I love stories, for within them there is usually something to discover, something to learn and maybe something to apply. In the following story, an ancient fable, there is certainly something to discover about ourselves.
In the story we can ‘see’ who were really are, and what others, or ‘the world’ says about us, and how we swallow such untruths.
So, the story:
Having lost its way, a baby lion wandered for days, alone, forlorn, anxious at finding itself in a strange and dangerous environment. Weakened from hunger, it came upon some sheep. One of the mother sheep took pity on the poor, malnourished, bedraggled, crying baby lion and adopted it as her own. She showed her new baby how to forage for grass, what noises to make to talk to other sheep, and warn them of impending danger.
The young lion grew up, fast and strong, amidst the flock of sheep. Many years passed, and there, with a flock of sheep foraging for grass, now roamed the young lion, powerful and with a long mane and tail, behaving exactly like a sheep. It bleated like sheep instead of roaring, and ate grass instead of meat. This vegetarian young lion acted exactly like a weak, meek lamb.
One day, and from out of the foest an older, wild, ferocious lion strolled into the green pasture, and to his great delight beheld this flock of sheep. Thrilled with joy, and extremely hungry, this older lion pursued the fleeing flock of sheep, when, to his amazement, he saw a young lion, with his tail high up in the air, fleeing as fast as he could, along with the sheep.
The older lion paused for a moment, was nonplussed at what he had witnessed, scratched his head, and pondered: ‘I can understand the sheep running away from me, but I cannot imagine why this young lion should run at the sight of me.’ Ignoring his hunger, he raced hard and pounced upon the escaping young lion. The young lion froze with fear. The big lion was puzzled more than ever.
In a deep voice the older lion rebuked him, ‘What’s the matter with you?! Why do you, my brother-lion, run away from me in fear?’
The young lion closed his eyes and bleated out, meekly, in sheep language, ‘Please let me go. Don’t kill me. I’m just a sheep brought up with yonder flock.’
‘Oh, now I see why you’re bleating.’ He grabbed the young lion by the mane with his mighty jaws and dragged him towards the lake at the end of the pasture. When the older lion had reached the shore of the lake, he pushed the young lion’s head so that it was reflected in the water. He began to shake the younger one, who still had his eyes tightly closed, saying, ‘Open your eyes! Look! You are a lion, and a powerful one at that. You are not a sheep.’
‘Bleat, bleat, bleat. Please don’t kill me. Let me go. I am not a lion, but only a poor, helpless, defenceless, meek sheep,” wailed the ‘sheep-lion’.
The older lion gave the young, meek lion a terrible shake. He opened his eyes, and was astonished to find that the reflection of his head was not, as he expected, a sheep’s head but that of a lion’s, like the lion who was shaking him. Then, the big lion said, ‘Look at my broad face and your face reflected in the water. They are the same.
‘Now! You must roar instead of bleating!’, the older lion said.
The younger lion, now convinced that he wasn’t a sheep but a powerful lion,, tried to roar, but could only produce feeble bleat-mingled roars. As the older lion continued to exhort him with slapping paws, the sheep-lion at last succeeded in roaring. Now, both of them happy, both lions bounded across the pasture, entered the forest, and returned to the den of lions.
You and I are the young lion in this story, who thought he was a sheep. Or, maybe we were at one time and now know better. (Though be careful, as it’s easy to fall back into that ‘timid’ misconception). But, many people are still in the ‘I’m just a sheep’ stage.
If you identify with the young-lion-who-thinks-he-is-a-sheep then the good news is you are totally different, have a greater status, and are immensely powerful, and have a great purpose in life to accomplish. That is, if you realise what is at your disposal and rise to the challenge. Live small, accept the lie, don’t use the resources at your disposal and you will remain where you are. But, you are more than you think you are. ‘Seek out lions’!
One of my favourite stories in the Book is where Gideon is working away in a hole in the ground, out of sight of anyone. The enemy, the Amalekites had been constantly destroying crops, seizing animals and generally oppressing Gideon and his tribe. The safest way to work was in a hole in the ground, unseen. Timid. But, then an angel appears, and I think the angel’s greeting in priceless. The angel says to Gideon – remember Gideon is in hiding:
‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’ Mighty warrior? In hiding? Timid? In fear? God and this angel obviously had a different perception of Gideon. They saw the real Gideon.
God and his angels have a different view of us, if we’re living a shy, timid life. It’s time to wake up. Never be brow-beaten into not living up to who you really are. Use your God-given talents, and rise to the challenges that arise.
Never fear. You will come across people who don’t realise your status or power, who may belittle your efforts, and even bully you into submission – the world does that to make us compliant. But, without being bitter, negative or angry, and by still being your amiable self, stride forth, positively, remembering that: You are not a sheep, but a lion. You are more than you think you are.
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.’ Marianne Williamson