Johnny Lingo and the Ten Cow Wife
Johnny Lingo wanted to get married. So, he went to the his native Island of Kiniwata to find a wife. Now, the custom of his people was to trade in cows (a precious commodity there) for the bride. Typically two or three cows would buy a fair-to-middling wife, four or five a highly satisfactory one. Johnny Lingo traded ten for his (some renditions of the story say eight cows). Everyone thought Johnny Lingo was crazy. In the eyes of Kiniwatans, Sarita – Johnny’s bride – was barely worth one cow. A local man described her in these words,
“It would be kindness to call her plain. She was little and skinny with no–ah–endowments. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked, as if she was trying to hide behind herself. Her cheeks had no color, her eyes never opened beyond a slit and her hair was a tangled mop half over her face. She was scared of her own shadow, frightened by her own voice. She was afraid to laugh in public. She never romped with the girls, so how could she attract the boys?”
No one knew of Johnny and Sarita since the nuptials. A young man, who was also interested in getting married, was told the story. Intrigued by the story and with time in his hands he decided to find out by himself. He sailed to Narabundi where Johnny and Sarita lived. He found Johnny and related to Johnny the reason for his visit. Johnny confirmed the story. As they talked one of the most beautiful and elegant women he had ever seen walked in the room with flowers. He described her with the following words,
“And then I saw her. Through the glass-beaded portieres that simmered in the archway, I watched her enter the adjoining room to place a bowl of blossoms on the dining table. She stood still a moment to smile with sweet gravity at the young man beside me. Then she went swiftly out again. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Not with the beauty of the girl who carries fruit. That now seemed cheap, common, earthbound. This girl had an ethereal loveliness that was at the same time from the heart of nature. The dew-fresh flowers with which she’d pinned back her lustrous black hair accented the glow of her cheeks. The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a dignity to which no one could deny her the right. And as she turned to leave she moved with the grace that made her look like a queen who might, with enchantment, turn into a kitten.”
Before the man could say anything, Johnny said “This is my Sarita. My ten cow wife. She has changed a lot. Part of which is the result of knowing she is a ten cow wife. She has no need to worry when other women compare themselves by how much they cost. She cost more than any of them. To many she was not worth one cow and she believed that also. But, I loved her and not any other. I wanted to marry her. You see, I always wanted a ten cow wife.”
The issue was not whether Sarita was intrinsically worth the ten cows; the issue was that Sarita was worth ten cows to Johnny. Christ’s church is His bride. Paul says that “…ye are bought with a price…” (1Corinthians 6:20). Is she intrinsically worth the price Christ paid for her? Not really. Revelation 3: 15 – 17 tells us our true condition,
Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
The Psalmist says “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).
There is nothing in us worth pursuing. But, Christ pursued us anyway. Why? God loves us. God’s special love, agape, is not created by the value of its object. Since God is love, God loved His creation, and in love created value in it. Humans pervert God’s love because we are born self-centered. We generally have trouble loving ugly or disagreeable people. We call them “unlovely.” But, we are all unlovely. God loves us anyway. How much did God love? We see in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
How did Christ pay for His bride? Peter gives us the answer,
1Peter 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
1Peter 1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
The verb to redeem means to buy or pay off; clear by payment, to buy back. Christ bought us with the price of His blood. Sarita seemed grateful to Johnny and it showed. Are we grateful to God for the price He paid for us?