While cleaning out some clutter on my computer this afternoon, I stumbled across this delightful fable that I heard in a sermon many years ago while living in Norfolk, Virginia.
As I wrestle with worldly issues of performance, adequacy, worth, accomplishment, and identity, this little story speaks to me. It speaks to me that in the midst of all my striving, all my driving — in the midst of my feeling that need to accomplish and either match or exceed others’ expectations of me, NONE of it matters. NONE of it can hold a candle to grace. NONE of it compares to the LOVE for which we were made.
The fable* goes a little something like this:
One day a little puppy took a walk around his master’s farm. When he came to the pen where the horse was fed, the large horse called out to him: “You must be new here. You’ll soon find out that the master loves me more than all the other animals because I carry huge loads for him. I suspect an animal your size is of no value to him at all.”
The little puppy hung his head and was about to walk away when he heard the cow in the next stall say: “I have the most honored position on the farm because butter and cheese are provided from my milk. You, little dog, can provide nothing of value to the family.”
“Cow,” called the sheep, “your position is no greater than mine. I lend the master wool to make clothes and blankets.”
Soon, the other animals joined in the argument, telling about their honored positions on the farm. The hen was famous for her eggs; the cat for the ability to rid the barn of mice. They all agreed that the little dog provided nothing of value for the master.
So, the puppy went off alone and found a place where he began to cry. He felt he was no good for anything. Presently, an old dog heard his sobs and came to learn his story.
“Well, it is true,” the old dog responded, “you are too small to pull the wagon. And you will never produce eggs or milk or wool. But it is foolish to cry about what you cannot do. You must use the ability the Creator gave you. What you have been given is love. You can love, to bring laughter and fun.”
That night, when the master came home exhausted from long hours in the hot sun, the little puppy ran to him and licked his hands, and then jumped into his arms. The master and puppy romped, falling to the ground on the grassy lawn.
At last, holding him close to his chest and patting his head, the master said, “No matter how tired I am when I get home, I feel better when you greet me! I wouldn’t trade you for all the animals on the farm.”
The farm animals in this fable thought of what they could produce or accomplish or how they could perform. They conformed to the values/things of this world. Instead, our precious puppy had himself to give–just what he was–a puppy, nothing more and nothing less. And the gift of himself was the gift of Love.
Let us go forth in Love.
* This fable by John Aikin comes from Stories for Telling, Augsburg, 1986.