Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Beyond the Rituals:Letting God Reign in Our Lives

Strays on the Porch:Its Direction not Perfection that Counts

Today I laughed so hard I cried.

Around mid-morning I visited Sanford. He was on the porch, with his seven (I counted them.) dogs. He loves his dogs. They are all strays, but he cares for them. He’s got a tender heart that way.

Sanford has come a long way since I first met him ten years ago at his sixty-third birthday party. He kept then, as he does now, a gray stubble of whiskers and wears a ball cap. He was wearing his hat that day, and dancing as his guests cheered him on. I thought he would surely fall and hurt himself. He never did, although he was drunker than anyone I’ve ever seen in my life. But that was then and today Sanford is sober. I like him, a lot.

Today, we had coffee together. He makes instant coffee. Terrible stuff. Out of his kindness, he even bought some creamer for me. It helps, but not enough. Today, I loaded the cup with creamer and we talked. That’s when he started telling me about his neighbor’s teenage son. That’s when I laughed so hard.

“I tell you,” he began, “That’s the awfullest sight (speaking of the boy) I ever saw. That kid beats it all. He’ll break anything. Why, he drove the riding lawn mower into the mailbox the other day and knocked it plum over!”

I chuckled because I’d heard others tell of the boy’s recklessness.

“Then his mommy got on it and mowed. I was watching when the kid got off the mower. He walked straight over there and got the push mower. You know what he done? He no sooner had it started than he pushed that thing right up over the metal meter box--and it a good 4 or 5 inches above the ground level! Warped the shaft on that mower. I’d say ruined it for good.”

The way he was telling it, I was ear to ear grins at this point and had a little tearing at the corners. I think this added fuel to his flame, because he become more animated, even standing up, and continued with enthusiasm.

“You won’t believe me, but sure ‘nuff that kid come over here and asked to use MY mower! Course, I let him have it and he pushed that thing directly (pronounced DIE-wreck-tly) over to that chunk of cement sticking up out of the ground over yonder and ran my mower up over it! Don't believe me? Look. Over there lay the bent blade. Warped the shaft on my mower too.”

More tears and side holding.

“Guess you heard (pronounced hear-d) about his driving? The first week his folks gave him that Toyota, the kid drove it to school and hit a parked car! The very first day! Well, they got it fixed for him, you know. The next week he drove the Toyota with the oil light on till it overheated and froze the motor plum up. Just ruined it! I tell you, the kid would tear up an anvil just to keep from having to work.”

(Beats me what the work ethic comment had to do with anything, but the exageration about tearing up the anvil sent me rolling.)

I know this boy. In his defence, he’s a good kid, but it does seem that accidents find him. For example, this summer he drove by a short term mission group we were hosting. To his credit, he was moving at a snail’s pace, but being a little on the short side he had to strain to see over the dash. He was stretching his neck to full extention, making sure he was clearing our vehicles parked along the narrow side road when suddenly the rear end of his truck lifted about three feet off the ground! Though he’d avoided our vehicles, he’d not seen the place along his side of the road where recent rains had eaten away the edge of the pavement. His tire had plunged into the hole. The sudden drop and stop lifted the back of the pickup into the air.

Stunned and panicked, he jumped from the car, “Oh no! My Dad is going to kill me!” he said. “Why do these things always happen to me?!”

I consoled, "I’ll talk to your dad and vouch for your having been trying to be careful. That hole was hard to see, and its hard driving around all these vehicles parked along here.”

We pulled him free with another truck and he was soon on his way. After talking with Sanford today, I now understand the boy's comment about “things” happening to him.

Do any of you feel a little like this young man: like you can’t seem to get the ‘christian-thing’ right? Deep inside, being honest with yourself, do fear that when your Heavenly Dad finds out, He is going to kill you?!

Hey, all of us have fallen short of God’s ideals, but listen: Jesus goes to the Father on our behalf saying, “I’ll vouch for him. He was trying, and it’s hard living around all those temptations down there.”

The question He has for us is just one, “Are you trying with your whole heart?”

If so, then I imagine we’ll one day find a place on God’s porch where all we strays are welcomed and loved and where we’ll enjoy hearty laughter for eternity. I hope Sanford is there. I'm sure his coffee won't be.


"But now a different way of being right with God, apart from perfect obedience to law, is available to us. We are made right in God's sight by relying on Jesus. For all of us have failed to perfectly obey God's standards. Yet God, in His gracious kindness, declares, 'Everything is okay', because Jesus has spoken for us and worked it out with Our Father." --Romans 3:21-25 (paraphrase mine)

3 comments:

KMiV said...

Stephen,
Very good--I feel like the boy a lot. Sometimes kids are defined by their mistakes--crash comes to mind of the nickname for many of the kids in my school.

Good to know that God sees our hearts!

heather said...

Just stumbled across this tonight - and am so glad I did. So many lessons and thoughts that I walk away with from this reading. Thanks for taking the time to share it and remind us through it of the profound relationship we have in Christ, as well as the importance of taking time to sit and drink a bad cup of coffee with a good friend! It reveals much of your heart for Him and reminds me of priorities to choose!

Michele said...

I had stopped back in, but hadn't taken the time to read this until today, and I am so glad I did! Thank you.

I found myself just like that kid in the pickup truck. I may not always be accident prone, but I sure have lots of excuses as to why things happen! I am that boy in a sense, always wondering if God is always going to be so upset with me, that I back away in fear at times, rather than trust my father to love me regardless.

Thank you for the excellent reality check for me.