Last Sunday it was our harvest festival at church and Shammy (my student minister) and I told a variety of stories about people struggling to survive in conditions of drought and famine and how we help them. As part of my address I told a parable that I have heard on a few occasions lately. When I hear a story more than once I tend to think that something is trying to be heard and it was so with this particular story. It is called “The Ogre Story” and comes in a variety of forms. The story I told goes like this:
One day a villager is walking by the river early one morning.
The villager looks out into the water and sees a baby floating down the river. Horrified he races into the water, grabs the baby, and brings the baby to shore. The baby is fine.
Relieved, he looks back into the water and sees another baby floating down the water. The villager again dives into the water and rescues this baby as well.
Once more, the villager looks into the water... and sees dozens of babies floating down the river. The villager calls out an alarm, and the entire village comes running to the river to rescue as many babies as they can before the water carries them away.
The community mobilizes to save the babies from peril. But, no sooner do they save this set of babies, than another dozen babies are found to be floating down the river, in danger. No matter how many times the villagers save the babies, there are always more and more babies floating down the river that need to be saved.
It turns out there is an ogre upstream that is throwing babies in the river.
The babies keep on coming because nobody is going upstream to stop the ogre who is throwing the babies into the water. The villagers are mobilized, they are doing things to help and they even get quite good at helping and providing for the rescued babies; but (and this is a really big but) there is one real problem they're not addressing. The root of the problem is that they are not travelling upstream to tackle the ogre who is throwing the babies into the river.
I am sure that it is evident how this tied in with the question of aid for communities with problems such as drought and famine, and it was a good story to tell in this context but the story has stayed with me. It has nagged at my mind until I suddenly realised that there is a much wider application for this story. We all have in our lives an ogre upstream chucking babies into the river and we may have become quite adept at dealing with the babies as they float downstream, but are we dealing with the root of the problem?
How many of us venture upstream to tackle the ogre in our lives?
Do we even recognise the existence of the ogre? I am not so sure that I do. At the moment my life seems good. I am doing a job that I love, I am developing new and exciting creative skills with my hobbies of quilting, knitting, painting and poetry writing and I have people around me that I love, and who love me. But in spite of all this there are things that niggle away at the back of my mind threatening to bubble to the surface and upset the equilibrium.
I need to find the ogre that is upstream in my life.
I am not sure where to begin but feel inspired by some words of wisdom by Rumi:
Heart, you are lost: but there's a parh
From the lover to love, hidden
But visible. World's blaze round you.
Don't shrink; the path's hidden, but yours.
The path to find that ogre in my life may be hidden but with the strength of my faith, the love in my heart and the goodness of life that is with me at this moment the path will hopefully become clear.