Category Archives: Living Parables

The Vulnerability of Life

We were walking along the Mexican beach late one night, some friends and I. We were on a mission. We scanned the water and the sand in the dark, ever-hopeful, waiting. Then one of my friends was pointing at the waves. We stopped, started, got closer. It was a giant sea turtle, careening in the shallows, making it’s way to the sandy beach. It was the season for turtles to come out of the ocean to lay their eggs. We felt like we’d just won a million dollars.

Our joy was short-lived. Being a wise and attentive turtle, it caught sight of us and, using it’s legs as nimble rudders, veered back into the ocean. While our excitement was somewhat squelched the wonder remained. We had just seen something beautiful for the very first time.

We saw a few more turtles that night,  but one in particular was striking to me. When we discovered it, it was a long ways up the sand, looking for a good place to dig. We kept our distance, hoping to not disturb the life-giving process. Something tipped it off however, and it left it’s sand-searching to head back to the safety of the sea and to look out for a new and more private spot. It was obvious that sea-turtles were not well-suited to land. It would flap it’s front legs forward, and then drag its heavy body and shell a few inches further down the sand. Flap, pull, flap, pull. We continued to watch this pain-staking process for at least five minutes. The turtle probably felt it’s vulnerability; it knew it wasn’t alone. But it was resolute. Finally, it reached the edge of the surf and with a final heave, slipped below the waves. The Mexican turtle guardian who stood watch with us told us this might happen multiple times—the long journey out of the water, the discovery of an unsuitable spot, and the long journey back. It’s common for turtles to have to try several spots before they find one where all the elements are good.

What an awkward, vulnerable, long drawn-out process! What determination and patience this turtle must have to successfully lay it’s eggs! And seeing this turtle with the eyes of my heart, I wondered what God might be saying to me about the process of giving life in a spiritual sense. In my current ministry vocation I was definitely feeling out of my element, sometimes wondering if I was where I was meant to be. How many times had I felt awkward? How often did I feel vulnerable? How many days had I gotten impatient, and wanted to back out on this purposeful pursuit? Listening to the message of these silent speakers, I realized what a high cost there can be for the opportunity to give life. Here in the natural world, God painted a picture of what one might expect who is designed to give life—it might mean becoming a fish (sea turtle) out of water. And the possibility of giving up your own life in the process.

Living in a culture where comfort is king, and safety is a close second, is it any wonder we sometimes struggle to find life, or to live in life-giving ways? There was nothing comfortable or safe about what I experienced in that turtle’s pursuit of life. But it was beautiful. And unlike the sea-turtle, we have the freedom to choose whether it’s worth it.

So I am left with a decision. Do I embrace the pain and vulnerability that leads to life? Or do I stay hidden in the safety and comfort of my own sea? God, give me the courage and determination to be like a sea-turtle.



Not My Choice of Cleaner

I just moved in to my first bona fide apartment, and after years of living on the move and out of a suitcase, it’s a little exciting. Cooking, cleaning, decorating – bring it on!

Today, I decided, was the day to clean the bathroom. When I took stock of what cleaning supplies I had on hand, I came to discover that it was pretty much all super-cleaner, meaning, “test this first, it might destroy your apartment” cleaner. Now one of the not-so-exciting parts of this particular apartment is that the bathroom appliances are blue – baby blue. And since I didn’t notice the “test this first” warnings until after the cleaning was underway, I had a good, “am I destroying the baby blue enamel of my apartment” scare. I say scare, because I think things came out ok. But I likely will not be using said cleaners on my baby blues again.

All of this, of course, got me thinking about cleaners, and how they typically come with watch-outs and warnings. Generally, the most powerful agents to get at grime have the potential to destroy other things as well. My solution to the problem is to find something “safe.” The jury is out on whether “safe” will actually do the job and deal with the dirty.

Contemplating abrasive cleaners makes me contemplate the more abrasive events in life. I wonder how often the purpose is the same. It’s not “safe,” and not my choice of cleaner. It may be potentially damaging. But maybe certain messes call for certain dangerous measures. Perhaps God is more concerned about the cleanliness of the toilet than the potential for baby blue enamel to get discolored. If that is the case, and God’s cleaning may not be pretty, will I still say with the Psalmist, “cleanse me…and I will be clean” or will I go with my own mild version of cleaning and call it good enough? How much do I want to be clean?

“Unless you just want coffee with cream, I can’t help you…”

I was just ringing up a drink in my small Coffee Hut when a sudden stillness surrounded me. The silence was deafening. Background noises which I never pay attention to—the rumbling of the ice maker and hum of the air conditioning unit—were suddenly conspicuously absent. Oh, and did I mention it was dark? Well, you guessed it, my hut was without electricity, and I was suddenly out of work. No espresso machine, no steamed milk, no blender for frappuccinos, milk shakes or smoothies. It only took a few minutes to comprehend the ludicrousness of my situation. I had one freshly brewed pot of coffee, and a whole shop full of dormant ingredients with which I could do nothing. I called my boss, and started cleaning up shop to go home—four hours ahead of schedule. When the power goes out, there’s not much more you can do.

Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). If His Chaco’d feet hit the pavement of our modern day cities, I think He might draw an analogy to electricity instead of talking vines and branches. I’ve never lived through a scenario that illustrated this principle in such vivid color. There I was, sitting in a shop whose whole purpose for existing was to make these specialty beverages, and I couldn’t do anything. Cut off from the power source, my vocation (literally call) became null and void. Utterly impossible to fulfill. Apart from Jesus I can’t do anything. Well, maybe I can sit in a dead shop handing out cups of coffee until my one little pot runs empty, but I can’t fulfill my purpose. Not even close. If Jesus ceases to be my power source, it doesn’t matter how much good stuff I have around me. I might as well pack up and go home.

It’s a funny thing, electricity. It’s so unassuming, unnoticed. We walk through our days totally unaware of how much we depend upon it. Until it’s not there. Perhaps this speaks to that mystery of the hiddenness of God, of the times when He seems to “not be there.” Perhaps the only way some of us will recognize how much we depend on Him for everything is to experience a temporary “power-out,” where it seems to us that we have been disconnected. The silence can be deafening. But it speaks its own message—a message of dependence, of need, of our inability to do anything of value apart from our Source. It’s a message many of us need to hear.

Back to my shop—when the power came back on half an hour after its unexpected disruption, I let out a whoop of thankfulness. (See, I actually like my job). I was back in business, surrounded by stores of good things to hand out to the world—and the power supply to make it possible.