Monthly Archives: June 2011

Silent Messenger

A stranger invaded the privacy
Of my tryst on the lawn alone
His dark green shell shone in the sun
He moved not, but his nose faced home

O surprise companion
Do you feel what I feel today?
Where you belong is in your view
Yet impossibly far away

And as I watched he took a step
Strained forward in a line
Towards the beckoning lake afar far off
Undeterred by the passage of time

Alike, two turtles, we troll along
All progress painfully slow
But I must believe as you pass me by
If I can move forward, there’s hope.

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Dissension

Can you tell me why
Instead of watching brother’s back,
We stab instead?

And why it is that strife
Finds frequent place in workers
Who once loved as friends?

And why so fiercely we compete
To be on top
Though Christ is head…

When will we brothers
Give grace for the faults of others
And give again?


To Care or to Carry, That is the Question

I like plays on words. I tend towards alliterations. And I have been known to accidentally slip rhymes into everyday speech. Lately I’ve been playing around with one particularly interesting word play, caring and carrying, and I’m finding that the ramifications of choosing the best of these two words are not a matter of fun and games.

I first linked these words together in a discussion over poverty (see previous blog, “The Answer’s in Your Heart”), when I suggested to my high school girls that perhaps as Christians we are called to care for the whole world (because God does), but are only called to carry that specific part of the world that He places specially on our heart (because we are not as big, strong or capable as God). It is tempting in the face of massive world dilemmas to either not care at all (because it is too overwhelming), or to try and carry more emotionally than one person possibly can (a savior complex). Whether you fall off one side of this tight-rope or the other, the consequences to your communion with God can be dire.

A more pressing issue for me at present is that of caring versus carrying the people right in front of me. Are we called to do both? As I reflected on my months in student ministry, I realized that there were certain students that didn’t just want to be cared for—they wanted to be carried. Perhaps in some instances they needed to be carried. And when I look at my own heart and relational attempts I see many instances when I have tried to force others to carry me—to hear me inside and out, to have the answers I don’t, to fix or in some way shape or form, save me. When I can’t handle life on my own I’d rather opt out and let someone else take over. I need to be carried. And in those moments I often can’t even receive the loving care given by another person. In the face of a desperate attempt to be carried, caring just doesn’t feel like a sufficient response.

What happens to us when we demand to be carried by another? What happens when we try to carry someone else? Do we do each other more good or harm in our attempts? Is “bearing one another’s burdens” different from carrying them? Where exactly is that magical line between caring and carrying anyhow?

I don’t have any final answers to these questions, but I have a hunch. My hunch is that deep down we all need to be carried, but not by one another. We need to be carried by one who is sufficiently able to handle us and our problems. My attempts to make others carry me reveal that I have not developed sufficient trust in the arms that already hold me close. My attempts to carry others reveal that I don’t see those same arms holding tightly to them.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Psalm 55:22; Isaiah 40:11; 1 Peter 5:7


Sitting Ducks

Taking the interstate home tonight I was startled to see two ducks–mama and baby–on the inner shoulder of the freeway. For a moment they waddled farther onto the road and I silently yelled at them for their stupidity. Then just as quickly they turned tail into the grassy median strip. I zipped past and breathed a sigh of relief when they were safely beyond my line of fire. Fluffy duckling killing would not be on my list of memorable events this day.

I pondered those ducks. What in the world were they doing in the middle of the interstate? How did a duckling manage to get out there without getting killed in the first place? I’m pretty sure he didn’t do it alone. No, he was following someone. Someone older. Someone he trusted. And mama duck led him right into the line of fire. Bad choice. I don’t know the end of the story–will they survive their foray beyond safe territory? I can only imagine how frantic they probably felt stuck between one whizzing car after another–towering over them, bearing down upon them–and all they wanted was to get safely back to the lake on the other side. What a terrible predicament. And all because a leader and a follower made poor choices.

This year I was mama duck to a large group of impressionable ducklings who were all making crucial decisions about how to live their lives–which roads to take, which roads to avoid–and they learn from my example. My duck encounter today caused me to ask again, have I led well? Can I say with the Apostle Paul, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9)? It was a mantle I chose to wear this year, and one that weighed heavily upon me. As the year came to a close, I felt a sense of relief to be able to lay it down. Not that I will live any differently, but just that I’m not being scrutinized so closely. I think James, possibly the brother of Jesus, knew that pressure. He wrote, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways…” (James 3:1). And Jesus turns the pressure up even more: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

I just got done watching Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Here is a modern text-book example of someone who is followed, someone who is hands down the center of attention. What is he teaching? And an even bigger question to me–why in the world would anyone want that kind of attention, that kind of pressure to perform? It’s seriously intense. I’m thinking the answer is, it has to be a calling. The pressure is real. And it is right. When we dare to teach others we are dealing with potentially hazardous stuff. If we just rush in beyond our ability, beyond the truth we know, with our own ideas and agendas, we may find ourselves trapped between two deadly interstates with a trusting young friend alongside. That is a place I hope never to find myself. It’s common to face pressures to lead, to “do something important;” but sometimes it’s better to wait, better to be silent–better a sitting duck than a dead one. Before I lead, let me test myself. Let me weigh my words carefully. Let me live a life worthy of the calling I have received before I presume to lead others into theirs.

By God’s grace I wore that mantle, and I pray I wore it well. If you are wearing that mantle, may His grace also abound towards you. And if you need to sit it out for awhile, may His grace abound to you even more.