Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Life Suckers

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 finally climbs back into the boat, there they are, in all their awful life-sucking glory. Horrors. I hate leeches.

Ever ready, Rose quickly 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-sucking leeches.

Yesterday I noticed there were some leech-like things clinging to me and draining life out of me.

Simply, what was leading me through my day was not Jesus, but a crude, almost unrecognizable form of legalism. This time of year often produces a bumper crop of standards and behaviors by which to measure oneself—and I was. I hadn't been entirely into Christmas joy and all that, so my family couldn’t be either. Bummer. I hadn’t been properly shepherding my girls, reading to them and praying with them, and I felt badly about that. I hadn’t been loving my wife enough. I hadn’t written enough or telephoned people enough or emailed people enough. I was pretty pathetic.

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

Leeches. I had ‘em all over me.

So last night 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? Have you made some new year resolutions?” or something like that. And perhaps because I didn’t come to Him carrying my deserved condemnation ("I'm such a loser!"), but my weariness only, He began to lift and free me of worldly condemnation. And 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 alone (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.

Well, 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 perfect grade on life’s report card. What a deception--they already had it! God had given them everything with Him. But Satan had induced them to believe that life by checklist, life by accomplishment 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 every gift from God already, living was a long, hard pull through a mucky, leech filled swamp.

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

With God in mind, talk at Him while you cook a meal ("Jesus, do you like your eggs easy over?"), sing a song (even a silly one), read a Bible verse aloud, take a walk and ask God why the sky is blue, throw a rock and tell Him you could have been a great quarterback "if only", 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 pour salt on your leeches.


  1. Debbie Rector9:30 PM

    Deep breath...long sigh... Thank you friend!♥

  2. Dottie Ryan9:30 PM an insightful, transparent, and blessed Word from the Lord. Bless you my dear friend for the Freedom Christ speaks through you!

  3. Sherry Lamb9:31 PM

    Believeably awesome!

  4. MaryAnn Pacheco9:31 PM

    Thank you Ralph, loved it :) I so needed to hear this!

  5. Dave Geisler9:32 PM

    Awesome Ralph, I love the line "But Satan had induced them to believe that life by checklist, life by accomplishment was better than life by knowing and trusting Christ", oh so true. I think it is easy to go back to the quid pro quo system we lived under so long. For many of us (especially me) I know it's all by grace but then find myself tap dancing for a few peanuts like a monkey on a string...but I'm sure that God isn't playing the accordion and expecting me to dance. Anyway, that's my two cents

  6. Jeannie Atkins9:33 PM

    Really like that 'it's not by what we do alone, but WHO WE KNOW? I will be practicing more casual conversation. Thanks Ralph, you certainly have a way (gift) with words. Those icky leaches do latch on when i get too busy and neglect my 'BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD' time. :-)

  7. Heather Norman9:33 PM

    ahhhhh, SO refreshing- thank you for the reminder! damn the leeches, indeed!

  8. Dan Williams9:34 PM

    I don't think this song was written with true liberty in mind, but I would like to take it out of context: "You almost had your hooks in me didn't you dear (devil). You nearly had me roped and tied. Altar bound, hypnotized, Sweet freedom whispered in my ear: 'You're a butterfly. And butterflies are free to fly. Fly away!'" Elton John - Someone Saved My Life Tonight