There is a story that I’m sure some people have heard, but that a lot haven’t had the privilege of hearing. Nate and I heard it a few months back and ever since it’s been at the center of our conversations and thoughts as we discuss those hard decisions that need to be made- especially when we talk about the things that we feel comfortable in.
A long time ago, in a primitive land, there was an old wise man and his disciple. One day while they were traveling, they came upon a very modest dwelling. It was a tiny shack that was barely holding itself together. The wise man asked his disciple to go down to the home and talk to whoever lived there and see the condition of the family and to bring back any food he could from them. The disciple did as he was asked, having full faith and trust in his master and knocked on the door. The man of the house opened up the door to the man. The disciple asked how he and his family were getting along and if they had any food they could spare for the weary travelers.
The man of the house said, “We have a little cow that provides what little we get. The little milk she provides is just enough for us to make some cheese out of. When we have extra, we take it to the village and sell it for more food. Even though it is little, it is just enough to get us by. While we don’t have much, what little extra we do have we will happily give to you.”
The disciple, pleased with what he heard, thanked the man for the food and went back to the wise man. After relaying what the man of the house had said to the wise man, the wise man thought for a minute and told the disciple to go and take the little cow and push it off of a nearby cliff.
Astonished, the disciple said, “But Master, that little cow is all that the little family has to survive. She gives them just enough to make ends meet.” Without explanation, the wise man told him, again, to push the cow off of the cliff. Although frustrated at his master, but believing he knew best, the disciple did as he was told. He went back to the shack and quietly took the cow to the cliff and pushed it off.
Many years went by and the disciple had eventually become very wise himself. Still, the thought of what he had done so many years ago to that little family haunted him. One day, as he was traveling, he came across the same area that the family lived so he thought he would go down and see what had become of the poor and modest family. To his astonishment and sadness, as he came to the place where the shack had been, he saw a very nice home with beautiful pastures and vineyards surrounding it as well as several other small, but very beautiful homes. Saddened by the thought of what had happened to the family, the wise man went down to the main house to inquire about the family.
When the man of the house answered the door, the wise man asked what had happened to the little family that used to live here. The man was puzzled, his family had lived there for generations.
“But I came through several years ago and there was a small little shack with a modest family. What had happened to them?”
The man smiled and said, well that was my family. The wise man was astonished and asked, “Well how did that come to be? Last time I was here, you were barely making ends meet with the little cow you had. How could you have possibly changed your circumstances so dramatically?”
The man said, “Well, not long after you had come by, our little cow wandered off and fell off of that cliff over there and died. Because she was all we had that kept us alive, we had to learn and develop new skills that we never knew we had. Eventually we became so skilled that we were able to build this beautiful house. Our children live in the other houses on the estate now. It turns out that the cow that we thought was a blessing was the very thing that was holding us back from living up to our potential.”
As Renato Cardoso said, “Sometimes our dependency on something small and limited is the biggest obstacle to our growth. Perhaps the best thing that could happen to you is to push your “cow” down the cliff. Once you free yourself of the thought “it’s little but it’s certain,” or of that idea “I am not doing great but there are people who are much worse than me” — then your life will really change.”
I love this story for so many reasons. First, it is a great illustration of how many of us hold onto things that we think are truly blessings, but actually are holding us back from our true potential and greatest happiness. How many opportunities do we let pass by because it takes us out of our comfort zone, but could actually bless us even more?
The other reason I love this story is because of the obedience the young disciple had towards his master, the wise man. For me, this is a great parallel to us and our Father in Heaven. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch most of Conference. I was only able to listen to parts of Sunday’s morning session and the full afternoon session and the Women’s session. However, I felt like there was a theme in every talk that I did hear. Faith. Faith in our Savior and faith to trust in God. That is a hard thing to do a lot of the time. Often, we have trials in our lives that we do not understand or that cause us to wonder why we have to go through them. However, we have to remember that we cannot see the bigger picture. We cannot see how the trials will help us grow into the men or women we are supposed to be. We do not understand why our metaphorical cows have been pushed off of a cliff. The important thing is the God knows. He only gives us trials that we can face. He only gives us burdens that we can bear, and he knows exactly how much we will be able to grow if we have faith and trust in Him.
It is often hard for us to submit our own will to God’s. There are so many times that we feel incredible pain and suffering that we cannot understand. However, when we trust in God and believe that He will help us through, that is when we become stronger. I don’t know many people that do not like super hero movies. I’ve noticed that they each carry a similar theme through them- no matter who the producers are or who the “Hero” is. Each of them have to struggle and fights through the seemingly impossible. But, they all do, and after they do, they are stronger and seen as the Hero. Why do we love these movies so much? Every time Nate and I go see these, we come out of the theater feeling proud and empowered as if we had just defeated the villain ourselves. We love those movies so much because the seemingly ordinary people step up to the challenge and face it head on- and they come out on top. For a second, it makes us feel like we can do the same, but we rarely do.
How many of us have dreams that we have let slip by or have decided to give up on because to accomplish them would come at great cost? How many of us would have to quit our jobs- the very thing that provides for our families? The thought of “giving up” the one thing that is providing for our family is extremely scary. But isn’t your dream to do more, to be more and provide more for them? Won’t your dreams give that peace of mind to your family?
Often, we do not see or recognize our cow. Instead we think that we are living the best that we can. That is exactly what the little family who lived in the modest shack believed. It wasn’t until someone else pushed their cow over the cliff for them, that they began to grow and to develop into the people that they could and should become. We weren’t put onto this earth to simply “get by with what little we have”. I believe that we were put here to grow and develop into strong, capable people who can liberate and inspire others around us to be able to do the same. We are children of God. Isn’t that reason enough to believe that we can do more and be more? God is our Father and He loves us. So, instead of cursing Him if he pushes your cow, thank Him. Trust that He knows you and knows what you can do. Trust that he sees great potential in you. He created you and wants you to become like Him. As we see from our greatest example, Jesus Christ, we are not meant to be “ordinary” but extraordinary. It might not always mean that we will end up having a large home with land and vineyards surrounding it, but it’s about who we are inside. What kind of person we can truly be.
May we never stop learning, never stop growing and never stop believing in God or ourselves. Don’t put limits on who you can become. You were meant for so much more.