The Paper Pulpit

Lingo’s eight-cow wife
Aug. 18, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

H. Norman Wright, in With All My Strength, shares the interesting story of a man named Johnny Lingo who lived on an island in the South Pacific in the years following World War II. The islanders all spoke highly of him. He was strong, good-looking, very intelligent and highly respected by his peers. But when it came time for Johnny to find a wife, the people shook their heads in disbelief.

The woman Lingo chose was plain, skinny and walked with her shoulders hunched and her head down. She was also very hesitant and shy. She happened also to be a bit older than the other unmarried women in Lingo’s village, which did nothing for her value as a prospective mate. But she had one thing that the other prospective brides didn’t have — Johnny Lingo loved her.

What surprised everyone in the village most was Johnny’s offer. It was the custom on the island that any man seeking a wife had to pay her father by giving him cows. Four to six cows was considered a high price. The other villagers thought that Johnny might, at the most, offer the father of the girl he loved two or three cows. But he gave him eight cows! Everyone chuckled about it, since they believed his future father-in-law had put one over on him. Some thought it was a huge mistake.

A year or so after the wedding, a visitor from the United States came to the Islands on business and heard the story of Johnny Lingo and his eight-cow wife. Upon meeting Johnny and his wife, the American visitor was totally surprised. Johnny’s wife was not shy, plain and hesitant. Rather, she was beautiful, poised and confident. He wondered how she could possibly be the woman that had been described to him.

Lingo explained it this way: “I wanted an eight-cow woman, and when I paid that for her, and treated her in that fashion, she began to believe she was an eight-cow woman. She discovered that she was worth more to me than any other woman on the island would have been. What matters most is not what other people think of her, but what she thinks about herself.”

What a beautiful story! The lesson it teaches us is that when you value the people around you, something amazing happens. If you attach little or no value to them, if you constantly criticize them or lack faith in them, it is easy for them to devalue themselves. It is only when you value the persons around you highly that amazing things can happen. You increase their value and they value themselves more highly.

The lesson that Johnny Lingo and his eight-cow wife teaches us is especially needed in our homes. It is when a husband treats his wife as having high value that she will gain a heightened sense of selfhood and worth. The same is true in reverse. Husbands and wives both respond positively to love that is genuinely expressed. It is when husbands and wives ignore or criticize each other that problems develop that can destroy their marriage, lead to divorce, and adversely affect the lives of any children involved.

It has been said that love is the quest, marriage is the conquest and divorce is the inquest. Divorces do not take place in homes where husbands and wives highly value each other the way Johnny Lingo valued his wife. Troubled marriages that don’t end in divorce often become a continuing civil war. A woman in Ohio a few years ago obviously had that kind of marriage. She told a friend that she had a glow-worm marriage. When asked to define a glow-worm marriage, she replied, “The glow has gone, but the worm remains.”

The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.