The Frog in the Well
A Chinese fable tells us about a frog that lived at the bottom of a well. This small well was running dry, even though it happened to be right next to the ocean. The frog had never left, though, so he had no idea of the world beyond. The mouth of the well was his sky and the mud and puddles at the bottom were his world.
One day a turtle was lumbering by and peered down into the well. He asked if the frog was happy down there. The frog laughed and proudly explained how much fun his world was, inviting the turtle to jump down to take part. The turtle tried, but could not fit through the mouth of the well. So the turtle invited the frog to jump out.
The frog, however, refused. He insisted that there was no mud out there to play in and no water to swim in. If the world was so great, he reasoned, he would surely be able to see it from the bottom of the well. The turtle was stunned by the frog’s foolishness. He told the frog about the vast sky and deep sea. “But how could you possibly know,” the turtle asked, “if all you know is this well?” After all, the frog could see none of the world and only a small piece of the sky from down below.
Rising to the challenge, the frog leapt from the well. He stood amazed, marveling at the high sky, the white clouds, the deep sea, and the seagulls flying about. The frog’s heart jumped with delight, and he then dove straight into the sea—never to return to that small, dark well.
An idiom came about from this story, known as “the frog in the well” 井底之蛙. The expression refers to a foolish and narrow-minded person. Someone living like a frog in a well is considered to be one with no understanding of the outside, or “real,” world.
In the bible, the psalmist writes, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). If we ignore God or deny his existence, then we limit ourselves to our own human limitations. We restrict our view to what we see through the mouth of the well—and our world to mud and puddles. A simple look at the night sky or the vast sea reminds us, though, that there is much more out there. I have a hard time believing all of this could have been created by chance.
Perhaps we can view the psalmist as the frog viewed the turtle: let him be our guide to what is beyond. If we take a leap of faith and then observe the greatness of God’s creation, we can jump into the ocean of God’s mercy that is right next to us. As we walk in God’s grace, we will never want to go back to the small, drying well of darkness and doubt.