Friday, November 16, 2012


I saw a picture on Facebook the other day.  It was a picture of a whale that had been tangled up in fishing net and couldn't surface for air.  The poor thing would have drowned had people not somehow managed to free it of the fishing line.  It was entangled, and nearly died because of it.

I've been entangled, too.  I've been having a pity party about myself and my situation.  I thought only of myself and how terrible it was that I had been injured back in April.  I got upset when people - kind people, friends, close family and others - acted like nothing was wrong with me.  I felt trapped in my brain that wouldn't - couldn't - come up with the words I wanted to say.  I felt trapped in my body that couldn't quite get around like it used to, or walk as fast as it used to, or sometimes fell when I lost my balance.

But mainly I was entangled in my feelings towards God.  Not quite anger, but more resentment.  You see, I never felt angry at the poor kid who hit the baseball that came flying out of nowhere to hit me.  Hit me hard.  In my noggin.  I don't know who he is, and he has no clue that I've still suffering.  Still I was entangled.

I saw a different picture on Facebook recently.  It was a sea turtle who had been encircled by a plastic six-pack ring.  You know the kind.  They hold the cans together.  This sea turtle had grown up with the plastic around his shell body.  The body was pinched in the middle, and he had grown normally on his front and back, but the shell in the middle was stunted and unable to grow by the cinching power of the plastic.  Stunted.  Even if freed, would he ever grow normally?

I've been stunted in my growth, too.  Not my physical growth, but my spiritual growth.  I felt at first, "why not me?", but as the hours turned into days, the days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, and I sometimes felt better, but sometimes felt much worse, the urgent need to lash out at somebody, anybody began to grow within me.  It cinched me up, right around the middle.  Kept me from growing normally in my spiritual life.  Stunted and entangled.  Ineffective and miserable.

The writer of Hebrews (New Testament) spoke of the sin that so easily entangles us.  He told us to throw it off and run the race anyway.  Run?  Heck, I can hardly walk some days.  But the writer didn't mean a physical marathon.  He was talking about a spiritual marathon.  We can't look at it as a race we run for days, weeks, months, even years or decades.  Ever see a relay race?  That's the picture I get when I'm told to run the race.  My granny handed off the baton to my mother, then she handed it off to me.  Hopefully, I'll be handing it off to five who will run the race with endurance, without the entanglement of sin weighing them down.

The author of Hebrews gives us a hint about how we're supposed to run with perseverance.  When I was a little girl, I would sometimes accompany my daddy to the fields where he was planting corn.  Or soybeans, depending on which field.  I asked him once how he could keep a straight line on the tractor, since there wasn't any guide on the ground as to where he was supposed to steer the plow and planter.  He said that he'd pick out a tree, way across the field, near the creek.  He'd keep his eye on that particular tree, knowing where it was to be in relation to his own position.  And that's what we're supposed to do, too.  Except we're supposed to keep our eyes trained on Jesus.  After all, He's already run the race and knows where we're supposed to go.  He also knows how we're supposed to finish.

For a long time, it hurt my head to read anything "deep".  I could fiddle with Facebook, or write letters, or prepare Petitions for Adoption for my clients (simply because I've done so many, it's second nature).  But to really read and dig into something complicated, that was another story.  So I fell out of the habit of reading and studying Scripture.  Fell hard.  Fell down so far that my entanglement took root and flourished.  I didn't want to read, study, pray, or anything.  I felt I no longer needed God.  Not really, anymore.  Then I realized that I was literally shaking my fist at Him.  Well, I guess I showed Him, didn't I?

But ever so gently, He began to clip away the entanglements of my sin.  The sin that was stunting my growth. He knows me, you see.  He created me.  So He knows what's best for me.  That I run the race, with my eyes fixed on Him, free of the entanglement and weight of sin.  Satan wants us to be entangled.  Wants us to be stunted and ineffective.  Then Satan can move on to the next willing victim, knowing that we've been rendered helpless.

I don't like feeling helpless, and I suspect that no one does.  But that's when God reaches out.  He's softened my heart, and He can soften yours.  He's been ready and waiting for me to be sorry for my thoughts and feelings.  He wants us to flourish and be effective.  He wants us to know that there are many who are watching us, cheering us on, both here and in heaven above.  He wants us to realize that nothing, absolutely nothing matters except Him.

What kind of baton are you passing to the next generation?  What kind of race are you running?  A race with purpose, with a goal in mind?  Or a race that meanders here and there, going in fits and starts?  Or are you sitting on the sidelines?  You have truly asked Christ to make a difference in your life, but you don't know how to run the race.  Or you ran for a while and then got tired.  Or bored.  Or felt too sophisticated to run anymore.  Or maybe you're not even in the stadium.  You think all this talk about Jesus is silly, and that there ought to be lots of different ways to heaven (if it even exists).  And as long as you feel that way, I need to be even more determined in the manner in which I run the race, so that you no longer see me, but you see Jesus.  That's all.  Just Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author
and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy
set before him endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down at the
right hand of the throne of God.