by Rev. Everette Chapman
In his book, The Tardy Oxcart, Chuck Swindoll tells of an article published some time ago in the Springfield, Oregon, Public Schools Newsletter. Writes Swindoll, “As I read it, it struck me that I was reading a parable of familiar frustration in our homes and in our churches.” Allow me to share it here to see if it has anything instructive to say to you and me about our individual roles in our home, our church, and our community.
Once upon a time, the animals decided that they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of the new world, so they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the students took all the subjects.
The duck was excellent in swimming; in fact, he was better than his instructor. However, he made only a passing grade in flying, and did very poorly in running. Since he was so slow in running, he had to drop swimming and stay after school to practice his running. This caused his webbed feet to be severely worn, so that now he was now only average in swimming, but average was acceptable, so nobody worried about it – except the duck.
The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because of so much make-up work in swimming. He totally flunked flying.
The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because the teacher made him start at the bottom instead of from the treetop down. He developed charley horses from over-exertion, thus earning only a C in climbing and a D in running.
The eagle was a problem child and was severely disciplined for being such a non-conformist. In climbing class he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own method for getting there. He got straight A’s in flying but couldn’t seem to get the knack of swimming, and his running was, at best, only so-so.
The poor turtle seemed to be at a loss in all the courses except swimming, and even in that activity he set no world records. He flunked flying and climbing and barely scraped by in running.
The point is well-made by now, so there is nothing to be gained by belaboring the point. The truth is, all the animals had strong points and weak ones in this standardized curriculum. Each of them had special skills that had come naturally by virtue of their being who they were. No one would expect a rabbit to fly, an eagle to swim, or a turtle to run fast.
It is the same with people. We are all quite different from each other, and there are some things each of us cannot do or do very poorly. At the same time, each of us has strong points, each of us has special talents and abilities, and each of us is uniquely gifted in certain ways. Just as it would be a fruitless waste of time for any of the animals listed above to obsess over the things they cannot do, so it would behoove you and me to spend our time and invest our thought in celebrating the things we can do and to thank God for the unique, one-of-a-kind person He made us to be.
Rev. Everette Chapman is pastor of Fairfield Mountains Chapel, Lake Lure.