I love watching a dog come out of the sea – the way it commits so wholeheartedly to shaking itself free of every drop of water it possibly can. That must be such a great feeling – ridding yourself of a cold and unnecessary burden.
Lent is just the time to put down the baggage we carry, to open the curtains and let the sun shine in. The burden I want to lay down is my assumption that I know things. Someone years ago told me they thought I had the gift of discernment – it was encouraging to hear at the time but now … it’s an albatross. I think I know stuff – and that precludes learning any more.
I once drove around a parking lot in Surrey University in the UK. I was taking my husband to work as I had done many times before, I knew where I was going for sure. The parking lot had some speed bumps in it and these were painted bright yellow so you couldn’t miss them. I missed them.
Since I knew the route well and was (probably) running late I careened into the parking lot and my poor old car leapt into the air as we shot over the first bump at tooth shattering speed. My husband kindly and very unnecessarily pointed out that we had just hit a speed bump at about 50 mph and suggested I take more care. “I know, I know ..!” I replied. Spying a further yellow strip ahead I slowed right down to a snails pace and crawled carefully over it. This time however, it was merely a painted line with no corresponding lump beneath. Cursing I put my food down and again saw a fake yellow bump ahead. Cackling with glee at my own cleverness and infallibility I once again launched us over what turned out to be a real speed bump and put the final nail in the coffin of smug. There followed one of those deep, deep silences between Chris and I that words cannot bridge. I remember him getting out of the car and just standing there with his mouth open as I drove off. I saw him in my rear view mirror, gaping uncomprehendingly as once more, I flung my car over a speed bump with casual brutality. We don’t speak of that day.
This is what happens when you think you know things. Today I was confronted with someone asking for money for gas and food just before he drove off in his Lexus. I’m pretty sure my thoughts did not echo those of Jesus at that moment. I could almost hear the door slam shut on my inner sympathy cupboard.
Just yesterday I found myself complaining – yes – complaining that our freezer was too full! I couldn’t fit any more in! You see? I need to give myself a thoroughly canine shake and turn my attention to resting in God’s sufficiency, to being still and stripping away all the fluff and gaudiness that surrounds us, and allowing the necessary to speak.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10.