Just a copy? Only a trick?

In The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, a beautiful, melodic witch in an underground world tries to convince her prisoners that there is no “overworld” at all.

When one of them brings up the sun as proof, she asks what the sun hangs from in the sky.  When her prisoners can’t give her an answer, she says, “When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me.  You can only tell me it is like the lamp.  Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp.[1]”

There is nothing Satan would like more than for us to believe that God will somehow disappoint us if we get to know Him, that He will turn out to be only pretend, a copy or ourselves, or a dream.

[1] The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

“This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time.” (From John 6:39-40, the latter part, The Message Paraphrase)

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Leaning

If I had really understood the song Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, I would have saved myself 7 stitches.

I was bad about leaning on things as a kid.  I have always tired out easily from standing.  Running errands and me are like fish and chips.  The only way the fish goes with the chips is if it’s dead.  That’s pretty much how I feel about running errands.  🙂

There I was, 6 years old, and helplessly held against my will in a grocery store while my mother shopped.  The misery was heavy in my kindergarten brain.  I had been good.  I had even waited like an angel for my routine pediatrician check-up, and not played with the fun toys everybody else played with at the doctor’s office because my mother said they were germy.  Surely this vacuous visit to a grocery store, complete with many shopping cart halts as my mother examined boring food in boring containers, could not be my reward.

I was in the habit of leaning in boredom, tiredom, and frustrationdom.  This was totally an “all of the above” lean.

Afterwards, I connected the lean to a Kool-Aid stand, but I just filled that in my mind because it made sense to me that a flimsy stand like that would have given way.  In actuality, we were in the totally wrong aisle for a Kool-Aid stand.  The reality is, I have no idea what I leaned on.  It is totally blurry in my mind.  I just remember it giving way and me falling.

The fall felt like a 10-second nosedive.  I do remember clearly seeing the iron bar of the bottom of the shopping car my head was planning on hitting.  I remember the feeling of total doom.  I could no more reverse the fall than I could reverse the effects of gravity.

I hit the bar and my fear changed to shock.  I didn’t know what had happened.  I was dazed.  My mother’s hand was on my head, but I couldn’t even feel it.  I couldn’t feel my head at all.  I was hovering above the cement floor as my mother carried me through the store.  I just kept hearing my mom say, “It’s all right; it’s all right.”

We got to the checkout counter (the way to the exit), and there was a chain over the aisle.  Mom tried to get someone to help her free the chain.  Nobody would.  There were customers and cashiers.  It was one of those things you just wouldn’t believe, knowing how adorable I was, but people just didn’t seem to care.  (They cared a lot more later after my grandmother wrote a letter to the grocery store.)  Anyway, my mom had to reach down to unclip the chain and that was when the blood started pouring down.

I started screaming my head off.  A waterfall of blood was cascading over my eyes.  My mom tried to get my attention, to calm me down, but it was too late.  I screamed my head off.

A cashier at last helped with the chain.  Mom got me out the door and held me on her lap as she sped across the street to my pediatrician.  That’s right–my pediatrician was just across the street, the very one I’d seen earlier that day.

I was stitched up by the time my dad got there from work.  But I didn’t feel very good about leaning anymore.  I had trusted that shelf not to give way–trusted it!–and look what it had done.  What a mean thing to do.

But if I’d only remembered the song we sung in church, I would have known better than to trust a shelf with my precious little noggin.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms. [1]

I could have saved myself 7-stitches if I’d remembered that song then, but if I’d remembered that song as a teenager and college kid, I could have saved myself years of spills.

God is the only one to lean on.  Leaning on anything else, leaning on anything else, always leads to a fall.

When we have arrogance in anything we have or can do, or anything anyone else has or can do for us, we think we don’t need God’s hand and we lean on Satan instead.  And it is without fail that Satan drops us, flat on the floor.

The mercy is when it happens in this life, and we don’t have to wait until eternity to realize it.

“Everyone who keeps on hearing these messages of mine and never puts them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and battered that house, and it collapsed, and its collapse was total.” (Jesus, Matthew 7:26-27, ISV)

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[1] “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” by Elisha Hoffman, 1887.
See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Mrs. Erante

sewing machine and fabric isolated on white

I heard an Amy Grant song today and I remembered Mrs. Erante.

Mrs Erante must have liked Amy Grant, or must have thought teenage girls liked Amy Grant, because she played her Amy Grant CD every time we came over to her house for home economics.

The name ‘home economics’ did not sound inviting to me, but I had friends going, so I wanted to go, too.  I was, I had to admit, minimally excited at the prospects of being able to cook and sew by the end class, mostly because I simply believed it was “beneath me” to do such things . . . and I didn’t want to be stomped on by a husband someday.  But, then, there was a really valid reason for my avoidance, too: I was going to be terrible at home economics.  I was pretty sure.

Each week, Mrs. Erante had a different project for us.  We made jam one week.  I think we made cloth covers for the jam lids, too.  I couldn’t make mine.  Mrs. Erante made mine.

We decorated country baskets with cloth and lace on the top.  I couldn’t make mine.  Mrs. Erante made mine.

We sewed aprons for ourselves.  I spent half of my childhood in the fabric shop.  Turns out, there are a lot of choices for aprons.  I at last chose a cool frog pattern.  Mrs. Erante taught us how to estimate cutting for our patterns and how to use the sewing machine.  I couldn’t estimate cutting or use the sewing machine.  Mrs. Erante made mine.

Project after project, week after week, I couldn’t do whatever it was everybody else was doing.  So Mrs. Erante made mine.

My projects always looked really nice.  In fact, mine gave the best girl in the class a run for her money.  Mine always had neat seams.  Mine always had, well, industrial quality.  Yes, I would have made a very fine housewife, so long as Mrs. Erante came along.

One day, we learned how to cross-stitch.  Amazingly, incredibly enough, this was something I could actually do.  We had four patterns we could pick from, all animals on wheels.  I picked out the rabbit on wheels.  There was that second when Mrs. Erante actually realized I could do something.  You would have thought I had become a Betsy Ross.  Mrs. Erante was very proud of me.

I gave that cross-stitch pillow (pillow that Mrs. Erante made) to my father.  He kept it at work.  Years and years later, when I went with my mom to clean out his office because he was dying, I found that pillow.  The end of the cross-stitch was unraveling.

Mrs. Erante could have fixed that, if only I could have given it to her.  I can see it now, my eyes wide with fear of unraveling myself as I handed her a project I couldn’t handle . . . that smile on her face she somehow had for me as she fixed everything I botched or was too scared to attempt.

I don’t think Mrs. Erante knew she was teaching me about the relationship with God I would have one day.

I confess, this is my day in prayer: eyes bubbling with tears, lip quivering in disappointment with myself and rage that I cannot seem to do anything right, I hand God my projects.  At the start of this, I was as shy with Him as I was with Mrs. Erante.  I was afraid He might be mad or hate me.  But I have gone to Him enough now that I am quite over my fear.

I give Him whatever I have bungled or am way too scared to try at, and He takes it.  And time after time after time after time after time after time, when you would think He would be ready to backhand me, He mends my tatters and patches my tears.  God is really good about that.  I don’t know why.

The more I know God, the more I realize I don’t understand Him.  I would never act that way towards me.  I would never take my disasters and give back mercy.  I would never take my failures and give back grace.   And I would never take my really awful sins and give back love.

I don’t know why God is this way, but I want to thank Mrs. Erante for foreshadowing, just a bit, what salvation would be like for me.

Thank you, Mrs. Erante.

Thank you, God.

In him [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12, NIV)

 

The Maze of My Life: Part 9, Getting Tricked

I followed her, and at last we were at the end of the maze.  The only thing that stood in between me and the door were these huge, ginormous, super tall, gigantic, humongous, really tall statues.

They were scary, scary, scary.  They were these tall statues of that Egyptian god that’s a dog or something.  I can’t remember if they had those Egyptian always-awake side-eyes or not.  But I was petrified they were animatrons.

I would not go forwards.  I was so close to the end.  I didn’t want to give up, but I was terrified.  My dad couldn’t wheel me anymore.  He tried to inspire me by saying something like, “Look, you can see the outside.”  And he was right.  The bright, sunny, warm, happy day was streaming into this last abysmal corridor of the maze.

There was an attendant nearby, and my mom went up to her and asked her if the statues moved.  Mom told her I had a terrible fear of animatrons.  The attendant said they did not move.  I watched people exit with no problems.  And I didn’t believe the attendant would lie when she had to see how scared I was.

Well.

I have a lot of fears.

The dark, holographic pterodactyls, animatronic arms, and foam mummies hanging from ceilings, apparently.

And then I have the big fears.  And one of the high-rollers is getting tricked.

As a kid, I could not watch suspense movies.  I would become hysterical at the least bit of surprise.  Here’s a true story: at age 12 or so, I actually hyperventilated because of a movie.  The movie?  While You Were Sleeping.  Now, for those of you who don’t know the movie, you may be thinking it’s a horror and that I somehow made sense.  But for those of you who know I’m talking about the chick flick with Sandra Bullock, you could understandably think, “Huh?”  But I bet you can guess why I was so upset.  In the movie, Sandra’s character falls in love with a guy, but while he’s in a coma, she falls in love with his brother.  At the wedding altar, she goes for the brother.

I felt tricked.  And mad.

I don’t really have too many stories of getting tricked.  I’ve had a few times.  Mostly, though, I just wait in fear for it to happen.

I have always had an especially astute awareness of the possibility for trickery.  I’m good about spotting corners where something could be lurking and figuring out how a seemingly harmless object could harm me.

So in a mummy maze already responsible for an animatronic hand, I was very suspicious of tall, black, and very unfriendly looking Egyptian dog statues.  Especially because they looked unfriendly.  Did you know they looked very unfriendly?

I thought it was kinda crazy to believe that statues so tall could actually move.  They looked like they were made out of solid wood.  But because I am the kind of person who worries about the irrational, I worried.

I was so worried, in fact, I froze.  I did not know whether to trust my mom’s power to persuade the attendant not to scare me or to go back and find the red exit sign.  I was afraid to go backwards.  I was afraid I would be ashamed afterwards, and I was afraid to have to go back to any part of that dreary maze.  I wanted out–now.  And the sunlight was all heaped up at the doorway like light’s laundry.  Even in the most frightening part of the maze–the path in between me and the doorway–the light touched.

I looked at the statues again, and it didn’t really make any sense at all that they could move.  This wasn’t that high dollar of a maze.  Why would I ever think such a ridiculous thing?

I walked past those really tall, humongous, gigantic, super tall, ginormous, huge statues, and I was keeping a close eye on the one closest to me.  And right when I got to where, if I took one more frightened step, I would be right in front of it–that thing started walking towards me.

I about needed a heart transplant–for my own heart to be taken out of my throat and put back in my chest.

Getting tricked is something I do not enjoy.

And I don’t enjoy it, either.

I don’t trust my eternity on the kindness of an Egyptian ‘god’ dog, but instead to a Savior who rescues me without duplicity.

And Jesus said to them, Take care that you are not tricked by anyone. People will come in my name, saying, I am he; and a number will be turned from the true way. (Mark 13:5-6, BBE)

Christ never committed any sin. He never spoke deceitfully. (1 Peter 2:22, GW)

[God] is my Rock, there is no deceit in him. (Psalm 92:15b, BBE)

Robot

If you told me I had to live the next 30 years of my life in a room with a robot, that operates totally by chance, I wouldn’t be so thrilled.  It might take care of my needs.  It might not.  It has no interest in me whatsoever because it’s a robot.

A robot or chance machine doesn’t, on its own, sound so good[1].

BUT . . .

What if you told me that, rather than live with a robot, I could live a person instead–but the person would be a horrible criminal?

Robot or criminal?  Hmm . . . not a hard choice.

This is one reason why people sometimes believe in evolution and a chance universe.  When they think of the word “god”, they think of the characteristics horrible criminals have: cruelty, misanthropy, injustice, etc.  So they would prefer to believe in impersonal chance!

But for a person who believes in my God, the robot vs. person story changes.

Now suppose I could choose to be with that robot for 30 years or I could be with a Person who loves me, cares for me, treats me mercifully, and is unendingly kind to me.  Now would I rather be locked in the room with the robot or the Person?

The Person I described is Jesus Christ.  And so it isn’t any wonder at all that I would rather believe in a creator God than evolving circumstances.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13, NIV)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16a)

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Photograph by Jeffedoe, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/jeffedoe/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.