Early on a humid Saturday morning, I was enjoying a vigorous workout walk on the beach with two faraway friends who had joined me for a Moms Group reunion on Perdido Key.
Conversation meandered from the mundane, “I wonder if it will rain later,” to the musing, “How did we go from discussing diapers to dating without any signs of personal aging:)…?”
My friend Hope spotted a flock of birds in formation and practically clapped her hands in delight at God’s creation, “Look how pretty the birds are!”
And I said…
Yes, well, I mumbled, “Until they poop on you.”
Yes, I did. I don’t know what came over me. Well, I sort of do.
My friend Cheryl burst into laughter and remonstrated gently, “ELIZABETH!!” (As in, I’m surprised at you!)
With her response, I too wondered at myself. Why would I rain so liberally on Hope’s delight? What was with me?
Though it was sort of a silly moment, I could not shake it from my mind. God has been tugging at me lots lately about my cynicism and negativity. I felt alternately sad and stunned at my remark. The memory of the moment followed me for the rest of the day.
Later that night, I was talking with Cheryl, the stalwart friend who had the kindness to be shocked at my cynicism. We were discussing our fierce desire to put tongue-tearing behind us. I told her, “It’s like the comment I made this morning. It seems like God is frequently revealing this tendency toward negativity.”
She told me, “What struck me about it is that you are NOT a negative person. I don’t think of you as cynical. It just seemed so out of character.”
And together we wondered about it. She’s right. My nature is to be an encourager. But I do have a long streak of cynicism and a sin-natural bent toward criticism in me. God is knocking on my door, saying, “Enough.” With frequency, the Holy Spirit sneaks up on me and shines the light on my sin and shouts, “That’s not who you really are!” With Spirit-prodding words, the Father urges me, “Live in and out of your redemption, my dear daughter.”
I am grateful. Grateful for a God who will not leave me alone with an imagination that envisions bird poop dropping on my happy day, grateful for friends who say, “But that’s not who you are…”
"A bird felt like expressing itself on Jackie's leg..."
And grateful for an odd God who sometimes in fact does allow bird-poop to drop on a sweet girl enjoying a sunny day in the park. For indeed, that, in some fairness to myself, is what I was thinking of when I made that remark. Behold a picture of my lovely daughter, who is interning in London, on the day she was sadly surprised when a bird rained on her parade, but somehow seemed to find a way to laugh at the insanity of it all! But that’s another story!
- 7th January 2010
- Filed under: hope
I know — I’m supposed to write about at least one of the two most relevant topics of the day — the National Championship or the Snow in the South. I figure you can go just about anywhere else on the web or Facebook to read about those today, and I want to talk about a climate condition that affects some of us this time of year, what Eugene Peterson calls in the Message translation, “the continuous, low-lying black cloud.”
Do you ever struggle with condemnation? Do you hear voices (your own or an unidentified one) in your head challenging your decisions or calling you stupid or worse? You may not be schizophrenic. You may be suffering from the condition discussed in Romans 7 and 8 — the inability to do what is right and the pursuant condemnation. Romans 8:1 in traditional translations says, “There is therefore now, no condemnation in Christ Jesus!” Eugene Peterson puts it like this:
“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”
Peterson gives a great illustration to explain how Jesus frees us from condemnation. Suppose you are building a house, he says. You don’t really know what you’re doing but you gather the materials and the blueprints and you begin building by yourself. Things go along fine for a while but then you realize there’s a lot you don’t know and something doesn’t look quite right about the house.
Well-meaning neighbors come by and tell you ‘That wall is leaning’ or ‘Do you think you should really put the door there?’ You begin to feel anxiety and doubt. With every new comment, you start to feel more like giving up. But none of the neighbors offers to help.
Then someone different shows up. This person rolls up his sleeves and goes to work beside us.
“In this second instance, the presence of a skilled helper doesn’t mean that we don’t make any more mistakes, nor does it mean we no longer feel any tension between what the house ouht to be and our particular work on it. What it does mean is that we’re transformed in our attitude because we have someone who comes alongside us instead of remaining aloof. And when he comes, he comes not as a building inspector, but as a construction worker.
And that, of course, is what Paul’s experience was with the coming of Jesus Christ into his life. Paul, in essence, asks, ‘Who will do something besides increase my sense of failure and condemn me for being such a poor workman?” (7:24)
The answer? Jesus. He will deliver us. He will come into the disarray of lumber in our lives and work beside us. He doesn’t stand over us urging better behavior and making us look up references in books. It’s so much better than that. He’s living in us, working with us. And that should encourage all of us!”