My friend Dave just killed a buck in Ohio. This time however, instead of waiting on the big one, he arrowed one that had a lot to be desired. It was an older buck with one antler that had been broken off and the other one that looked as if each point had been worn down to the nub. The body of the deer was big as is typical in Ohio, but the wear and tear of many years of fighting had taken its toll on the rest of its features. Dave had seen the deer earlier in the year and knew that it was very territorial. It was as if this once proud monarch had been given a few small acres and was willing to fight with great and small to protect it from any and all comers. Dave was proud of his trophy because it reminded him of his own battle scars that he had taken lately. It reminded him of how he too had been beaten up and may not look like the spiritual trophy that many expect. I suspect these may be his greatest spiritual days.
You see, the truth is, our greatest days are not when we are in our physical prime or even when we feel as if we are on top of the world. They are not when we look like a spiritual monarch or even when we seem to be reaching the most. Our greatest days come after many of our nubs are worn off. They are when our distinguishing characteristics are not beauty marks but battle scars. They are when our greatest pleasure is not from a victory but from the fact we have simply fought a good fight. It is what makes us real and "realness" is what the world needs to see. A children's story called The Velveteen Rabbit, written in 1922 by Margery Williams, best illustrates this. They are in the nursery and the toy rabbit in the story is asking the skin horse about becoming real. Here's how the story continues.
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
The buck that Dave took the other night was the most beautiful deer in the woods, because Dave understood.
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