Randy Jones (not his real name) was a bully. I was scared. I was too young to remember what he said. I can’t see him in my mind but I remember my fear and it was real. I was not very close to my big brothers who were six and seven years older than me. I remember that when I came home I was afraid and crying. They asked what was wrong and I told them. They smiled and said, “We’ll take care of Randy Jones. Don’t you worry little brother.” I never saw Randy Jones again. I never felt afraid again when I walked by Randy’s house.
My brothers had loved me but until that moment I don’t think I knew it.
The One who made us, the One who created this beautiful world for us, the One who paid the ultimate penalty in our place loves us, loves us beyond words. Few of us, on a daily basis walk around letting that knowledge effect us in a way that makes a real difference in our lives.
I know bullies are a problem today. As an adult I have been bullied by those who had power over me. When I asked others for help it didn’t come.
I think at some time in our lives everyone gets bullied or manipulated by someone who has power over them. Being bullied can leave you feeling helpless and alone, uncared for, unloved, unwanted. I know. As an adult the bullying behavior toward me continued for more than a year. During that time life lost some of its luster for me. But because of that bully, I spent more and more time on my knees before God. Time and again I found reassurance in Scripture. The book of Psalms was particularly helpful.
“God stands up for his people, God holds the hands of his people.” (Psalm 135:14)
Psalm 18, 37, and 91 are three of my favorites. “God, you’re my refuge, I trust in you and I’m safe!” (Psalm 91:2)
During my year of being bullied I often wondered why it was continuing. What I failed to notice was that little by little, prayer by prayer, trusting God, I was getting closer to God and stronger in faith. The one who bullied me is gone. Like Randy Jones, I have no idea where he is. My Father loves me and He took care of it. He did it even better than my brothers because He left me stronger and better.
God loves you. He waits for you to come to Him.
It was their 50th wedding anniversary. After all the guests and family had left and the house was empty again Gertrude turned to Henry.
“Henry, how come you don’t tell me you love me anymore?” Gertie, 50 years ago today I told you I loved you! If I change my mind you’ll be the first to know!”
That doesn’t get it!
We need reminders. It’s not that we forget, but little things: misunderstood words, half heard comments, the look that meant something else, and soon we begin to wonder if we are still loved. So we need reminders- many and often- lest we descend into a pit of doubt and despair.
One reminder I have on my desk looks like wood but it feels like a rock. It is both. Over 225 million years ago a tree fell. It was covered with sand and mud. Over time, as water seeped in, the minerals in the mud and sand replaced the wood and it became a rock. It still looks like wood.
When I look at it I am reminded that when God’s Spirit lives inside us and we turn our lives over to Him, He replaces us!
We still look the same on the outside but on the inside the change is enormous. “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community…” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Little by little, in turning our lives over to Him, different things begin to appear in us. “…affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity, Willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” (Galatians 5:22-13)
Some days you may feel more like wood, others more like rock. As we let God change us from the inside out some days we are more aware of our godliness and on others more aware of our humanity. But every time you catch a glimpse of God in yourself or anothers, rejoice!
“I learned two things in the Navy. I learned how to tie a knot and how to sharpen a knife.”
As a boy of about ten, I watched wide-eyed as my brother used his pocket knife to shave the hair off his arm in demonstration.
When I tie a knot it doesn’t stay tied and its never tight. My brother could take a knife that wouldn’t cut butter and in no time at all, shave with it. I could take his knife and in no time at all, it wouldn’t cut butter! My pocket knife won’t shave. In fact my pocket knife barely cuts a string … and I like it that way.
A long time ago I carried a brother-sharpened pocket knife. I was amazed at how easily it cut the hay bales I fed to the horses. I could slice through anything with it!
I still bear the scar on my index finger. While cutting an apple for my horse, I continued my slice as it went deeply into my finger! So now I carry a dull pocket knife. It was easier to just let it be dull than it was to learn to sharpen it and learn to be careful enough with it. It stays dull now and its better that way.
Knives are like people. They come in different sizes, some with assorted “blades” that can do almost anything, others with deft skill that can accomplish great things. Then there are others, who often feel like they are just never quite sharp enough for the job at hand.
The thought of hurting another person is repulsive to me. I would rather be careful with my words and with my actions so that after I have said or done what was needed I don’t find my words “slicing” into another’s heart. My finger hurt for a long time. It was bandaged for a long time. As I said, I still bear the scar today.
In our world of production, profit, and gain too often our goal is to have the “sharpest knife” possible so that in our chosen job or perhaps even in our home we might operate with precision and efficiency. But how many deep wounds are we leaving behind with our words or actions that take a long time to heal and leave a life-long scar?
“The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others,
and live humbly, obeying your God.” -Micah 6:8
It’s a nice idea. Going out to the garden and just pulling off the vine or out of the ground fresh, healthy, wholesome food.
I wish it were that easy! Bugs know how to hide. Those clever little squash bugs, flea beetles and grass hoppers know how to hide and avoid you like the plague. How can it be that a creature smaller than a bread crumb can confound our best efforts to feast on the summer’s produce?
And then there are weeds! Even as my first grape vine emerged from near extinction, only a foot or so away another vine emerged looking exactly like my grape. Which one was my grape and which was an impostor? Was it an impostor at all? I honestly could not tell the difference. Sometimes I think bugs and weeds are smarter than we are!
Losing weight, finishing school, getting that degree, finding a job, finding reconciliation in a failing marriage, reaching a rebellious son or daughter. It seems life is filled with bugs and weeds that threaten to steal from us our dream of a summer harvest. We can be tempted to just give up and let the bugs and weeds win.
In our ‘war’ on weeds and bugs here is what we have learned:
1. There will always be problems, bugs and weeds.
2. Reality is not as easy as it seemed when you were dreaming about it.
3. If you want to eat, prepare for the work to be harder and longer than you thought.
4. A garden requires constant vigilance. You can’t rest until the harvest is in.
5. It’s easier to go to the grocery store but not nearly as satisfying.
6. If gardening were easy, everyone would do it.
7. If you quit, ‘fess up that you never wanted it bad enough to begin with. Admit you didn’t have what it takes and don’t blame the bugs and weeds in your life. Recalculate your goals, aim elsewhere or look within and find something more.
Nothing worth having is easy. Choose what you are going to give your life to carefully and then be prepared to spend more than you dreamed and work longer than you thought to reach it. If it is worthy of your best effort and good for you, then God will help you, in the end, to eat the good fruit of a life well lived.