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Wondrous Powers – Story and Explanation

Wondrous Powers - A Short Spiritual StoryAn old man had three children, all boys. When they had grown up to manhood, he called them together and told them that now he was very old and no longer able to provide, even for himself. He ordered them to go out and bring him food and clothing.

The three brothers set out, and after a very long while they came to a large river. As they had gone on together for such a time, they decided that once they got across they would separate. The eldest told the youngest to take the middle road, and the second to go to the right, while he himself would go to the left. Then, in a year's time, they would come back to the same spot.

So they parted, and at the end of a year, as agreed, they found their way back to the riverside. The eldest asked the youngest what he had gotten during his travels, and the boy replied: I have nothing but a mirror, but it has wonderful power. If you look into it, you can see all over the country, no matter how far away.

When asked in turn what he had gotten, the second brother replied: Only a pair of sandals that are so full of power, that if one puts them on one can walk at once to any place in the country in one step.

Then the eldest himself, said: I, too, have obtained but little, a small calabash of medicine, that is all. But let us look into the mirror and see how father fares.

The youngest produced his mirror, and they all looked into it and saw that their father was already dead and that even the funeral custom was finished. Then the elder said: Let us hasten home and see what we can do. So the second brought out his sandals, and all three placed their feet inside them and, immediately, they were borne to their father's grave. Then the eldest shook the medicine out of his bag, and poured it over the grave. At once their father arose, as if nothing had been the matter with him.

Now which of these three sons has performed the best?

This story is from the book African Folktales by Roger D. Abrahams.

What Is the Spiritual Moral / Meaning of the “Wondrous Powers” Story?

The spiritual essence within this story speaks to the value of unique gifts and talents bestowed upon individuals. Each brother possesses a distinct gift—be it the mirror, the sandals, or the medicinal calabash—signifying the diverse talents we each hold within. It highlights the spiritual teaching that all talents, whether grand or seemingly humble, hold their own significance. The narrative encourages us to honor and embrace our individual gifts, understanding that each contributes uniquely to the whole, reinforcing the idea that spiritual growth thrives through diverse abilities and perspectives.

Furthermore, the tale reflects the significance of intuitive wisdom and foresight. The youngest brother's mirror symbolizes intuition and the ability to perceive beyond the surface, reflecting spiritual insight. It emphasizes the importance of intuitive guidance in navigating life's complexities. This aspect of the story underscores the idea that deep within us resides an intuitive wisdom that, when acknowledged and nurtured, can guide us towards profound revelations and understanding.

The story also signifies the power of immediacy and presence. The second brother's sandals, facilitating instantaneous travel, portray the spiritual lesson of being present in the moment. It emphasizes that spiritual growth and transformation occur in the present, encouraging us to embrace the power of now. The sandals symbolize the significance of being present and engaged in every step of our spiritual journey, recognizing the transformative potential of each moment.

Moreover, the narrative illustrates the spiritual principle of healing and resurrection. The eldest brother's medicinal calabash represents the capacity for healing and renewal. It signifies the power of spiritual healing and restoration, teaching us that within our spiritual journeys lies the ability to heal ourselves and others. This aspect of the story encourages us to acknowledge the transformative potential within our spiritual practices, enabling healing and revival in various aspects of life.

Additionally, the tale highlights the importance of unity and collaboration. Despite possessing distinct gifts, the brothers unite their talents to revive their father. It reflects the spiritual significance of unity in diversity, emphasizing that collective efforts often yield more significant outcomes than individual endeavors alone. It teaches us the spiritual value of cooperation and the strength found in unified actions towards a common purpose.

This story serves as a spiritual compass, guiding us through the realms of diverse talents, intuitive wisdom, presence, healing, and unity. It beckons us to honor and nurture our unique gifts, acknowledging the spiritual significance within each. The brothers' collective actions remind us that embracing diverse abilities and coming together in unity amplifies our spiritual potential, leading to profound transformations and collective well-being.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. How does the father's request for food and clothing reflect the themes of responsibility and care within familial relationships?
  2. What significance do you find in the brothers' decision to part ways and reunite after a year? How does this journey mirror their individual paths in life?
  3. Reflect on the symbolic meanings of the items each brother acquired during their travels: the mirror, the sandals, and the calabash of medicine. How do these objects represent different forms of power or insight?
  4. Consider the youngest brother's claim about the mirror's ability to reveal distant places. What does this suggest about the nature of perception and understanding?
  5. Explore the concept of sacrifice and generosity as demonstrated by the brothers' actions upon learning of their father's passing. How do their choices reflect their values and priorities?
  6. Discuss the idea of unexpected outcomes and the role of fate or destiny in the story. How do the events unfold in ways that the brothers may not have anticipated?
  7. Reflect on the significance of the father's miraculous revival. What lessons might be gleaned from this event about the power of love, faith, or determination?
  8. Consider the question posed at the end: “Which of these three sons has performed the best?” How do you interpret the criteria for measuring their performance, and what does this reveal about your own values?
  9. How does this story resonate with your own experiences of family dynamics, duty, and the pursuit of personal growth?
  10. In what ways does the story challenge traditional notions of success and achievement, prompting us to reconsider what it means to fulfill our obligations and responsibilities to others?