Am I the only one who's ever inhabited animal bodies?
To answer the question “If you could broadcast a single lesson you’ve learned from your faith what would it be?” is very hard, for life is a process through which we learn many important lessons. I can think of lots of crucial lessons, and to choose only one calls for much thought and some degree of explanation.
Some of us seem to be born with a teachable spirit, while others of us find it much more natural to dig in our heels with mulish stubbornness and when presented with our lessons, brazenly lift our faces to the Almighty and say, “No!” This, of course, only earns us entrance into the School of Hard Knocks, my alma mater. (At least I was far enough along in my spiritual education curriculum to catch the humor when my own toddler responded to me in precisely the same way.) Simply put, I was born a mule. What can I say?
The thing about spiritual growth is that we change – which is really the point, isn’t it? For those of us in the Christian tradition, the goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ. As you may imagine, to morph into Christlikeness when you’re starting out as a mule doesn’t seem like a very sure proposition. In fact, any reasonable person would have to conclude it’s downright impossible. Maybe that’s the first lesson: …but with God, all things are possible [Matthew 19:26].
My first transformation wasn’t too promising – I’m afraid I merely changed from a mule into a mole. By some standards that would be devolving, I think. Yes, that’s right, moles: those small, blind, ratty-looking pests that live underground and dig up things they shouldn’t. By the way, I should point out I was no ordinary mole. I was a Mole with an Attitude, a veritable poster child for the proverb “there are none so blind as those who will not see.” True to my species, I ate worms, dug in the dirt, lived in darkness and spoiled my fair share of property.
Would you not agree that we are influenced by the company we keep? If you live underground (like moles do) your friends and neighbors tend to be unsavory characters – like snakes, for instance. I never liked snakes, or so I thought. Yet before I knew it I was listening to what they had to say! Hath God said…? [Genesis 3:1] I thought I was pretty smart at the time. For instance, I could instantaneously grasp that there was a big (as in cosmic-sized) problem somewhere. If God was supposed to be all-powerful and all-loving, why was I looking in popular magazines at the horribly disfigured faces and bodies of young Vietnamese children who had been napalmed? How, I wondered, could He allow such things? Well, the answer was obvious! Either He was not omnipotent (so He really wasn’t in control) or He wasn’t really loving. The conclusion was obvious: Either He is not who He says He is (so He’s a liar) or He doesn’t exist at all. I voted for the latter conclusion. Pretty big thoughts for such a little rodent, and as you might expect, thoughts with wrong conclusions. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the fact moles are nearly blind and whatever small vision might be granted their teeny tiny little eyes has to be dimmed and distorted by all the mud and muck through which they constantly plow.
I quickly underwent another metamorphosis; this time turning from a mole into a parrot – the sort with clipped wings that can’t fly and does nothing but sit and mimic sounds. Naturally, I was very vocal and took great delight in parroting to everyone I met all the things I’d learned from the snakes. What??? You’re a Christian??? Nah! Can’t you see through that stuff? Don’t you know…blah blah blah. Squawk, squawk, and squawk some more. There are many lessons here, but the most precious takes the form of a question: why didn’t God simply set His foot down and squash me like an insect, as I deserved? O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! [Psalm 36:7]
I didn’t stay a parrot very long, really; before I knew it I had morphed again, this time into a moth! I felt light as a feather! I thought I had been given wings in order to be set free – free from that dusty old Bible and that narrow, archaic, patriarchal, deader-than-a-doornail religion with all its petty rules and regulations practiced by unintelligent people like my parents and their uptight, uncool friends.
It wassoooo exhilarating to fly! Wheee, up, up and away. Silly me. Old sayings always have some basis in fact, and “like a moth to flame” is no exception. True to my new species, I was drawn to the “Light.” Or what seemed like light, anyhow. Wheee…existentialism! Wheee…reincarnation! Wheee…extraterrestrial intelligence! Wheee...Eastern meditation! I even paid money to get a mantra to chant that gave me an honest-to-God literal migraine headache every time I said it. Wheee…astrology! Wheee…Tarot cards! Wheee…Edgar Cayce, Gurdjeif, “white” witchcraft…you-name-it. Wheee – OUCH! Uh-oh, I singed one of my antennae. Ugh! – I breathed in that hot ash and now it hurts to catch my breath. Woops! There goes my wing! Oh NO! Now I’ve burnt the other one! I’m falling! I’m gonna crash! Aahhrrrgghhh… Splat.
I was still alive despite plummeting from such a great height - for His mercy endures forever [Psalm 136] and He is patient with us [sic], not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance [2 Peter 3:9]. As I picked myself up off the ground, battered and bruised, it came to me that I had morphed yet again. It took a while to figure out just what this new creature was, and I didn’t much like what I saw. Ignoring the truth for as long as I could, the day finally came when I had to admit what, exactly, I now was: a wretched sinner who’d made a mess of her life and needed a knight in shining armor to rescue her from her mess and distress. Well, my, my, my! Who should come along just then but the Savior! Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. [Psalm 34:8] Thank you, Jesus.
Even sinners saved by grace continue to morph. I’m in my sparrow phase now (I have considerately spared you the details of several other steps along the way), but at least things are looking up! I’m learning to keep my focus above, and this leads me to what is one of the very most important lessons I’ve learned. Are you bothered by the flitting moths in your life? Irritated by those stubborn mules? Horrified by those slimy snakes? Disgusted by the incessant chatter and stench of know-it-all parrots? Worn out trying to catch that dratted mole? Tired of bird poop all over your patio? Well, try extending a little grace! Cut ‘em all some slack. Pray for them, that the Savior will come alongside and rescue them too. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?...first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. [Luke 6:41,42] Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. [Luke 6:36] For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. [Luke 6:38b]
One day we’ll all be out of the zoo, and for those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, I guarantee any time spent there will have been worth it. So flap your wings, flex your claws, slide your scales or trot your hooves over this way and join us – there’s room for all.
What a marvelous and fun read! Now I'm wondering what animals I've resembled in various stages of my life thus far. Hmmmm...
Love it, Susan! The style is so readable and the insights so devastatingly true. And I love the illustrations. I too have spent some time in the zoo...and sometimes still do...which is something I rue... WHEEE!!! : )
Susan, if your writing style didn't bring me in, the pictures certainly did. There is so much wisdom in the thoughts you expressed--very thought provoking. It's really what life is all about--morphing through our experiences to become more like our Savior! Great writing and certainly provides an opportunity for some deep thought. Thanks for the unique manner you addressed this subject.
I am so happy to be your friend. I'm not sure when I enjoyed such a cornucopia of thoughts in print. This is such a good story. I never expected to see animals in this kind of story. But, then again, it's Susan!!
This was captivating and made me want to keep reading to see where this train of thought was going. I have seen many of these animal, character depictions in my life and have learned lessons from them so thank you for becoming these examples. This is a is a keen morph for you as you are very social and probably love singing with groups.
Fly Miss Sparrow, fly, love, Christine