Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
- Philippians 2:1-4
“’It’s all very well for you,’ said Bree. ‘You haven’t disgraced yourself. But I’ve lost everything.’
“’My good Horse,’ said the Hermit, who had approached them unnoticed because his bare feet made so little noise on that sweet, dewy grass. ‘My good Horse, you’ve lost nothing but your self-conceit. No, no, cousin. Don’t put back your ears and shake your mane at me. If you are really so humbled as you sounded a minute ago, you must learn to listen to sense. You’re not quite the great horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another. And now, if you and my other four-footed cousin will come round to the kitchen door we’ll see about the other half of that mash.’”
- C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy (emphasis the author’s)
Bree had escaped her evil master with Shasta riding on the horse’s back. Shasta was about to be sold by the man pretending to be Shasta’s father, sold to Bree’s master. A boy by himself or a horse by itself would be considered a runaway, caught, and returned. Together, they could escape, back to Narnia.
Bree spoke of being a great warhorse. At least, having grown up in Narnia and captured when she ventured too far away, he dreamed of being a warhorse. Yes, the horse talked, since Bree was a Narnian horse. And since Shasta had no idea what awaited him, Bree accepted Shasta as his boy, aiding him as they both escaped.
But at the first true sign of danger as war was brewing, they were about to make their escape, and it was Shasta that went back, where the trouble was, and Bree that escaped. Bree then thought there was no way that a strong warhorse who ran away could return to Narnia; slavery under an evil taskmaster would be better for a coward.
But the Hermit knew better.
Do we understand that as soon as we give up being the center of our universe, we are ready to accept God; we can be useful to others as well? We should be confident in our abilities, but we need to be realistic with our assessment of our abilities.
But oh, how difficult that is. Have you ever written a story and then let it sit for a decade? (I have, and what happened next was not pleasant.) When you picked it up, ten years later, it was filled with typos that you would swear you never typed. It had misspelled words that you had spelled correctly. It was filled with incomplete sentences that you knew had been changed by others. And square in the middle of the story, there was a piece missing, maybe an entire page.
It was like the preacher who always read his sermons. He was preaching on the story of Adam and Eve. He was running late and had left his sermon in his study. His wife ran to get it as he did the announcements. His wife dropped his sermon and thought she had gotten the pages back in order just as her husband had finished the announcements. As her husband preached, he read near the bottom of one page, “And Adam turned to Eve and said, ‘…” He flipped to the next page and what he saw was not what Adam had said. He flipped back and forth a few times and then suddenly exclaimed, “There seems to be a leaf missing!”
Yes, you read what you wrote ten years ago, and you find a page (a leaf of loose-leaf notebook paper perhaps) missing. It wasn’t missing. You just wrote a gap in the story. You jumped from one part of the story to another without providing a bridge in which to get from here to there.
Yes! Your spelling was bad. Your typing was bad. Your grammar was bad. And your plotline had holes in it. And when you set it aside, you were so proud of it. You read what you thought you had typed rather than what you put on paper. You thought it was the best thing you had ever written.
But, in ten years, you forgot what you “thought” you wrote, and you read it as if someone else had written it, and your flaws became exposed to you. Yes, you saw your own leaf missing. You did not need someone else pointing it out.
The sad thing is that writing a story is one of the few ways for us to see our own mistakes.
Oh yes, if you are a very bad carpenter, you can mount a cup rack on the wall. You can place a cup on the shelf of the rack. And you can watch the cup slowly slide off and shatter on the floor. To have the rack that far off level requires a very bad carpenter, indeed. I am not a good carpenter at all, and even my shelf on the cup rack that I made was mounted level. My life may have been a half bubble off plumb, but my carpentry usually had the bubble near the center. And yet, so few of my woodworking projects have stood the test of time. Level, but not sturdy.
And we each have our moments where we crow like the rooster that oversees the henhouse. We think that we have accomplished something special, but how often are our accomplishments due to the special gifts God gives us? Do we give Him any of the credit?
Yes, the Hermit is right about each and every one of us, not just Narnian horses. Once we realize that we are not anything very special in all of Narnia, we become that sturdy person that God can use. And understanding that we need God is the first step in accepting Him into our lives. And once we have the heart knowledge of Jesus within us, we can become a very decent sort of person, indeed.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.