“Get Johnny Lingo to help you find what you want and then let him do the bargaining,” advised Shenkin as I sat on the veranda of his guest house and wondered whether to visit Nurabandi. “He’ll earn his commission four times over. Johnny knows values and how to make a deal.”
“Johnny Lingo.” The chubby boy on the veranda steps hooted the name, then hugged his knees and rocked with shrill laughter.
“Be quiet,” said his father and the laughter grew silent. “Johnny Lingo’s the sharpest trader in this part of the Pacific.”
The simple statement made the boy choke and almost roll off the steps. Smiles broadened on the faces of the villagers standing nearby.
“What’s going on?” I demanded. “Everybody around here tells me to get in touch with Johnny Lingo and then breaks up laughing. Is it some kind of trick, a wild-goose chase, like sending someone for a left-handed wrench? Is there no such person or is he the village idiot or what? Let me in on the joke.”
“Not idiot,” said Shenkin. “Only one thing. Five months ago, at festival time, Johnny came to Kiniwata and found himself a wife. He paid her father ten cows!”
He spoke the last words with great solemnity and I knew enough about island customs to be thoroughly impressed. Two or three cows would buy a fair-to-middling wife, four or five a highly satisfactory one.
“Ten cows!” I said. “She must have been a beauty that takes your breath away.”
“That’s why they laugh,” my guest said. “It would be kindness to call her plain. She was little and skinny. She spent her time helping her father, cooking and such, and she never tried to make herself attractive to the men. She walked with her head down, and didn’t laugh or sing, like the other girls. Her father was sure that never would a man want to marry her. He was disappointed and bitter.”
“But she attracted Johnny?”
This is the story Shenkin told me:
“All the way to the council tent the cousins were urging her father, Sam, to try for a good settlement. Ask for three cows, they told him, and hold out for two until you’re sure he’ll pay one. But Sam was in such a stew and so afraid there’d be some slip in this marriage chance for Sarita that they knew he wouldn’t hold out for anything. So while they waited they resigned themselves to accepting one cow, and thought instead of their luck in getting such a good husband for Sarita. Then Johnny came into the tent and without waiting for a word from any of them, went straight up to Sam Karoo, grasped his hand and said, ‘Father of Sarita, I offer ten cows for your daughter.’ And he delivered the cows. As soon as it was over Johnny took Sarita to the island of Cho for the first week of marriage. Then they went home to Narabundi and we haven’t seen them since. Except at festival time, there’s not much travel between the islands.”
The next afternoon I went to the island of Nurabandi. As I asked directions to Johnny’s house, I noticed Johnny’s neighbors were also amused at the mention of his name. When I met the slim, serious young man I could see immediately why everyone respected his skills. However, this only reinforced my confusion over him.
As we sat in his house, he asked me, “You come here from Kiniwata?”
“They speak of me on that island?”
“Yes. They say you can provide me anything I need. They say you’re intelligent, resourceful and the sharpest trader in the islands.” He smiled gently.
“My wife is from Kiniwata.”
“Yes, I know.” “They speak of her?”
“What do they say?”
“Why, just … .” The question caught me off balance. “They told me you were married at festival time.”
“Nothing more?” The curve of his eyebrows told me he knew there had to be more.
“They also say the marriage settlement was ten cows.” I paused. “They wonder why.”
“They ask that?” His eyes lighted with pleasure. “Everyone in Kiniwata knows about the ten cows?”
“And in Nurabandi, everyone knows it too?” His chest expanded with satisfaction. “Always and forever, when they speak of marriage settlements, it will be remembered that Johnny Lingo paid ten cows for Sarita.”
So that’s the answer, I thought: Vanity.
Just then Sarita entered the room to place flowers on the table. She stood still for a moment to smile at her husband and then left. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, and the sparkle in her eyes all spelled self-confidence and pride. Not an arrogant and haughty pride but a confidence … an inner beauty that radiated in her every movement.
I turned back to Johnny and found him looking at me.
“You admire her?” he murmured.
“She … she’s gorgeous.” I said. “Obviously, this is not the one everyone is talking about. She can’t be the Sarita you married on Kiniwata.”
“There’s only one Sarita. Perhaps, she doesn’t look the way you expected.”
“She doesn’t. I heard she was homely. They all make fun of you because you let yourself be cheated by Sam Karoo.”
“You think ten cows was too many?” A smile spread over his lips.
“No, but how can she be so different from the way they described her?”
Johnny said, “Think about how it must make a girl feel to know her husband paid a very low dowry for her? It must be insulting to her to know he places such little value on her. Think about how she must feel when the other women boast about the high prices their husbands paid for them. It must be embarrassing for her. I would not let this happen to my Sarita.”
“So, you paid ten cows just to make your wife happy?”
“Well, of course I wanted Sarita to be happy but there’s more to it than that. You say she is different from what you expected. This is true. Many things can change a woman. There are things that happen on the inside and things that happen on the outside. However, the thing that matters most is how she views herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. As a result, that’s the value she projected. Now, she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands. It shows, doesn’t it?”
“Then you wanted …”
“I wanted to marry Sarita. She is the only woman I love.”
“But …” I was close to understanding.
“Yes,” he finished softly, “I wanted a ten-cow wife.”
This is a beautiful and sweet story. It makes each one of us long for someone who would love and value us that much too.
What is really amazing is that there is Someone. I grew up hearing people say “God loves you! Yeshua (Jesus) loves you!” all the time. As I got older, it became something that didn’t really mean too much. I knew it in my head … I knew it very well … but it somehow didn’t really reach my heart or I didn’t feel like I really understood it.
This story has made a huge difference in my heart and life. I certainly don’t claim to fully understand God’s love for me, but I do have a much fuller, deeper understanding.
When I look at myself, I know how much “yuck” I have in my heart. I know how often I fail to do what I know I should. I know how many times I do things that I know I shouldn’t. I know that I’m not worth Yeshua’s amazing love. Along with that, it’s so easy to believe the enemy’s lies of “Look at that girl. She’s so much prettier.” Or “You’re just worthless … insignificant … unwanted … not-as-good, etc”. So when I heard comments about God’s intense love, it made me think (or even if I didn’t think it, it made me feel), “Yeah, but I’m not worth it.”
After hearing this story, I realized, “It’s true! I’m not worth that kind of love.” But that is what makes it so amazing! I felt Yeshua say to me, “Megan, I choose your value. I say how much you are worth. I’m the One who puts your ‘price tag’ on you. By paying the ultimate price – it wasn’t possible to pay one penny more – I am raising you to that level of worth. I have made you worthy.”
Just like in the story above, someone could have asked Yeshua, “Why did you pay so much for Megan? You could have bought her for almost nothing! She’s not worth what You paid for her!”
And He would reply, “I paid the ultimate price because I want an ultimate Bride. Now she is worth that much. I have made her worth that much, and now she is worthy of Me.”
People say that the value of something is simply what someone is willing to pay for that thing. Yeshua chose to make each us of even more than a “ten cow bride”, He paid the absolute highest price He could to make us the most amazing, perfect Brides ever. This is the level of God’s love for each of us. We need to pray that it will sink into our hearts and minds in a way that changes us forever. We need to bask in the wonder of it, just like Sarita does in the story above. If we do, it will change us.
Being influenced by the world around us, many of us are tempted to give up on God’s perfect way and give in to a person or circumstance that we shouldn’t because we feel we’re not worth anything better. We need to remember this story, and what Yeshua has done for us. We need to choose to trust His love and trust His ways. And we need to remember that we are each even more precious and even more loved and even more wanted than the ten cow bride.