Sunday, 12 July 2015

A man and his tattered toy elephant

Ever see an adult clutching a stuffed toy or holding a blanket close to his or her face? I did last Sunday; and admittedly - I had to look twice, because it's not something you see everyday. I saw an adult man holding a stuffed toy very close to his chest. Accompanied by his caregiver/guide, this man, with apparent special needs, was a visitor in our church so I don't know his story. However, this scene of a man holding his tattered toy elephant got me to think...and smile.

What if we carried around with us a special blanket, a piece of cloth, or a stuffed animal? And, when we were upset or nervous we would hold it up close to our face and the world would return to its peaceful state? Imagine if that was the norm. We would get ready for work and run a checklist through our head - wallet ... yup .... keys ... yup ... lunch ... yup ... teddy bear ... yup. What if you didn't like to carry 'things' but liked to suck your thumb, pinky finger, or even a plastic soother? In today's culture, you'd be looked upon as quirky, in need of professional help...or needed simply to be left alone!

If you think about it, it's really not far-fetched. The truth is many of us carry around items, or engage in habits that we've adopted as adults to give us the 'comfort' we need; and we've become chained to them. We've exchanged our blankets and chew toys for cigarettes, alcohol, and sex. We've traded our thumbs for the casino, fast cars, and the latest pair of shoes. Food. Fashion. Alcohol. Cars. Houses. Hollywood. These things, in and of themselves of are not bad, but we can pour ourselves into them in hopes they'll bring us happiness...and the comfort that internally we all crave and seek to secure. Subtlety, our comforts become our chains and what once provided self-security becomes our jail keeper.

I've been sucked in, too. As a university student, I started engaging in excessive behaviors in search for my own comfort. Wracked by what was undiagnosed anxiety at the time, unknowingly I turned to harmful substances as a way to cope. Instead of turning to the faith preciously handed to me from my parents, schools, and church, I turned to the 'Porcelain God' and became an eager 'Bedside Believer'.

However, on a bed, tucked away at the back of a house in Eastown, Grand Rapids, MI, I remember  praying to God and saying these exact words, "Please God, whatever faith I still have in you, do not let me lose it! Please don't let me go." I knew that what I was doing was counter to God's will. You see - I still believed there was evil in the world.  And, since I believed there was such a thing as evil, then rationally I had to believe that holiness and righteousness were also present. So, whenever I remembered to do so I prayed that prayer.

This year - 2015 - marks twenty five years since graduating university. My life has changed radically. I'm no longer held by chains that were masterfully disguised as comfort. I'm thankful that God has released me from 'servitude' to things into 'service' to Him. Has it been easy? No. But, God met me where I was - he had been with me all along and was waiting patiently. He has truly become...my only comfort in life, and in death. He is neither fake nor imaginary...he is real, and you'll never have to re-sew any toy limbs that have fallen off from too much lovin'!


Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 1

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?
 
A. That I am not my own,1
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—2
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5
He also watches over me in such a way6
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;7
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.8

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life9
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.10