“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6 NIV
I glanced out the side window of my car and noticed a cute little turtle slowly plodding across the road on the other side. At first I simply sped by but then the guilt of leaving undone the small good deed of helping him get safely home outweighed my brief inconvenience so I turned around and headed back. By the time I spotted him he was well out in the lane of traffic so I gingerly reached to pick up the little guy when it became immediately apparent that A) He didn’t want my help and B) My small friend was a snapping turtle!
Trying to help someone by giving free advice is a bit like trying to help my turtle buddy. Though the turtle needed my help he neither believed or appreciated it. So what can we do when we see danger ahead for a child a parent or a friend? Helping reaches beyond explaining the right or wrong of the situation to the desire of the recipient to listen. Here are a couple of ideas I learned in two minutes with a snapping turtle.
Let go! I figured this out in the split second between his lunging for my finger and my dropping him quicker than a hot potato! Getting close to the situation doesn’t always get results. Sometimes people need to be loved from a distance. Just because we feel better with our version of helping doesn’t mean it will be effective.
Don’t Give Up – Just because I dropped Mr. Turtle didn’t mean I ran away. In the same way getting out of the “Hot Zone” of the emotions of a hurting person puts us in a place just far enough away to help in a better way. For the turtle that meant I could safely nudge him with my foot. to the other side of the road.
Don’t Be Offended – When I finished my Good Samaritan task and glanced back there was the turtle angrily facing me ready to take a bite if I came closer. He wasn’t about to say thank you! In that same way, successful intervention doesn’t guarantee gratitude. I think of when our son and future daughter-in-law were first engaged. They became convinced that they should marry immediately in spite of being in their freshman year of college. They were also both astonished and frustrated that both sets of their parents insisted that they wait at least a year. What seemed obviously for their best to us as parents was not appreciated for a long time. (I think after 23 years they might agree now!)
God Knows – Though my turtle never said thanks another driver passing by noticed and smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Though it would be great getting approval from those we’ve struggled to help; sometimes the only thumbs up we will get is from God. If He says it’s been a job well done that is more enough!
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 ESV
Over the first few weeks of our lockdown my wife and I spent several days putting together a 500 piece puzzle. It was one of the hardest we had ever done because of the weird shapes of the pieces. Finally after 6 days it seemed as if we we were about to complete it when we sadly realized that it was missing 2 pieces! Looking back I can laugh but it reminds me that my life also has some missing pieces – like the answers to questions “Am I doing what God wants me to do?” and “What am I doing about that today?”
For each of us the answers are as different as the parts of our puzzle. Paul’s great way of answering that question for himself was rooted in his both faith and his determination to accomplish what God had called for him to do. Paul chose to leave behind his privileged life and no matter the cost take the journey God had chosen for him. The key to Paul’s clear thinking was that no one’s opinion mattered except the Lord’s. Now of course very few of us are called to leadership like Paul was, but all of us are shaped by God for our own moment in history. Our most important conversation today must be with Him. The good news for all of us is that He has promised to show us the way and how to fit the final pieces into our own life’s puzzle!
It came to me today that my efficient manner of layering tasks one over the other is not God’s best for my life. So in my own battle here are a few things that God is helping me to do.
Prioritize- God first in my day. No media till after prayer. The phone is on but I won’t even glance at it till after prayer, morning coffee and breakfast. This might seem like a no brainer but for me it has been a welcome return to those slower starting pre-cell phone days. This little time is the first fruits of our day and should belong first to God.
Have you seen families sitting in a restaurant paying good money for food but paying little attention to one another while they text or play games on their cell phones? The scarier part of this is we might be more likely to do this ourselves at home. It is time to liberate mealtime from the dictatorship of media! That includes eating alone. How can we even taste the food if our attention is elsewhere? God gave us a 3 times a day appetite so we would have 3 opportunities a day to give thanks and then enjoy what He has given us!
The attitude of the 21st century might be summed up by the phrase “No cell phone left behind!” But unless we are the President or an on duty 1st responder, the truth is the world will not miss us for 30 minutes. While I do admire folks who go off grid for a month; I confess that I am not there yet. But half an hour on my morning walk without a cell phone I can do. Maybe for you that might be time at the gym, a visit with a neighbor- (cell phone left behind) or an hour fishing. So why not give these ideas a try this week? You might be amazed at what God can do with just a little bit of our time that we liberate just for Him and His purposes!