Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Sheep No. 103
I'm sure this seems nuts to some people. In particular, Lu might be less than sanguine. She writes with some asperity, and I'm sure that God's teeth didn't feel anything like rubber when both her parents died within a few days.
Still, we're all chew toys to someone or something. God is completely serious about making us able to live in His kingdom. Oh, the basic human being is made for the place but we've added on all this other stuff that makes us unsuited, starting with the plain old basic sin that it's so unfashionable to believe in. God is serious about rescue, too. He'll go after the 100th sheep, leaving the other 99 because they're better behaved. Then he'll go after Number 101, who's gotten himself even more lost. He will never quit.
If this had been a human enterprise, the insurance adjuster would have taken one look at me and said "Write it off. Totalled. Would cost more to repair than it's worth." I'd have been sent off to the junkyard. God isn't afraid of restoration work. He's single-minded about it and will let nothing get in his way.
Imagine this little scenario: Lu and I trade places. She has to look after the traffic communication system, and I have to do her job. Which of us panics more? Probably me, because Lu is technically savvy. Still, no matter how we enter the new situation, there will be time taken to learn. Lu won't be competent in my job for at least six months, and I'll probably never be competent in hers. The point of this? Chew toys. We seem to expect people to become instant Christians on the basis of a few Bible verses and some well-worn devotionals.
The truth is that each of us is an individual. God looks down and sees people, not organizations. Every last one of us is a special case. We bear God's toothmarks in direct relationship to how much we let him love us, and I suppose that starts with learning how much we need his love. Sometimes finding and picking up that stray sheep isn't a gentle process. I'm convinced that God makes it as gentle as possible, but I hang on to my old deadly ideas with a death grip that only loosens with time and experience. Maybe it's God's saliva dripping over me that dissolves the old ways of living and seeing and thinking.
I find this to be a strangely comforting image. Dogs always have favorite old chew toys, the one they always go back to until it gets all rounded off and thoroughly soaked. I've been bashed around by the world and lost in the hot wind of endless sand with no water. Can you imagine anything more horrible to a sand sculptor? I know difficult and I know deadly. What I don't know is hope. Maybe that's what God's drool is: distilled hope that transforms the internal desert I made to model the outer one I've always felt.
It's still a struggle. I don't want hope. It's a deadly, death-dealing lie. Always has been. And then I feel those rubber teeth with their implacable grip, and my drooled-on heart wants to hope. Can it possibly be real this time? How long does it have to go on before I believe? Well, none of it is new to God, and he doesn't know the meaning of quit. He has walked this road himself and is intimately acquainted with deserts.
If this story seems odd it might have something to do with not getting any sleep. Hope does odd things. It's two in the morning. Still, if God were handing out lightning to the irreverent I'd have been ash years ago. The point here is not that I'm some super-wonderful follower of Jesus with a special connection to God. Nor is it that everyone else should walk the path I'm using. The point is that God is kind and tolerant, and will do anything, including picking me up by the scruff of my dying neck, to save one of us. Throw out the rule book and ask God to teach you who He really is. It's better to be chewed on by God than by anyone else, and once you're God's chew toy he becomes very jealous in his guardianship, just as any dog is of its favorite. No one else gets the privilege of chewing on you unless they have God's sanction.
And, ultimately, it's quite simple. God chewstises those whom he loves.
First, I would NEVER survive your job. YOU are the techie, not me. I just mix, remember?
And you could do my job blindfolded. Its just creating PowerPoint presentations. How hard is that for he who helped me buy my Mac?
You know, I meant the chew toy thing as kind of a slam, but you've taken it and turned it into something beautiful. I love this line: "We bear God's toothmarks in direct relationship to how much we let him love us [...]" I like the idea of bearing God's teethmarks, I just wish they weren't always so sharp. I realize they have to be that way to fend off attackers and soul-stealers, but dang, sometimes their truth and wisdom can hurt.