This morning Grace and I took our walk in the rain. About half way around the block, she stopped and picked something up from the sidewalk. It was dark so I couldn't tell what it was. Usually, it's something like an empty bag of chips or candy bar wrapper. After all, she's a dog.
I gave the command to "leave it." She is actually very good about this lately, but not so much this morning. With no reaction from her, I repeated "just leave it" in my deepest, most serious voice and then I waited, resisting the urge to pull it from her mouth, hoping beyond hope that she would do the "right thing."
After several seconds (that seemed like minutes) she looked up at me with her sad dog eyes, straightened her curly tail, made a huge sigh and slowly dropped her treasure, which turned out to be a robin who had recently taken its last breath.
I couldn't help but be a little proud of Grace and I told her so if "You are such a good puppy" qualifies as telling her that I was proud of her behavior.
She went against every cell in her body and chose to obey me. And her obedience did not come from fear. (Unlike my children, Grace has never been spanked.) Her obedience came from trust, which only comes from love. Grace doesn't understand why, but knows in her soul, which is even more powerful than her instinct, that I will only ask her to do what is ultimately in her best interest. The praise from me was more satisfying to her than the fun she could have had with that dead bird.
I couldn't help but think of God and what the Spirit sometimes requires of me. I like to hold on to bitterness and anger and, especially, fear. I find it in the dark, just like Grace did, and hold on to it tight. God gently but firmly asks me to "leave it."
Unlike Grace, I don't always listen to the One who loves me most. I try to reason and explain my way out of leaving it. God doesn't try to wrestle it from me or trick me into dropping it. He waits, secretly willing me to do what he asks.
So I sit with it for awhile, show him my sad human eyes, and if I had a curly tail I would definitely straighten it. . . and then (after years) I listen to my soul and not my humanness, and I let it go, trusting that I can trust God, that His pleasure in me is with worth more than whatever I've been holding on to.
Unfortunately, I tend to find the same dead bird on lots of my walks, but God continues to love me, showing me more each day how the Spirit can be trusted. . . and more and more often I drop it with the first command. Sometimes, I don't even stop to pick it up.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
"Easter persons are people who have had the intervention in their lives: A call to leave the brickyard and go out. A call to be healed and get in our right minds. A call to yield our stuff and follow him. The intervention changes everything. But it demands abandoning and embracing. And that is always promise and threat. . . " Walter Brueggemann
I've heard my granny say, "Oh, honey, he's just not right" when referring to someone whose thinking didn't necessarily square with my granny's definition of normal. Being "not right" didn't have anything to do with being wrong, but everything with just a touch (or a bunch) of insanity. I'm pretty sure that my own journey with mental illness would have been described by my Eastern Kentucky people as "not quite right," and they would have hit the nail on the head.
While systematically trying to starve yourself is clearly not part of a right mind, I've been trying to figure out lately what it is that a right mind does contain. And is that the end of the journey?
The quote at the beginning of this entry was on the cover of the Order of Worship for the church I've been attending. I spent most of the service trying to decide if I was finally in my right mind and if that was really enough.
I've certainly had the intervention that Brueggemann writes about and I've certainly left the brickyard and been healed. I'm finding myself stuck though in "a call to yield our stuff and follow him." I've never considered myself very materialistic so I always thought that yielding my stuff would be a cinch. Today it finally dawned on me that was not necessarily true.
My stuff is not money, property, power, prestige but hurt, control, bitterness, fear. At some point I have to be brave enough to open my heart to new experiences and relationships, not allowing my sometimes jaded view of the world based on some past experiences to act as a lock on the front door. Only yielding my stuff will allow me to fully be what God has created me to be.
In our prayer of confession this morning, the congregational response was "Help us to let go now." That is my goal. I want to let go now, forgive myself, put down the hurt and fear that I often hold too close. It's time to put down the baggage and allow my walk to move forward, not merely around the block.
I'm tired of being guarded and careful and thinking things to death. I'm going to trust that the same spirit Jesus breathed on his disciples before his ascension and the same spirit that finds me in the darkness and speaks peace to me will also accompany me into the daylight surrounded by others. I've had a long time to practice the alone stuff now it's time to move out. It's time to "yield my stuff."
These days I spend most of my time in my right mind. Now I'm ready for a right heart as well.