So, yesterday, my labradoodle, Merry, who is three quarters poodle, a hunting breed, came home from her walk with Roy, tail wagging, and with a present for me… a beautiful, quite adorable rabbit–perfectly dead.
I screamed! I love rabbits, and we’ve had several as pets over the years. In fact, this was probably a descendant of the ones which got away!
Most domestic dogs no longer have the enzymes to digest raw meat, so, frustratingly, Merry would not eat her rabbit. We left it at the bottom of the garden. As I sat in my conservatory, writing, watching, a red kite appeared overhead, swooped down. At dusk, the dogs went mad. I saw a shadowy fox disappear, a rabbit in its mouth.
* * *
Nothing, nothing, is wasted. The dead rabbit fed the kites and the foxes, as she had fed on grass enriched by their droppings. The apples which we lacked the diligence to harvest fall, and become next year’s harvest. “We are but dust, and to dust we shall return,” fertilising the soil, which has fed and fertilised us.
“Let nothing be wasted,” Jesus said, after–like a brilliant entrepreneur–he created great abundance out of almost nothing, feeding 5000 from five barley loaves, and two small fish. But, at his request, they gathered the left-over scraps of bread, filling twelve baskets.
If that is his desire for scraps of bread, how much more with our lives! Almost all lives are composed of false starts, dead ends, practice or abandoned projects, and vanished things—friendships, relationships, stuff, languages we once learnt, books we started writing. A room full of half-finished canvases, statues, books and poems… with perhaps a few shining examples, perfectly finished. Many of our lives look like that.
But Jesus wants nothing to be wasted. I have lived my life and that which I have done…may He within himself make pure, Tennyson has the dying Arthur pray that Christ will redeem all things. So, all we can do is give him the little we have, the five loaves and two fish, and the fragments, the twelve baskets of broken pieces. And trust him… to use the false starts in writing to make one true work; the broken or neglected friendships to build true friendships which might last; to use our failures in faith, hope and love to teach us faith, hope and love, and to use all our yesterdays as tuition for a tomorrow in which we shall focus on the only two things which truly matter in God’s eyes–to love God wholly, with all our mind, all our heart, all our spirit, and all our strength, and to live in kindness towards ourselves and others, in Jesus’s words “to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.”
I love reading memoirs, and autobiographies, and I am often amazed by how God uses false starts and dead ends to form people’s characters, and life work. Our miseries become our ministry, perhaps even our callings and vocations. Unless we too have bled, it is difficult to speak or write words which matter to someone struggling with a difficult marriage, a health problem, an eating disorder, debt, or tricky relationships. Reading memoirs, I am struck too by how, in the end, it’s not the all the travel, adventure, success, or wealth which make a beautiful and meaningful life, but just two, perhaps three things…. to love something big–and what could be bigger than God?–and to live in love and kindness towards others. (And if we are very lucky, to create something that “the world will not willingly let die,” in John Milton’s old beautiful phrase.)