Renowned preacher and storyteller Fred Craddock swears this happened to him: He was visiting in the home of one of his former students after graduation, and after a great dinner, the young parents excused themselves and hustled the kids off to bed, leaving Fred in the living room with the family pet—a large, sleek greyhound. Earlier in the evening Fred had watched the kids roll on the floor playing with the family dog.
“That’s a full-blooded greyhound there,” the father of the kids had told Fred. “He once raced professionally down in Florida. Then we got him. Great dog with the kids, that greyhound.”
Well, sitting there with the dog, the dog turned to Fred and asked, “This your first visit to Connecticut?”
“No,” Fred answered. “I went to school up here a long time ago.”
“Well, I guess you heard. I came up here from Miami,” said the greyhound.
“Oh, yeah, you retired?” Fred said.
“No, is that what they told you? No, no, I didn’t retire. I tell you, I spent ten years as a professional, racing greyhound. That means ten years of running around that track day after day, seven days a week with others chasing that rabbit. Well, one day, I got up close; I got a good look at that rabbit. It was a fake! I had spent my whole life chasing a fake rabbit! Hey, I didn’t retire; I quit!”
There are lots of fake rabbits—not just “fame and fortune.” Often we chase someone’s approval. We can chase certainty, false hopes, vindication, or just ‘normalcy.’
One more brief story:
Chuck Jones was a legendary animator in the heyday of Looney Tunes cartoons. His mad genius created that slender bird known around the world: Road Runner. In one of his last public appearances, someone in the audience asked Jones this question:
“Mr. Jones, Wile E. Coyote is obviously a coyote of means. He has the wherewithal to buy rocket sleds, jet-propelled pogo sticks and many other advanced, and no doubt expensive, technologies from Acme Corp. So why would he care about a skinny bird that would barely make a proper lunch?”
Jones replied, without batting an eye, “Because he remembers it was once important to him.”*
Often the thing we pursue was once important, maybe appropriate for that time in our life. If we don’t succeed in running it down, though, the chase can continue for years—long after it should matter anymore.
*Thanks to Michael Moore for passing this story along to me.
What are you chasing?
Question #9 “What Are You Running Away From?” comes Tuesday March 14.
There are many things to chase after in this world. The paths seem endless, like the branches of an intricate tree. There is only one thing worth chasing-God and His Word. His Word is a light for your path in this place to Him. He is the only sure thing, as I tell my children.
Yes, indeed. That’s the core of this story for me. Thanks, Lauri.
David Anderson says
I love that Psalm, Lauri–and so good that your children can receive that message from a wise mother like you.
Laughing in Lent! Thanks, David. This is a keeper.
Great stories have many levels. On one level, I give up chasing fake rabbits. On another level I see that all rabbits are fake rabbits. I look at a real one and it says to me: “Keep looking.”
I’ve heard so many times something like this: Once I get (fill in the blank), then I’ll be able to enjoy life. Sadly, once whatever it was was attained, the blank was usually filled with something else. I try to keep that in mind – although sometimes I forget. Thanks, David.
MELISSA E Grassmick says
I am walking a dear friend through a nasty divorce right now. Just this week, I accompanied her to a contentious mediation session. She seemed in a trance as we headed home after they had worked all day on property distribution. She was hung up on “fair.” None of this was fair to her. This man was a serial cheater, liar, and deceiver their entire marriage. She was asked to give half of her plants, kitchen goods, and the IRA she started, just in case. HE walked away. She was willing to live with all of it. But I looked over at her and asked her to really consider why she was sad. She is gaining her whole life back. She is the winner here. But I think she is chasing a rabbit. One that belittled her and made her think she was crazy. But you nailed it on the head Uncle David. She remembers that it was once important to her. My prayer for her during this hard season is that she chooses new things to chase. Good things. Beautiful things. God-sized things. Thank you for your words.
David Anderson says
Thanks for sharing that, Melissa. That often happens–people fight for something, when the fight is costing them more each day. But they can’t let it go because–as you say, it used to be important to them. Your friend is lucky to have you.
Michael M says
Speaking of chasing and being chased: David, thank you for introducing me to John Martin’s “Bear In Mind.” I’ve shared that story with just about everyone I know, and I keep a copy by my desk to remind me to stop running from imaginary bears.
Donna Morgan Harrison says
So poweful. Just in from Sunday Bible study and I want to print these stories out to share next week with my friends at church: “I spent my whole life chasing a fake rabbit.” And “I spent my life chasing a skinny bird because it was once important to me.” Thank you for shaking and waking me.
I very much appreciate the stories you shared and the question David. Once the question is answered and it has been established what is being chased, I think that there is another, perhaps even more important, question to ask and that is: Why are you chasing what you are chasing?
With regards to the greyhound…for ten years that greyhound chased the fake rabbit around the track and when he discovered that the rabbit was fake he quit chasing it. Well, what I wonder is why he was chasing the rabbit in the first place. The fact that he was chasing it for all those years and then quit chasing it when he found out it was fake implies that he wasn’t just chasing it for the fun of it. Was it because he thought if he could catch it that he could then kill it and eat it? Was he hungry? Were his handlers not feeding him enough? Only the greyhound knows for sure why he was chasing the rabbit all those years but if I had the opportunity to ask him, I would not be surprised if he could not remember why he was chasing it. For I suspect that at some point chasing the rabbit had just become a habit. His discovering that the rabbit was fake was so startling for him that it broke the habit.
It seems to me that when we arrive in this ongoing movie called the game of life that one of the first things we learn is that we are lacking. And as our individual movie plays out we are continually chasing one thing or another that exists in the world we perceive that is external to us that, once we catch it, it will be what we need to complete us and satisfy our lack. Unfortunately, this seldom works out. It seems that there is this tacit rule to the game that states something to the effect…seek but never find. Or, maybe it’s like this…a subconscious program that insists the next one is ‘The’ one.
When I consider myself for so much of my time in this game of life, I am the metaphorical fish that has for so long been swimming around in the ocean continuously searching for water. Yet, I do not know that it is water I search for. And most certainly, I do not recognize that what I search for I have always possessed and where I journey to be I have always been.
You might inquire, “Why is it that a fish completely surrounded by water cannot recognize the water nor does not know that it is water it searches for? How can this be?”
Zooming in for a closer look at this fish the answer to the question, “How can this be?” becomes obvious.
Acting as the fish I have come to believe I am, I have manufactured an incredibly elaborate multi-layered, multi-dimensional, fantastically complex and complicated (sometimes beautiful sometimes ugly) structure around me. Upon every single component of this magnificent and seemingly infinite structure I have pinned a label (a symbol) and went on to attach labels to the labels and more labels to those. And very label must have a story connected to it. I venerate labels and the stories that go with each one and, over time, have become enormously attached to every single one of them. The structure is all I see, is all I recognize and although I am unable to put my finger on exactly what it is I’m searching for (what I seem to have misplaced or lost), I know that it has to be somewhere within the structure. A structure that I have long since forgotten I was the one who fabricated it.
I am reminded of something Siddhartha said in chapter 12 from Herman Hesse’s book, Siddhartha:
” ‘When someone is searching,’ said Siddhartha, ‘then it might easily
happen that the only thing his eyes still see is that what he searches
for, that he is unable to find anything, to let anything enter his mind,
because he always thinks of nothing but the object of his search,
because he has a goal, because he is obsessed by the goal. Searching
means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having
no goal. You, oh venerable one, are perhaps indeed a searcher, because,
striving for your goal, there are many things you don’t see, which are
directly in front of your eyes.’ ”
Over the years that I have been playing the game of life, I have learned that beyond knowing what one is chasing, it is immensely more valuable to know why one is chasing what they are chasing.
For one reason or another I used to chase a great many things but I no longer do that. I have learned that there is nothing in the external world that will fill what seems to be my inherent lack; for everything in the external world is transitory. Lauri has it right when she states, “There is only one thing worth chasing-God and His Word.” That noted, I would modify her statement by saying, one does not have to chase God, one just has to remember that they are One with God.
Again, thanks so much for the question David!