Monday, May 12, 2008

Clenched Hands

Have you ever heard of a dual-control road scooter, which travels at automobile speed but consists solely of two high seats--each with a safety belt and handbar controls--mounted either side of a motor and over the wheels?

Neither had I until last Thursday night, when I found myself riding as copilot in just such a vehicle. All went well--we were cruising along as in any other car--until the driver suddenly passed out, with the scooter going sixty miles an hour on a crowded freeway. I knew I'd have to grab my own controls to prevent a crash. Problem was, I was holding two books and there was no place to put them; the only sensible move was to toss them off the scooter.

I love books too much to be sensible about parting with them. So I tried to steer with my elbows instead. The scooter began zigzagging crazily through traffic....

...and I woke up, wondering if that dream portrayed how I'd act in real life.

Our determination to hang on to material things often borders on the comic. A famous Jack Benny radio skit drew plenty of laughs when a miser, confronted by a gunman who demanded, "Your money or your life!" took his time answering because he needed to consider which loss would be more painful. But it's not funny when real people are shot or stabbed for hesitating to surrender their cash. It's not funny when people fall victim to fire or flood because they delayed evacuation to gather up property.

And it's not funny when someone decides that the "good life" on earth is too valuable to trade for eternal life in heaven. Jesus said about one such person, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mt. 19:24, NIV). Total conversion--telling God that literally everything we have is His to use or take away as He pleases--is harder for the rich because, the more satisfying the current life seems, the harder it is to picture anything else as being better.

Sadly, Christians aren't immune. Oh, we may not have to worry about being shut out of the Kingdom altogether, but we can easily lose our effectiveness in advancing it because of concern for personal comfort. Especially if we live where nearly everyone has enough food and persecution rarely gets worse than a nasty editorial in the paper, we all too frequently balk when God calls us to do new and risky things for Him. "Too expensive," we say. "Too embarrassing." "Too big a change."

Hunters sometimes trap raccoons or monkeys by hollowing out a gourd, leaving a hole just big enough for the animal to stick its open paw in--but not pull a clenched fist out--anchoring down the gourd, and putting something tasty or attractive inside. Once the animal reaches in and grabs what it wants, it'll struggle for hours to get free, but virtually nothing will make it take the one simple means of escape--dropping what it holds so it can pull its paw back out. Satan has made monkeys of many people by convincing them to hang on to their "treasures" at all costs.

It's hard to receive God's blessings if we refuse to open our hands.

A stabbing last night on Main Street--
It's all over town today:
It was a robbery gone bad;
A struggle ensued, they say.
And people shake their heads as they think,
How, confronted with a knife,
And a demand for all his cash,
He preferred to lose his life.

There was a big fire on Spruce Street,
And it's all over the news:
Eight houses burned, six people dead,
The sky black with ashy hues.
And workers shake their heads as one corpse,
Clasping loaded box, they find:
"He could have gotten out alive
If he'd left this stuff behind."

A burial's set for Tuesday--
They said last night on TV--
The richest businessman in town;
Heart just stopped at fifty-three.
His loved ones shake their heads as they think
How they urged him, "Seek the Lord"--
But he said, "God might want my wealth;
That's a risk I can't afford."

There's tragedy in this country--
The thought chills me to the bone--
The Christians--thousands--richly blessed,
But in temporal things alone.
Our Lord must shake His head as they say,
When He pleads, "Store wealth in heaven,"
"But we can't risk our earthly wealth"--
So great gifts remain ungiven.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy,

That was excellent..I especially liked the poem with it's rich visual images...Thank you for sharing!