger ones. They began to blame the driver for not making their bus better. They fired him and hired a driver who had gone to a special school just for bus drivers.
The new driver demanded a new bus. At great expense, the people bought it for him, little realizing that the new bus could be driven only by someone with a special license given to graduates of the special bus driving school.
They were excited and proud of their new bus. The smaller buses looked even more inferior to them now. They told all their non-bus riding friends about their new bus, and invited them to ride with them on their next trip to visit the King. Visitors were very impressed with the plush seats, the climate control, the smooth power of the engine and the comfort of the ride as the bus sailed down the highway.
Little by little, the people stopped sharing their material resources with each other, because having a bus and a driver were expensive. They also stopped talking to each other, because the bus had a state of the art sound system, and the driver began lecturing them on various topics during the trip.
At first he told them what he had learned about the King in bus driving school. He spoke about what his professors had taught him when he was working on his Masters of Drivinity degree. Then he spent a lot of time talking about the dissertation he wrote for his Doctor of Drivinity. He was currently working on a Ph.D. in Drivology, so he had plenty of new material to talk about during the trips. No one seemed to notice that he never talked about the King personally, but rather spoke about the opinions and experiences of others.
Whenever they visited the King, the driver stayed with the bus. While the riders were with the King, he met with other drivers in the parking lot. They compared buses, numbers of passengers, how long it took them to make the trip, fuel mileage, operating costs, etc. They began sharing tips with each other on how to deal with passengers who defied a driver's authority. The buses had become the most important things in the drivers' lives.
Eventually, instead of entering the palace to visit the King, many of the people walked around the parking lot with the driver comparing other buses to theirs. Some of the younger people decided that they wanted to go to bus driver school and one day have buses of their own. Each was determined to have the biggest, shiniest, best bus possible.
The few who still took time to visit the King became concerned that the bus had replaced the King in the people's affections. When they dared to voice these concerns, they were labeled rebellious and accused of refusing to submit to the driver's authority. Even though they had contributed to the purchase of the bus, its maintenance and the driver's salary, they were forced to leave the bus.
The driver convinced the people that their bus needed to be the biggest and finest bus it could possibly be. After all, he argued, were they not subjects of the King? Did not the King deserve to be represented with Excellence? So they bought an even bigger and more beautiful bus. It was truly breathtaking in its magnificence. Surely all who saw this bus would know that those who rode within were very special subjects of the King!
The driver called for a special dedication ceremony for the bus. The people gathered and congratulated each other, and especially the driver, on the splendor of the new bus. They all boarded the bus as the driver slipped behind the wheel, settling himself in the seat that had been especially built just for him.
He gave a long speech congratulating the people on their hard work and sacrificial giving that made such a wonderful bus possible. He spoke of how this new bus would be a beacon of hope for generations to come. The people cheered and applauded; they were certain that they had the best driver and the best bus in the whole kingdom. Surely the King must be pleased that they had honored him with such a bus!
Then the driver began to give a series of lectures from his studies in bus driving school. He gave them all notebooks with outlines. He gave them daily reading assignments from the latest book on buses. He made them feel that they were an active vital part of the bus. The people thought that certainly they must have the most gifted and eloquent driver of them all.
But no one noticed that the bus hadn't gone anywhere. This went on for many years. In all that time the bus never moved. It just sat there, filled from time to time with people who were excited about nothing. The air slowly leaked from tires. The battery died. The engine rusted. The only things that were kept in good working order were the bus's appearance and the generators that ran the climate control and sound systems. The bus still looked beautiful, but it was no longer a bus. It was just a barn.
Occasionally an individual or two would walk to visit the King, or maybe even ride on another bus that still made the trip to the palace. These individuals would sometimes try to talk to their friends on the bus about the King, but they did so fearfully, lest they, too, be labeled rebels and troublemakers, and be kicked off the bus into which they had put so much of their lives.
The bus no longer took anyone to visit the King. It was broken, and so was the King's heart.