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The Miller, His Son, and Their Ass

Boy on donkey in Mosul

2009 Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq photo

Cari Donaldson - published on 08/11/14

Aesop's Fable and the importance of being you.

The moment of your creation existed outside of space and time. It took place there, because the creation of life is the providence of God, and that’s where he dwells.

The moment of your creation stretched out infinitely, while the Blessed Trinity pored over the details of you. The only you that would ever exist. The only you that would ever exist, endowed with specific gifts and talents, specifically chosen by God. You were given a purpose and a mission, and you were declared so precious, so undeniably lovable that Jesus Himself took flesh and came down here among the dust and the tears to redeem you.

And so you came into this world, purposefully designed, fearfully and wonderfully made, and you chose to….

… make yourself into something you’re not.

You think yourself wrong in a hundred different ways. You’re too fat, too thin. Too short, too tall. You live inside your own head too much; you talk too loudly and too freely. You’re single in a coupled world; you have too many/not enough children to fit in. You’re awkward. You’re reserved. You’re too trusting. You fall in love too easily.

Everywhere you see people better than you are. They’re holier. They’re closer to God. They’ve got the right balance of worldly success coupled with spiritual wisdom. They have the relationships you yearn for, the connections you strive for, the comforts you long for. It’s so easy from here to slip into thinking that they’re better than you.

So it seems that the only way to get what they have is to imitate them. If you just make yourself quieter/chattier/more cultured/less political/whatever, then you will be the perfect Catholic. You will be the MotherTheresaPadrePioSaintFrancisLittleFlowerPopeJohnPaul of this era.  

Maybe you’re not even aiming that high. Maybe you just want to be as holy as the woman in your homeschool group—the one with all the kids who practices flawless Charlotte Mason education, attachment parenting, and bakes all her own bread. Maybe you want to be the man in the parish Men’s Club, who holds down the executive job, is the sole breadwinner for his family, runs 90 miles a week, and has a wife who adores him. Maybe you want to be that person in class next to you, who manages to blend charisma with his charism and effortlessly wins souls for God while making friends for himself.

It doesn’t matter the specifics. All you know is that you’re not what you want to be. So you decide to be someone you’re not.

There is a vast difference between imitating the saints and copying them. And in the space of that distance, how God’s heart must break. Here you are—this specifically designed, carefully crafted individual, made to impact the world in a unique way, trying to be someone you’re not. Trying to fake talents you weren’t given, while ignoring the ones you were.

While trying to wrap up this article, my oldest son came in. At nine, he is all legs and arms and bone. His hair is long and hangs in his dark brown eyes, and he cautiously entered the office, knowing that I was busy working.

“Are you done? Can you play Minecraft with me yet?” he asked. My nine-year-old son loves Minecraft. I shook my head mournfully.

“Not yet, honey. I still have about 200 more words to write, and I don’t know how to end this,” I said.

“Well what’s it about? Maybe I can help you,” he said, and I hesitated for a moment. How could a child help an adult on a very serious theological essay? But I was desperate, and Minecraft really sounded good.

“It’s about ignoring the talents that God gave you, in order to be someone else because you think that someone else is holier than you could ever be on your own,” I said. His eyes lit up.

“Oh! I know exactly what you’re talking about!” he danced an odd little dance, hopping from foot to foot in glee. “There’s an Aesop’s Fable about that!” And he handed me his Kindle, opened to The Miller, His Son, and Their Ass. I skimmed over it, amazed. Sure enough, this was what I was fumbling towards, told better and more concisely, a bazillion years before.  

We were fearfully and wonderfully made, paid for by the blood of Christ the Son. If we get distracted on the way to market by the example of others, and attempt to imitate their life, we’re just going to lose our ass.  

And not in a good way. Listen to my nine-year-old on this one.

Cari Donaldsonis the author ofPope Awesome and Other Stories: How I Found God, Had Kids, and Lived to Tell the Tale. She married her high school sweetheart, had six children with him, and now spends her days homeschooling, writing, and figuring out how to stay one step ahead of her child army. She blogs about faith and family life at

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