art by Peter Eamonn Ward
A long time ago, there was a small village. In that village lived a serving man. His job was to fetch the water.
Every day, he would carry two empty buckets down the long path to the river, fill the buckets, and carry the full buckets back to his master's house.
One of the buckets was perfect and would carry all the water it held all the way back to the master's house. Naturally, it was very proud of its daily accomplishments.
The other bucket was imperfect. It had a crack. And every day, the serving man would fill it to the top with water, and every day, the bucket would slowly leak on the way back up the path and would arrive at the master's house only half full.
This went on for two years. Finally, the bucket with the crack in it couldn't take it any more. When the serving man reached the river, the bucket said to him, "I want to apologize to you."
The serving man was surprised. "Why would you want to apologize to me?"
"Because," said the bucket. "Every day you have to walk all the way down to the river to fetch the water and walk all the way back, and every day, I am only able to bring half the water you put in me back to the master's house. I am ashamed."
The serving man felt sorry for the bucket. He said, "I'll tell you what. As we make our way back up the long path to the master's house, look around you. There are beautiful wild flowers growing along the path that will cheer you up."
The bucket agreed; and as they walked back up the long path to the master's house, he did look around and the beautiful wild flowers did cheer him up. But when they reached the master's house, the bucket still only had half of the water it began with.
"I was still only able to do half the work," said the bucket. "I still failed. I am sorry!"
The serving man smiled, and said, "Did you notice that the beautiful wild flowers were only growing on your side of the path? I knew about your crack all along, and I took advantage of it. Two years ago, I dropped flower seeds along the path, and for two years, you have been watering those flowers. It's thanks to you and your leak that those flowers were able to grow and make the path to the river more beautiful, making everyone's work more pleasant."
The moral of the story?
Do not judge yourself too harshly; do not confuse your strength for a weakness.
We all have a divine purpose to fulfill on our way back to the Master's House - but I think sometimes we get it in our heads what we think our divine purpose should be, and we are unable to see what our divine purpose is. And then we get all self-judgy and miserable, because we think our job is to carry a full load of water and feel like a failure when we just can't, and we ignore the little flowers that so desperately need us to be exactly what we are.
That's all. carry on.
Story credit: the story I retold here was written by one of the church authorities. I read it a while ago somewhere, and can't for the life of me remember who wrote it.