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CHASING SKINNY RABBITS
By JOHN TRENT
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 John Trent
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBEWARE THE SKINNY RABBIT!
The bravest and strongest hunters of the village gathered by the flickering embers of the campfire. Their dogs lay quietly nearby, dreaming of the hunt to come. The magnificent Great Stag had been seen again. Farmers had spotted the immense creature standing proudly high on the crags. Travelers caught glimpses of it bounding through the woods. Women and children insisted they had seen a grand, noble animal that looked like an enormous deer disappearing into the morning fog or standing at the edge of a field at twilight. What's more, they had found its tracks—huge prints in plowed fields or in rain-washed roads. Yes, there was no doubt about it; the Great Stag was on the move.
THE HUNT FOR THE GREAT STAG
Each hunter gazed into the fire, his eyes gleaming not only with firelight but also with hope. Each prayed it would be his dogs that found the trail of the Great Stag and that his eyes would be the first to catch sight of the creature. They hunted this Stag not to kill the magnificent animal, for it was told that to the one who captured it alive would pass down power, insight, and untold wealth fit to benefit generations.
In the morning a battle cry arose from the mighty men. Quickly they gathered their kit, mounted their mighty steeds, and swept into the forest. On and on they rode, through wilderness and forest, over hill and dale, through stream and glade, hounds baying in the excitement of the chase.
For days and days the hunt went on. At times the hunters grew weary, but each new sighting of the Great Stag's tracks renewed their energy. The Great Stag was elusive, and they knew the chase would not be easy. But the prize was worth every effort, so they pressed on.
After many days of trekking through bush and briar, the dogs were tired, and the hunters were dog-tired. All were famished. Their food supply was diminishing, and daily rations had become too meager to fill the gnawing emptiness in their bellies. Nonetheless, before the morning fog had lifted the next day, the men mounted and took up their chase.
With the hunting dogs far in front, one man in the middle of the pack of hunters glimpsed something moving to his right. Something moving swiftly through the fog. Surely it was the Great Stag! He spurred his mount, moving quickly away from the others, and soon spotted the movement again. Each time he was ready to give up the chase, there came a flash of movement that spurred him on again. The hunter followed doggedly, going deeper and deeper into the unknown forest, farther and farther away from his companions. At last, his persistence paid off. He had run his foe into a narrow box canyon. Finally, his prey was right in front of him! But instead of the Great Stag ... it was a rabbit. A Skinny Rabbit at that.
Exhilaration turned to exhaustion for the Hunter. The long-eared creature that had drawn him so far off course was only now shown to be unworthy of the chase. This rabbit was thin as a hemlock twig, and its scrawny bones had no meat on them. The warrior turned away in disappointment and disgust and swung wearily into his saddle. He had wasted his time and much-needed energy, and by following a rabbit trail instead of the real trail, he had fallen far behind his companions.
He reined his horse around to retrace his steps. But he found no trace of his trail in the brush and briars. He tried his best to remember the path, but soon to his dismay, he realized it was hopeless. He had been so intent on chasing the Skinny Rabbit that he had lost his bearings, cut himself off from the other hunters, and totally lost the trail of the Great Stag.
Darkness descended into the forest. Ominous yellow eyes glowed from the brushes, and menacing growls chilled his bones. He dared not stop but wandered through the trees and brush, hoping somehow to find his companions or pick up the trail of the Great Stag. Soon the ground began to slope downward, leading the warrior to hope he was approaching a stream he might follow out of the forest. He spurred his horse forward, but instead of water he found himself mired in a thick bog, so deep his horse could no longer lift its feet.
The warrior hung his head in despair. Not only had he lost his way; not only had he wasted valuable time and energy; not only was he exhausted; but he knew he had lost his chance to achieve his great goal ... and would regret it for years to come.
All because he had chased that accursed Skinny Rabbit.
BEWARE SKINNY RABBITS
Beware! There are Skinny Rabbits all around you. They lurk at work and hide in the bushes along your career path. They can lure you away from anything worthy—a great marriage, a career goal, a lifelong friendship. They can wreak havoc in small groups, workplace teams, and even churches. Chasing a Skinny Rabbit does worse than just get you off track; it will lead you further and further down a path that will drain the very life from you—killing your excitement, your creativity, your drive. Skinny Rabbits separate you from your money, kill precious time, and can even destroy your life. And the pursuit of them leaves you exhausted—physically, mentally, emotionally, and finally, spiritually bankrupt—more empty than you ever thought you could possibly be.
The tragedy is that most of us won't realize we're pursuing a Skinny Rabbit until it's too late—until we've lost precious months or even years in the chase. Until it dawns on us that we've lost our chance to catch the Great Stag we set out to find.
A Skinny Rabbit is anything that pulls you away from a path of purpose and life and leads you into a forest of separation, exhaustion, and even (if you don't stop the chase) the death of a dream, relationship, or chance to reach God's best. It is any pursuit that distracts you from a worthwhile goal that, over time, would lead to great reward for a far lesser one that gives you little but bare bones.
We've all been had, to some degree, by this "wascally wabbit."
Maybe it was that promotion we sought that we just knew would change everything ... but instead of giving us anything, it took every ounce of our time and energy, nearly ruining our families in the empty pursuit. A Skinny Rabbit may have been that best friend or trusted business partner whom we just knew was leading us to success, only to be left alone and betrayed in the end.
Or a Skinny Rabbit may be that person we've dated for three years who seems so right but who still has given no sign of commitment ... or that car we just had to have that came equipped with every option—including life-draining payments—or that investment opportunity that we just knew was going to triple our money ... or even that ministry position that held so much promise but left us feeling squeezed out and emotionally discarded like a sour dishrag.
My goal with this book is to help you recognize these Skinny Rabbits and their traps and trails before they divert you from better goals and before they lead you to emotional, physical, and even spiritual exhaustion.
I want you—and the people you know best and love most—to know the importance of asking the question, Is this a Skinny Rabbit?
You'll soon see that question is crucial to ask both of the good things that suddenly pop into your life and of those trails you may have been following for years. This book will help you determine whether or not you're on a Skinny Rabbit Trail and will equip you with a Skinny Rabbit Detector, which can be of great practical and immediate help. And perhaps of most benefit, you'll be able to see more clearly those Great Stag opportunities—how to spot real potential to reach the places God intended when He first dreamed of you.
Chapter TwoOUR FIRST LOOK AT THE SKINNY RABBIT
Remember the old Road Runner cartoons? As the Road Runner rocketed across the desert, the rascally Coyote zoomed along the highway, close on the bird's tail—with brand-new rocket skates he had mail-ordered from Acme Rocket Skate Company. Suddenly, the camera would freeze-frame on the Coyote, and we'd have a good look at the critter.
To help you identify the Skinny Rabbit in your life, we're giving you a freeze-frame of this elusive little distracter. After all, it will help you stay on the right trail if you can learn to tell the difference between the Great Stag's tracks and a Skinny Rabbit's. You would think the differences too obvious to mention, but sometimes our immediate needs can create illusions, making Skinny Rabbits appear much larger and tastier than they are.
Skinny Rabbits have been with us for a long time, almost always quite appealing and offering more than they deliver. You'll probably recognize some of the famous Skinny Rabbits in the following list:
The Hare. At the starting line, this Skinny Rabbit looks like the winner already. He starts off in a burst of glory, but he's all show. He's cocky, and he conks out in the long run. The steady, faithful tortoise wins against this blazing bunny of showiness every time.
Br'er Rabbit. It's tempting to take up with this little guy because he seems smart and resourceful. But stick with him, and you'll end up stuck in a tar pit of little white lies with no way to pull yourself out.
The Magician's White Rabbit. This Skinny Rabbit is illusive. He looks appealing, but chase him, and he'll disappear at the drop of a hat.
The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. It's always tempting to follow a critter that seems to be going somewhere. But he's always "late, late, for a very important date," and when you get there, you'll find the door closed and locked.
Peter Rabbit. This Skinny Rabbit looks awfully cute, but follow him and you'll lose more than your jacket and your shoes. You may wind up on Mr. McGregor's trophy wall.
Bugs Bunny. This clever Skinny Rabbit is smart, and it's natural to want to follow someone smart. But chase him and he'll outwit you. "What's up, Doc?" Your blood pressure. Your debt. Your frustration.
Playboy Bunny. This Skinny Rabbit is seductive, seeming to offer mouthwatering pleasure but never telling you the terrible price ... until you're hooked and your soul is bone-dry.
Energizer Bunny. This Skinny Rabbit keeps going, and going, and going. Question is, where is he going? More importantly, where is he taking you?
Chasing a Skinny Rabbit is actually quite exhilarating. It's the blur of the fur, the thrill of anticipation, the dream of the quick fix. But it's a mad dash to oblivion. Because once you finally catch the Skinny Rabbit, you'll see that it has nothing to offer that is worth the effort. And to make matters worse, you'll find yourself far off the road you intended to travel. In fact, that's the time when most people realize they've made a big mistake. When they're isolated and alone and full of regret and sorrow over how much time and life they've wasted ... not to mention the people they've hurt.
* * *
Let's bring the concept of the Skinny Rabbit home, specifically into the workplace, by looking at Don. Don was on a solid career track with a company in his chosen field when he met Jerry, who quickly became Don's best friend and offered Don a chance to partner with him and go out on their own.
As the months went by, Don's wife, Mary, warned him many times about Jerry, and Don was sick and tired of it. After all, Jerry had reached out to him, opened up doors that moved his career forward in leaps. Jerry made him a partner in all they were doing. Okay, they'd never actually signed the partnership documents, but Jerry had introduced him as his partner a hundred times. Mary was just being her usual paranoid self, seeing problems where there were actually awesome opportunities.
Of course, Don was the one working all those extra hours during the week and almost every weekend while Jerry was always out doing his thing and spending time with his family. And there were all those promises that hadn't been followed up on yet. Promises of pay increases and time off and getting some credit of his own. But Jerry was busy, after all. And what went around would certainly come around.
Don had been there for Jerry and his family countless times when they needed him (from finishing major projects with Jerry's name alone emblazoned on them, to dog-sitting countless times, to taking Jerry's son to the hospital to get stitches when Jerry was out of town). But payback was coming. It was only a matter of time before Mary would have to eat her nay-saying words and abandon her baseless concerns.
Instead, it was Don who had to swallow the news that Jerry had sold the company (sold their company!) and was moving it and his family out of state. It would be forty-five days from the time Don heard of the sale until Jerry, his family, and the business would be gone. And while Don was told that he could work for full pay right up to the day they left (Jerry wanted to be fair, after all), the new owners rejected any severance for Don because of all the moving costs for Jerry and the office. And, of course, moving Don and his family to Aspen with him would be out of the question, Jerry explained. The new company had "their own people" to work with Jerry now. People that could really make Jerry's dreams come true.
Ten years of working his heart out for his partner and their company ... dashed in a single harsh day when Don finally woke up and saw whom he'd really been partnered with ... a Skinny Rabbit.
* * *
Rachel was an intelligent, attractive English teacher in her late twenties who fell in love with Michael about five years ago. Michael was her dream man—tall with long dark hair and an easygoing manner that attracted her the first time he smiled at her. He was deep. They had picnics together by a pond where they actually quoted poetry to each other. He was handsome. He had those rare looks that could turn girls' heads while making men feel that he was a normal guy who would be a great friend. He was the complete package, and they dreamed of a future together—well, at least she dreamed.
Michael didn't really have a full-time job. He was a songwriter who played his guitar at whatever restaurant or coffee shop wanted live music around town. He couldn't stand the idea of a regular work schedule. So he lived at home, caring for his ill mother. Perhaps most of all, this compassion for his mother is what made Rachel out-of-her-head attracted to Michael.
Although Michael expressed his love for Rachel many times, he didn't like the idea of getting married "right now," but for her sake he promised he'd consider it. And he promised. And promised. And Rachel kept on believing that this gorgeous, deep, sensitive, compassionate, artistic man would change. She loved him so much she was sure he would feel it and come around in time.
But instead of it all coming around, it all came apart. One night Michael sent Rachel a long e-mail—five years of relationship boiled down to a few electronic paragraphs. He wrote her saying he was sorry, but the relationship had to end. He was worn out from the pressure of marriage hanging over his head. It was affecting his ability to be creative and hurting his music. In fact, while it hurt him to say it, it was really her fault that his career hadn't taken off. By being so controlling, she had held him back.
That morning, Rachel woke up in more ways than one. Michael was never going to change. He'd never intended to change. And she'd spent five years chasing a Skinny Rabbit.
If only the loss of years was the only thing that hurt so much.
Now that Rachel's eyes and mind were open, her memory flashed back to three fine men she'd ignored while pursuing Michael. All three had knocked on her door at one time, but they just didn't measure up to her sweet Michael. One became a famous portrait artist who fell in love and married a Southern belle. One built a solid career in real estate and was now happily married with two kids. And one worked for the State Department, which had sent him to work at the embassy in Italy. Any one of these men would have made a great husband ... to live with, to laugh with, to enjoy life together. But all of them were gone. Dark waves of regret washed over Rachel's mind. The Great Stags had escaped, and she was left with a deadbeat, Skinny Rabbit drifter named Michael—or now, with nothing but the memory of him.
Excerpted from CHASING SKINNY RABBITS by JOHN TRENT Copyright © 2007 by John Trent. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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