I n his letter to the Christians at Rome, Paul wrote: “The gifts we possess differ as they are allotted to us by God’s grace.” All of us are given talents. They may be large or small, they may be many or few, but God who gave them expects us to use them. And all he asks is that we do our best.
On a bright summer day in 1777 a contingent of soldiers rode up to a blacksmith shop in a little village in Vermont. One of the horses was limping. A voice called out, “Is there anyone here?”
Limping out to face the horsemen, 15-year-old Luke Varnum answered, “Yes, sir, I am here.” He continued to explain, “I am the only one left. My father and all the other men and boys have gone to join General Stark at Bennington. Because I am lame, they left me behind.”
“I see,” said the spokesman of the group, “We need a blacksmith. Is there anyone here who can set a shoe on this horse?” Young Luke answered confidently, “I have been blowing the bellows for my father as long as I can remember; if you will hold the horse’s foot I will try to set the shoe. Bring him inside and I will start the fire.”
The man holding the lame horse looked at the boy in disgust. “Of all the luck!” he exclaimed to his companions, “But I don’t dare ride another five miles with my horse unshod.”
He handed the detached horseshoe to the youth. As he proceeded to measure, Luke exclaimed, “This shoe is much too large. It doesn’t fit.” The rider replied, “Maybe so, but it will have to do.” “No,” said Luke, “I have a better one.” The little blacksmith went to work over the lighted forge. He completed the job quickly and well, using extra heavy nails he had made himself. When the job was finished, the men mounted their horses and in a cloud of dust thundered away.
When the men and boys returned victorious, there was great excitement in the village. The townspeople never tired of hearing them tell how as that long afternoon wore on the tide of battle turned against them. But just as their cause seemed lost and they were on the verge of giving up, Colonel Seth Warner and his men came riding in to save the day.
History books will tell you that Colonel Warner and his band won the battle, and in a way that is true. But others, telling about it, say that it was young Luke Varnum, the cripple who was left behind who was the real hero. He set the shoe for Colonel Warner’s horse, and that was the thing that made the victory possible.
It was John Oxenham who wrote: Is your place a small place? Tend it with care; — He set you there. Is your place a large place? Guard it with care! — He set you there. Whate’er your place, it is Not yours alone, but His Who set you there.
Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.