I need the story of a talking horse named Bree to remind me that I’m nobody special.
The story comes from The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis.
Bree has pretended to be a normal horse for a long time. Captured as a foal, Bree has had to hide his identity for a long time in order to survive. It’s hard to be great but then be forced to hide one’s greatness.
Bree finally gets his chance to return to Narnia but reveals a lack of courage on the way back. Perhaps Bree isn’t such a special horse after all.
“How can I ever show my face among the free Horses of Narnia?” Bree complains. “I who left a mare and a girl and a boy to be eaten by lions while I galloped all I could to save my own wretched skin!”
Bree’s realized the truth about himself: that even the best of us probably aren’t as great as we think.
The words of a hermit are helpful not just to Bree but to all of us who think we’re greater than we really are:
My good Horse, you've lost nothing but your self-conceit. No, no, cousin. Don't put back your ears and shake your mane at me. If you are really so humbled as you sounded a minute ago, you must learn to listen to sense. You're not quite the great horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. It doesn't follow that you'll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you're nobody very special, you'll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole.
Such a great insight.
Many of us have been taught that we’re great. In one sense, we are. We’re made in God’s image, sons and daughters of the Father, known and loved by him.
But we’re probably not very special in Narnia. It’s freeing to lose our conceit and to finally realize the truth about ourselves.
We’re blessed when we realize we’re nobody very special.
We can stop trying to puff ourselves up. We don’t need to prove ourselves. We can admit our faults. We can even deal with our failures without completely losing hope.
Pride and an overblown sense of self is a horrible burden to carry. When we let go of these burdens, we find that we’re actually quite ordinary, but that our ordinariness is actually quite okay after all.
It’s enough that God loves us, dignifies us, and our lives count for eternity, and that we get to be with all the other not-very-special people too.
But we can also cling to the reality that God knows and loves us, and that he’s given us work to do. We’re nobility, kings and queens, priests and cultivators of all that’s good on this earth.
We’re not very special after all. But as long as we know that we’re nobody very special, we’ll be a very decent kind of people, on the whole.