Thursday, March 31, 2011

Salt & Leeches

Have you ever seen The African Queen? Starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, it’s a film classic, one I’ve seen lots of times if you count seeing it in bits and pieces.

A part I’ll never forget—probably because it’s so gross—is when Charlie (Bogart) pulls the boat through acrid swamp water, clogged with muck and reeds and algae and bugs and crocodiles. The worst part of it? Leeches. I hate ‘em. Because Charlie and Rose (Hepburn) are riveted upon their destination, the slimy, blood sucking critters latch on to him without his knowing. When Charlie climbs back into the boat for a break, there they are, in all their awful sycophant glory. Horrors. I hate leeches.

Ever ready, Rose applies salt to the bloodsuckers, which don’t take kindly to it at all, and regretfully drop off. (Side note: the film could have been better if, like snails, the leeches had gone all bubbly from the salt. Opportunity missed? I think so.) Rose and Charlie knew that if they were to proceed toward their goal of freedom, they had to momentarily break their focus and deal with the life-sapping leeches.

Yesterday I noticed there were some leeches hanging on me.

Simply, what was leading me through my day was not Jesus, but a crude, almost unrecognizable form of legalism. This time of year seems to produce a bumper crop of standards and behaviors by which to measure oneself—and I was. I wasn’t properly shepherding my girls. I wasn't talking about God and praying with them enough. I wasn’t encouraging my wife enough. I hadn’t written or called or emailed enough people, and God knows how tragic that is(!). Sheesh.

Do you see it? In each case there was a perfect “A” I could get on the report card of my day, and in the fleshly estimation of that perceived goal, I fell short. I didn’t bother to check with God. After all, wasn’t it true?! I mean, look at the evidence! So why check?

Leeches. I had ‘em all over me.

So last night, almost in a ritualistic way, I climbed out of the routine boat of my day, and said a few fairly meaningless words to God. “Hey, Lord. How’s your day? Ready for Easter?” or something like that. And perhaps because I didn’t come to Him carrying my deserved condemnation, but my weary carcass only, He began to lift and free me of worldly estimations. For the 905,000 time I remembered—God is my life and peace and freedom and rest and joy and love. I do not live well by what I do (which is not to say it’s unimportant), but by who I know. When what I’m doing is influenced and fed by that (life by the Spirit), it’s all good.

Damn the leeches.

You and I have been made free in Christ—stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. . .you, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh;. . .(Gal 5:1, 13) The “yoke of slavery” or the indulgence of the flesh threatening the Galatians wasn’t drunkenness or cheating or lust, it was life by measurements, life by standards on the way to getting the “A” on life’s report card. Trouble was, they already had it! But Satan had induced them to believe that life by checklist was better than life by knowing and trusting Christ—God for us and God with us and God in us. As long as they believed they weren’t yet free, weren’t yet good enough, hadn’t yet done enough, or hadn’t received absolutely everything from God for entirely nothing, living was a mucky, leech-filled swamp.

If that’s where you are, get some salt—you’ve got leeches.

Do almost anything toward God, with Him in mind (cook a meal, sing a song, read a verse, tie your shoe), and see what He does for you—the inside you. He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and He loves being that for you, since He made you a perfect place for Himself.

Take a moment and stop pulling so hard. You are His boat—He’ll do the pulling. And He’ll mix salt with your leeches.


  1. Leopoldo Paul Solis9:01 AM

    Yes, there are knots that need to be untied from time to time. I, too, am learning and thank God He is so gracious and merciful. We have all in Christ but we do not know them all yet. We are all growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Thanks for the tag. It was a good reminder.

  2. Stacey Sorensen9:02 AM

    Whew....i woke up with Him pouring salt on my leeches and now you've encouraged me more! Thank you, Ralph, for building us up! Thank you, Jesus, for your LIFE in US! Miraculous life.

  3. Dennis Collis9:03 AM

    WOW! What a powerful way to explain legalism!

  4. Julie Belshe9:04 AM

    Yep! I too needed lots of salt yesterday! Ahhh Much Better and Lighter Today!