One morning Keith found yet another as he was leaving for work, but he was so late he had no time to properly dispose of it. It was my turn to do the honors. I have come a long way in 32 years of country life, but I still won’t pick up a dead thing, even with big thick gloves. So I got the shovel.
I am glad my neighbors are not close. I stuck the shovel edge down by the possum and pushed, assuming it would just slide under the offensive creature so I could carry it out to the woods and let nature do the disposal work. Instead, the shovel just pushed the possum along. I tried again, and again, and again. Every time I pushed, the possum moved farther and I wound up following it in a circle around the field. This possum might as well have been alive it was making such a merry chase.
Meanwhile Magdi stood to the side. She looked at me like I was nuts, but she also looked at me like she would really like to have her possum back. Occasionally she lunged at the possum as I made the circle yet again passing her on the right. So there I was pushing a dead possum in a circle around the yard with a shovel, while yelling at the dog at regular intervals, like some sort of bizarre ritualistic dance.
I stopped, winded and frustrated, and found myself next to the oak tree across the driveway from the well. The answer struck me, if only I had the energy left. I pushed the shovel again. Again it pushed the possum, this time right against the tree and the tree held it there for me as the shovel slid beneath it. Success!
I lifted the shovel--and the possum rolled right off of it. Somehow I kept from screaming. Okay, I told myself. You have learned something. Possums are heavy and you have to hold the shovel handle tightly so it won’t tip. I tried again, pushing the possum up against the tree and lifting the shovel, this time ready for the shifting weight. Now I just had to get it to the woods. It was a several hundred yard trip, and that possum at the end of the shovel got heavier and heavier.
About halfway there I knew I was not going to make it, so rather than let the thing drop in a clearing where there were no trees to push against, I carefully lowered the shovel to the ground. As much as I hated to, I had to move my hand farther down the handle, closer to the possum so the weight would be easier to manage. I did, and it was easier, so much easier I could even walk faster without being in danger of losing the possum.
I was already dressed for Bible class and did not want to traipse into the woods among the briars and brush, so I carefully pulled back on the shovel and slung with all my might. The possum slid off the shovel about five feet into the brush, not much further than the length of the shovel handle. By then, I was ready to call that a great success, and left it.
As shocking as it might sound, that is the way we treat God sometimes. Instead of rushing into His safe and loving embrace, we keep Him at arm’s length. Like a teenager who is too embarrassed to act like he loves his parents, we are too embarrassed to let our love for God show to those around us. We don’t want to look too weird, too strange, too “fanatical.”
Early Christians were known for their good works. In fact, that is how they often gave themselves away to their persecutors. They looked and acted so differently from everyone else. No one else was kind and forgiving, even when mistreated. Would our godly behavior give us away under similar circumstances, or would it lump us in with the crowd because our religion has not “contaminated” our lives?
Even among ourselves we don’t want to say things that might make people look at us askance. It’s like the old joke where the new convert sits in the pews saying, “Amen,” and “Praise God,” only to have some older member take him aside and say, “Son, we don’t praise God here.”
God wants us close to Him. Think about that for a moment. Our awesome all-powerful Creator wants a relationship with us. He made an incomprehensible sacrifice to make it possible. Maybe we need to be shocked with this analogy, so we will wake up. When we keep Him at arm’s length like something disgusting, we are treating God like a dead possum.
Wherefore also He is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them…Draw near to God and He will draw near to you, Heb 7:25; James 4:8a.