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Retrievers in the Bible

During my tenure as a camp counselor (ah, college!), our directors took us through a personality test as part of our staff orientation. Developed by Gary Smalley and John Trent, this test identified four basic personalities by animal: lion, otter, beaver, retriever. They correspond roughly to the DiSC test (lion:dominant; otter: influence; retriever: steadiness; beaver: compliance).

During my tenure as a camp counselor (ah, college!), our directors took us through a personality test as part of our staff orientation. Developed by Gary Smalley and John Trent, this test identified four basic personalities by animal: lion, otter, beaver, retriever. They correspond roughly to the DiSC test (lion:dominant; otter: influence; retriever: steadiness; beaver: compliance).

Most counselors agreed that the test was pretty accurate. Often we remarked on each other’s behavior with judgments like, "You otters are the life of the party," or "Mr. Detail here could be the beaver poster child." The lion category was most coveted–since camp counselors are not known for being shy or retiring–leadership qualities seemed to be the standard by which we judged ourselves. Very few seemed to relish their status as a Golden Retriever.

Retrievers are calm, easy-going, dependable, quiet, objective, diplomatic, and humorous. They are loyal, by-your-side-at-all-costs. To have a retriever friend is to have a friend for life, one who will stick with you, love you, support and comfort you.

Retrievers, for my counselor staff and I think in society today, are underrated.
We need people who are devoted to others, who will demonstrate loyalty by their presence, their actions, and their words. This role can be hard—sometimes loyalty demands tough love and a willingness to confront one’s friend for their own sake.

These qualities remind me of Ruth, the ancestress of Jesus. Her loyalty to Naomi, a bitter, ungrateful mother-in-law, exceeded societal expectation. Ruth left family, childhood religion and culture, homeland and all that was familiar, to journey to an unfamiliar land full of people who would relegate her to the sidelines of society. She vowed her devotion to Naomi’s God, Naomi’s people, Naomi’s land. And her actions proved her words true.

Ruth ventured out to find work that would feed Naomi and herself. Ruth labored so diligently that she gained the admiration of the field boss and the "big boss’ (Boaz). Ruth saved some of her roasted grain so Naomi could have a cooked meal that night. Ruth risked her reputation to approach Boaz, Naomi’s kinsman, with a proposal of marriage. Ruth married an older man in order to provide Naomi with an inheritance, a son to carry on her deceased son’s name.

Through these actions, Ruth demonstrated hesed–committed loyal devotion–which God shows to us through Jesus. He sacrificed his life for our sakes, He provides for our needs, He gives us every good gift, He sustains our lives. "Hesed" corresponds to the New Testament "agape" kind of love–unconditional, complete, and sacrificial.

We all enjoy watching otters play and laugh. We are grateful for beavers who crunch the numbers and pay the bills accurately and on time. We follow the lions, who lead with vision and authority. But each of us needs a retriever in our lives, too. Value those steady, devoted friends who don’t give up on you. And if you are one, be encouraged by Ruth’s example.

Devotion can’t be overrated.

Kelley Mathews

Kelley Mathews (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) has written and edited for the Christian market for more than 20 years. Currently a writer for RightNow Media, she lives in North Texas with her husband and their four children. She has partnered with Sue Edwards to coauthor Mixed Ministry, Women’s Retreats, Leading Women Who Woundand Organic Ministry to Women. Find her books and blog at KelleyMathews.com.

One Comment

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    kristi

    retrievers
    where can I find a copy of the personality test by Trent and Smalley? Onine or is there a book I can buy? I took it years ago and would like to share with others.
    I am an otter and my husband is a golden retriever; i am very happy. Also have a best friend who is a golden retriever. Truly I am blessed 🙂