Perspective. I love this picture from my recent trip to the central coast of California. It’s sort of an optical illusion, isn’t it? I mean, is the turtle really on a limb, in a grove of trees, perilously hanging who knows how far above the ground below?
There are times in my life when I feel like I am the one perilously hanging on a limb high above the ground without a safety net ~ feet dangling, nails gripping, ready to crash any moment. Recently I received a notice from our friendly taxing authority nicely requesting a tax return. Their request, nice as it was, included a deadline. I did all I could to meet the deadline, but I couldn’t reach our tax preparer to see if she had completed the return. I phoned. I faxed. I used snail mail. I emailed. Silence. The deadline date was quickly approaching and my grip on the limb was getting weak.
In addition to a tax deadline, we had plane tickets to go visit family and so it became even more important to get the return taken care of. I was losing sleep, worried about what would happen if we didn’t get the return filed ~ certainly there would be penalties. Would they also garnish our bank accounts? I spent a lot of time thinking about the problem, wondering if everything was okay with our tax preparer. What would we do if she were unable to prepare the return? Who could we trust to do it for us?
Finally the day had come ~ the next morning we would be flying out of town for over ten days, well past the deadline for our return to be filed and we still hadn’t heard a word from our tax preparer. I felt certain that the chance of getting another extension from the state was slim, but I didn’t have any choice but to try. With a knot in my stomach, I made the call.
Your call will be answered In approximately 17 minutes. If you would like to have a representative call you back, please leave your name and telephone number, the recorded message stated.
No, I thought, I better just wait and talk to a human being, no matter how long it takes.
Within a couple of minutes a pleasant sounding man answered the phone.
“Let’s see what we can do here,” he was so upbeat. I was so nervous. I rambled on about how I hadn’t heard from our preparer, how we were heading out of town to visit my mother-in-law who was celebrating her 86th birthday, how worried I was about getting this straightened out.
“Well,” he said, “no need to worry. Here, how about we give you a two month extension. That should give you enough time to get it in, don’t you think?” I was speechless! Two months was a gift of time I never expected!
“Now go on your trip and don’t worry.” I just couldn’t believe my ears. Then I decided to try calling our tax preparer one more time. Two rings and she answered the phone! Within an hour she emailed over a copy of our return for us to review on our trip.
Because of my limited view of the world, my perspective on the situation was narrow, negative and not right. I worried and wasted mental time and energy for nothing. It didn’t feel like nothing, it felt like I was barely hanging on a limb that hung high over the ground ready to crash any moment. But in reality, my limb was buoyed on water, gently being held afloat by the One who promises to meet my needs. You see, God’s perspective isn’t mine. When I have done all that I can do in a situation, and my perspective is limited, I need to trust the One who sees it all. Oh, and the turtle? He, too, was resting on a limb that was buoyed by water, but unlike me, he knew he was safe and so he didn’t have a care in the world.
Underdogs. It is the seventh game of the 2011 World Series. Each team has won 3 games and so the winner of this game will take the title of World Series champions. It is the top of the 9th inning and with a 4 run deficit, it is not looking too good for the Texas Rangers. I am disappointed.
It’s not that I have been a life long fan of the Rangers. And I don’t have any particular dislike for their opponent, the Cardinals. I don’t have any money in a pool that would make me a wealthy woman if they won. I can’t really name more than two players on their roster, and I haven’t watched any of their other games this season. The only reason I have vested an interest in the fate of the Texas Rangers during this, the seventh game of the 2011 World Series, is because I like to see the underdog win.
The St. Louis Cardinals have won the world series 10 times and a win tonight would bring them to 11. The Texas Rangers? Zero. Zip. Zilch. And that is why I am rooting for them.
I have a feeling that I am not alone in loving the underdog. Remember Rocky Balboa, Rudy, and one of my all time favorites, Forrest Gump? Underdog. Underdog. Underdog.
Maybe it’s because the underdog is so relatable. I can certainly relate. Doesn’t it sometimes feel like there is always someone a little smarter. A little funnier. A little more attractive. A little more financial fit. Oh, who am I kidding? Replace “someone” with “many” and “a little” with “a lot”! Now that’s more realistic!
I know, I know. We shouldn’t compare, and I usually don’t. We all have our own lives to live, and I am living my life. But I wonder sometimes if God could really use an underdog like me for His purposes. I only need to take a look at His words to see that, yes, God too, loves an underdog.
There was Gideon, who came from the weakest of the Israelite clans and who was the least among his own people. Yet God made Gideon a mighty warrior who battled for freedom. And there was Moses, who was not only an underdog but also a murderer who went from being a prince to being relegated to keeping track of sheep. Yet God made Moses a mighty leader who led his people out of bondage. And there was Jesus, who was wrongly accused and despised to death. Yet God made Him the Savior to sinners ~ the sacrificial lamb, the way out of bondage and into freedom for all who follow Him.
No. I do not have a Messianic complex, nor do I have delusions of being anything like Gideon or Moses, both great men of faith. Any delusions I have lean more toward the vanity kind ~ like thinking I can get my girlish figure back and reverse the effects of gravity. No, I am not suffering spiritual delusions of grandeur. But I do believe that God can use an underdog, like me, for His purposes. I believe this not because of anything I can do on my own, but rather because of what He can do through me.
But to be used by God, I must be aware of the opportunity when it presents itself. I must be willing to trust Him and get in the game. The underdogs didn’t come out on top this year in the World Series. The Texas Rangers weren’t able to make up that 4 run deficit. So are they out of the game of baseball? Ludicrous! I can guarantee that when the 2012 season rolls around, the Rangers will have their spot in the schedule. Likewise, I will miss opportunities, I will try to do things on my own power, I may even take myself temporarily out of the game. Thankfully, God is merciful and allows me to try again. And when I remember to rely on His wisdom, His guidance, and His power, then God can use an underdog, like me, for His purposes. Are you an underdog that God can use?
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:7-9
Dancing. So my husband and I have been taking dance lessons in preparation for our daughter’s wedding. I love to dance, but let’s face it, at my age and season in life, that opportunity usually exists only at weddings! Even so, I have done my share of dancing over the years. In high school there were dances, cheerleading and the prom. After high school, weddings and reunions, and the occasional visit to a club. But my dancing has almost always been freestyle. Two people dancing together but really independent of one another. Two people listening to the same music, but sometimes moving to a different beat.
Couples dancing is a whole nuther thing!
The music is the same, but now we are connected. His hand is firmly planted on my upper arm to guide me. I must learn to mirror his moves. I have to get comfortable with not seeing where I am going. And the hardest thing of all? I have to let him lead!
In fact, if I were to be honest, this can be a challenge not only on the dance floor but in life. I like to lead. I like to be in charge of where I am going. I like to do things my way. But now I have an instructor who is standing an arm’s length away, watching me. And my husband knows that in this situation, on the dance floor, it is his right, no, his responsibility to lead. Whose idea was this anyway?
So, as happens in stressful situations that we don’t like, I have found a coping mechanism. I close my eyes. Yes, you read that right. When we are dancing and I feel the impulse to lead, I close my eyes. I have to listen to the music and rely only on the guiding hand of my husband on my arm. I realized the instructor caught on when he said, “Even if you close your eyes, Lynne, you still need to keep your head up.” Hey, whatever works. Maybe he can offer this to other women who struggle with wanting to lead, like me.
It occurred to me after one of our dance sessions how much this is like my relationship with the Lord. How life is the music and I am going through it freestyle. Sure, God is there, just a small step or two away. But we aren’t connected. Sure, we are listening to the same music, but sometimes I am moving to my own beat. Why? Is it because God has pushed me away to dance on my own? No. It’s because I like to lead. To be in charge. To see where I am going. But that isn’t how we were meant to dance, God and I. I was made to let Him guide me. I don’t always need to see where I am going – nor would I always want to if I could. His desire is for me to mirror His moves. It’s time to close my eyes, concentrate on the music, and let God lead me. Maybe it’s time take some dance lessons with God. How about you? Are you in step or out of step with God?
“…because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”