Have you ever known somebody who is looking for a long-term relationships, but they keep dating people that aren’t right for them?
And sometimes they find someone they’re really attracted to. Someone they really like. Someone they connect with and have chemistry with. But they know this person isn’t looking for the same things in life. But they are in love, and so they try anyway?
Well, I have a story about that.
It’s a story about a farmer.
It’s not a love story, but you’ll get the idea.
I’ve often talked about the 3 C’s of dating: Chemistry, Compatibility and Circumstance. If any of the 3 C’s are missing, you’re going to have a tough time together. Some people try to make it work with just chemistry—that will never work. Some people have chemistry and compatibility (they want the same things in life), but they don’t have circumstance (one of them is married). And some people have chemistry and circumstance, but they don’t have compatibility. It’s easy to find someone with similar circumstances, it’s hard to find someone with chemistry. So when you find someone with both, it’s natural to try to convince yourself that the compatibility quotient can be overlooked or adjusted. If you both make a few concessions, maybe you can round the corners of your square peg, and squeeze it in to that round hole.
And sometimes you can.
But sometimes, you discover it only gets you stuck.
Now back to the farmer.
This farmer needed a horse to help him plow his fields.
While on his way to the horse auction, a mangy mutt started following him.
Without warning, the dog started to speak. “Mighty fine day for a walk, don’t you think?”
The farmer looked around, unable to see who was talking, and a little concerned that the voice might be in his own head.
He kept walking.
“I said, ‘mighty find day for a walk, wouldn’t you say?’”
The farmer stopped, looked down at the dog, cocked his head to the right, squinted his eyes and said, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you was just talkin to me.”
“I am talking to you [bark]! Haven’t you met a talking dog before?”
“No. That’s because they don’t exist. Now leave me be before somebody sees me having a conversation with a dog.”
“Ah, Mac, there’s nothing to worry about. I’ll keep quiet around other people. Just let me come with you. Where you goin?”
“First of all, my name’s not Mac. It’s Bill. And secondly, you’re not coming with me. I need me a horse, not a dog.”
“Well, Bill, my name’s Spike. And you’re in luck. You see, I happen to be very skilled at plowing. You don’t need a horse—horses are big and that means the eat a lot and poop a lot. Plus you have to brush them and shoe them and all that stuff. Don’t bother with a horse, Bill, you don’t really want one—what you need is a dog.”
It was unclear if “Spike” was a given name, or if he named himself. Talking dogs have been known to give themselves their own names.
Now, as bad luck would have it, while Bill was engaged in this canine conversation, a pickup truck turned the corner and a heavy wooden box flew out of the bed and into the street hitting the dog forcibly.
Bill immediately took pity on the poor creature and carried him home with him.
Spike’s leg was broken. Bill wrapped it, fed him, and cared for him. He gave up on the idea of a horse for a while—decided he’d continue to plow the field himself for now.
Bill loved the dog. They’d have long conversations into the night. They’d take long walks. And Spike would help with farming as best he could while his leg was healing. He’d chase rodents away, dig out weeds, and run around and bark just for added protection.
Eventually the season ended, the leg healed, winter came and went, and eventually the fields were ready to plow once again.
Bill knew he couldn’t do it by himself this time—the last time nearly killed him. He remembered Spike’s offer, but let’s face it—Spike was a dog with a leg that was broken not even 6 months ago.
Donning his coat, Bill opened the door to head to town. Spike, as dogs are wont to do, perked up and met Bill at the door.
“Where we goin, boss?”
“We ain’t goin nowheres, Spike.
I am heading to town for a bit.”
“Town? Sounds great! I haven’t been to town in months. Why, probably not since that day I met you.
Say, … just what are you going to town for?”
“Like I said just now, you’re not going with me. I just need to go to get a few things. Supplies and such.”
“Would this, ‘and such’ happen to be a horse?
Don’t go tryin to fool me, Bill. Why, you ain’t even tried me at plowin yet—you’ll see, I’m as good a plower as any horse you’ll meet. ’s long as it’s a small, weak sort of horse that ain’t good at nuthin. Still, these fields of yours ain’t much—I can get them plowed in no time. And then you don’t have to worry about havin a horse to care for all the rest of the year, you know?”
“Ah, come on, Spike, we both know you can’t plow that field. Hell, I did it myself last year and it about broke my back. I appreciate the offer and all, but let’s be reasonable – this is a job for a horse, and you aren’t a horse.”
“No, Bill, I’m better than a horse: I’m a talking dog! We’ve already been over this, you don’t need all the upkeep of a horse. Sure, I’m not going to be as fast, and you sure as hell can’t ride me, but if plowing is what you need, then I can do it. It will certain take me longer than a horse could do, but what’s the difference in a few hours or even a day or two? It’s a field, it’ll wait. Come on, Bill, just let me try, will ya?”
It took him about a week to make all the modifications to the plow, but when he was done, he was proud of his craftsmanship, and excited to try it out with Spike.
Spike was excited, too. He appreciated everything Bill did for him. Bill was his best friend. And not just because he was his only friend.
Spike wanted the work. The truth was, he never had actually plowed a field. But he’d seen it done, and it didn’t look so hard. Plus, he’d done some pretty tough things when he was a pup. How hard could it be now?
He put on the customized harness and reins—it was a little uncomfortable, but nothing he couldn’t handle. Bill got behind him and gripped the handles of the plow.
“Now, I’m going to steady this while you pull. You just take your time, Spike, and we’ll see how this goes. We don’t need to go too deep—no use killing yourself just for me to get a nice crop of corn that can feed us and provide for our living.”
Spike pulled. He pushed into the harness and pulled the plow with everything he had. Bill was surprised with the force this mutt was able to create. Sure, it couldn’t be compared to what a horse could do, but Bill didn’t expect Spike could move the plow at all, and here he was doing it. They both worked themselves into a mighty sweat. Pushing with everything they had. Especially Spike.
About halfway down the first row, Spike stopped. He was panting somethin’ fierce.
“Bill, I just gotta take a break. I’m sorry. I didn’t expect to get this winded. This dirt is a might harder than the dirt I remember plowing before. And I think this plow is a bit larger than I’m accustomed. But not worry—I got this. And I appreciate your lettin’ me take a quick break.”
They worked straight for another 4 hours, with a 10 minute break every 20 minutes. It was slow work. It was hard work. And it became clear that Spike couldn’t handle any more for the day.
“Let’s call it a day, Spike.”
Bill didn’t want to quit. He was hoping he could finish this field today. And then his other one tomorrow. But they didn’t reach the halfway mark, and it was obvious they’d be workin’ on this for days.
Spike didn’t hardly move the rest of the day. He just laid on the front porch with his tongue hanging out, and looked up at Bill every once in a while.
When the next day come, Bill felt bad asking him to put on the harness again. But he also felt bad suggesting that he not plow. He needed these fields plowed, and Spike said he’d do it, and that was the only reason he agreed to keep in the first place.
“Spike, I know this plowing is hard work. Maybe I should just see if I can borrow the Wilson’s horse. They’re probably done with plowing, and they could use some extra corn this year as payment.”
“Now look, Bill, I realize this is going slower than you want. And I apologize I’m not as strong as I thought I was. But I want to do this for you. You need this field plowed, and I promised you I could do it. And I can. So, let’s do it.”
He was sore. They both were.
Spike’s leg was aching—the deep kind of ache that you feel in the bone.
He strapped on the harness again.
His skin still raw from yesterday.
They were able to get a good number of rows in. But Spike had to quit before they could finish the field. They’d finish tomorrow.
Spike needed a week to recover.
He felt bad. He felt like he let Bill down. He knew what he had promised, but it was more than he could do.
He avoided Bill for much of the week. He just lay on the porch, sore of body and spirit. He was embarrassed.
He didn’t know what to do.
Together, they would plow Bill’s other field the next week.
Bill was a little resentful that it took so long. But he saw that Spike was in pain, and he knew that he was trying his hardest. He wished he didn’t need to long to recover after each plowing. He wished he had been able to keep his promise. He didn’t resent him—he loved him—but he was a little resentful, just because deep down he had known that he shouldn’t have trusted a talking dog to be able to plow a field. And he felt a little foolish for even entertaining the idea.
The summer would pass. The field would produce a healthy, hearty crop.
But in both of their minds, they wondered what would happen next year. And they wondered how they would get back to where they were when they both were full of hope and expectation and trust.
what do you do
when the stories you told yourself
no longer carry
the weight of the truth?