Saturday, October 18, 2008

Step On It

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

                        James 1.2-3


My former pastor told a story that’s stayed with me for over 20 years. A farmer had an old mule no longer useful to him yet, given their long history together, he couldn’t bear the thought of putting the beast down. A friend offered a more “painless” solution. “Dig a deep hole, cover it with plywood, and lure the mule onto the wood. When it gives way, the fall will kill the mule and if not, his agony will remain out of sight. The hole doubles as a grave. If you throw garbage on top of the mule, it will be dead and buried in no time!” The plan went off without a hitch. The farmer got so accustomed to dumping trash down the hole he forgot the mule buried at its bottom. Then, one day, he went to the pit and there the mule stood, staring him in the face. It seems he climbed atop each new heap and regained his health by salvaging what nourishment the rubbish contained. The mule looked as strong as an ox; the farmer felt like an ass.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

No one skates through life without enemies, even if he/she does nothing to earn them. For some, merely how God created us—our gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation—is sufficient reason to hate us. Others turn on us once we’re no longer useful to them. This is especially true when we come into our own, accepting ourselves and knowing God accepts us. Many who reject us contrive means to destroy us. They dig pits and attempt to bury us in malicious, malevolent trash. Not only does this remove us conveniently out of the picture. It conceals their hateful deeds from themselves. Indeed, the clean efficiency of their plan convinces them it’s the right, the best, the only thing to do. But keeping us—and their hatred—out of sight, out of mind also prohibits them from seeing another plan in play to foil their foul intentions and confront their evil.

Pure Joy

“Consider it pure joy,” James tells us, “when you face many trials.” From time to time we land in a dark hole, broken, anguished, and confused about how we got there. Adversaries throw all their garbage at us. We see why; the overt fear behind their covert hatred can’t be missed. But their reasons and the real reason why we’re here aren’t the same. James teaches that trials develop patience. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1.4) We bolster our courage, summon our faith, and envision joy we’ll experience in coming out of this hole. It may take a while, but we persevere, emerging older, wiser, fully intact and fit. Knowing this, we find strength in each fresh deluge of insults and condemnation. Rather than smothering in filth hurled at us, we step on it, patiently climbing layer upon layer until we stare into our unnerved enemies’ eyes, unflinching, unfazed, and completely unafraid.

We may not know how we landed at the bottom of a hole, but we know how to climb out.

(Tomorrow: Hear Here)


Cuboid Master said...

Wonderful post, Tim!

I adore the story of the donkey. I told my son the story and we both shared a laugh! Jesus gave instruction using parables, and the method still works today. My son understood the lesson immediately. Great story!

For most human beings, the greatest spiritual gains result from the most challenging tests. When we face adversity, ask for God's Mercy, and with His assistance pass the test, we grow into more mature spiritual beings. Our hearts and minds grow into more effective instruments to do His work on earth.

I loved the garbage analogy. Some of us donkeys stand on mighty tall heaps of garbage, ha-ha! God bless us, the "tall garbage heap" owners, for we have survived with open, loving hearts! It is a testament to the power of the Lord that we emerged from the our tests with love and faith intact.

The finest people I know have endured the greatest challenges. There is nothing more impressive in my eyes than a human being who endures seemingly insurmountable tests and emerges from the ordeal a more beautiful, loving and empathetic servant of God.

So, I say: Bring it on! Bring on those tests! I want to grow closer to the Lord and I welcome the instruction of trial. Growth is painful but it is the means to enjoying greater reunion with Jesus. I welcome it.

Thanks, Tim!

You're my Internet church. :-)

Singing from the choir....

Tim said...

CM, your song is lovely! As a well-seasoned "trash stepper," I can attest to its effectiveness. It's a skill, I think, that each of us can--and should--master. It tests our perseverance, but the better we get at it, it also tests the creativity of our adversaries. To stay within the metaphor, the more adept we become in handling the usual, mundane garbage tossed our way, the more imaginative our enemies need to be about what they throw at us. The everyday insults and hatefulness become welcome tools for our rise; only the novel approaches cause us problems. And, of course, the more experienced we become with this technique, the less "new garbage" there is to cope with!

Keep stepping!

Ed Stapleton said...

Donkey and mule should not be used interchangeably. They are different animals. A mule is half horse, half donkey.
A donkey is its own species.

Tim said...

Ed, thanks for the clarification. I think I was taught that at some point and just managed to drop that distinction along the way. I'm going back into the post and cleaning it up right now!


PS: Good to meet you! Took a quick glance at your blog and it looks like there's a lot of interesting stuff there... Watch for me; I'll be dropping by from time to time!

kkryno said...

All I can think of right now is-poor mule! :0)

Tim said...

At first, yes. But how terrific he must have felt after that final step into the sunshine and clear air. Then, I think, "Poor farmer!" Thanks, Vikki!