Friday, March 30, 2012

A glimpse of Spring....

    It's spring, which is not an unmixed blessing.  Flowers bring bees.  Warmer temps bring storms. "Longer" afternoons (courtesy of Daylight Savings Time) make it harder to get kiddos to bed at a reasonable hour on school nights  and every teacher knows that from here on out, teaching is going to be an uphill climb.
   Yet at the same time, there is something so right about spring... even with the ubiquitous yellow pollen that coats everything which isn't moving...  which this spring almost included me as I've been pretty sedentary:) at times. (Warning: don't sit in the outdoor swing too long ...)
   For us, spring means birds nesting in the carport.  So sweet!  We love to sneak out and take pics of the mother bird sitting on her nest.  Yet, these sweet visitors  also bring  bird blop, not to put too fine a point on it:)  And if you get too close to the nest, you can see "ruffled feathers" in action (even though it's our carport!)
  It also means a glimpse of greenery everywhere you go accompanied by these glorious spring flowers. I love Azaleas and Jonquils.  They seem to spring up over night and just seeing them makes nature's message to me soooo real: the hard, cold winter is gone once again! But then, the flowers are gone too,  almost as soon as they first appeared...
  And it also means a glimpse of the neighbors, people out mowing yards, kids playing, laughing and yelling.  Only... the lady down the road who doesn't maybe see so well anymore called the cops on the kids across the street because she thought they had a gun. And they did, but it was a toy one and so when 6 police cars surrounded the house, the parents were a little stunned. And then, because the parents didn't speak much English, all the neighbors got to see (or hear about) Mabel-dale's version of My Big Fat Spring Fest.  And it kind of made me wish that A) kids' guns didn't look so realistic (I told our son to NEVER walk down this street with his airsoft guns, especially past Ms. D's house) and B) that we didn't live in an area where people were so easily spooked by the sight of toy guns  and C) that we could all get along a little better.
   Speaking of which, there are some neighbors I haven't seen outside enjoying the springtime weather and I wondered why.  Today  I learned  that their marriage has imploded in a spectacular way and is already moving through the court system.  Coming from an extended family where divorce was the norm, this made me feel sad and I started praying for them.  What if I had tried to bond with them earlier, back when it was winter and visiting with the neighbors wasn't so easy?  Could we have helped them somehow???  Maybe even invited them to church... 
   At any rate, for them I'm guessing that spring has yet to arrive.
  And then this morning, I read something in my devotional that really caught my eye:
  "But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.   When the man saw that he couldn't get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob's hip out of joint.
  The man said, "Let me go; it's daybreak." 
  Jacob said, "I'm not letting you go 'til you bless me."
  The man said, "What's your name?"
  He answered, "Jacob."
  The man said, "But no longer..."
                                               (Taken from Genesis 32, The Message//Remix:Solo)

  According to the commentary here, the name "Jacob" means "manipulator".  I've heard other pastors say that Jacob meant "deceiver", "trickster", etc.  And according to the narrative in Genesis, Jacob lived up to his name - he was a tricky fellow, a deceiver of the first water.
   I thought about that. Can you imagine, when asked what your name is, having to respond with, "Manipulator"??  From first grade on, you have this label stuck to you and, even worse, it fits.  "Deceiver" - this is your name?!
   And yet here, a mysterious man, a divine appointee, wrestles with him and as the struggle intensifies throughout the long, solitary night, Jacob simply will not let go.  And then, as the night begins to wane and Jacob has to be exhausted from the lengthy fight, the mysterious man demands to be released which makes perfect sense to me - we've been at this all night, let me go.... I don't want to have to hurt you more than I have... Daylight is coming and you won't be allowed to look on my face...
    Even so,  Jacob still refuses to let go.
   And then the stranger asks a question. Which throws me for a loop...
   "What's your name?"
    God knows our name.
    This man, whoever he was, if he was in a position to bless Jacob and if he found him in the middle of nowhere without a  GPS, it seems to me that he  must have known Jacob's name.
    The problem was that Jacob didn't know his own name.
     When his opponent asked, Jacob answered as he had since he was old enough to talk, "Deceiver."
     My name is Deceiver....
     And the startling answer filtered back through the darkness,
     "No longer."
     "Your name is no longer Jacob.  From now on it's Israel..."
      This may sound weird, although hopefully no weirder than wrestling with a total stranger in the dead of night while exchanging personal info...  But today it dawned on me: my name, "Cathie," and all that it encompasses, my personality, my reputation, etc - all of that is probably not the name God knows me by.  And then I began to wonder what my new name might be!
      Just thinking about it gave me a divine lift, a feeling of springtime in my heart.
       Spring here on earth is a mixed bag; however,   there is another Spring coming.  In fact, it's already started.  It started at the cross and it's a springtime  bereft of all things not Him, filled with all things that are  Him - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness...
       What is your name?

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