The following story is a bit of my husband's past as a missionary kid in South America, living at boarding school with all the other lost boys, er, young missionary kids:
The clay basketball court was hot, hot, hot in the afternoon. It lay baking in the equatorial sun, absorbing radiation that could be felt and seen as heat waves rising in the air.
A group of boys were walking in the grass and one of them disturbed a large iguana. The boys chased the iguana onto the basketball court. Quickly they surrounded the perimeter.
The iguana was getting burned. The boys laughed as its claws frantically scratched acrosss the court. The lizard tried to escape, hauling tail to the far side of the court. A boy ran to that spot and blocked his exit. In pain, the animal then ran in another direction only to be denied relief from the burning again as the bullies blocked its every attempt to escape.
I don't know how long they kept this up, or if the iguana was only tortured for a short time. My husband doesn't remember. He doesn't remember much at all from his childhood.
But I do know those hurting boys were acting out their rage and experiencing a cathartic release of repressed anger by tormenting the lizard.
The iguana certainly harbored no hostility against these boys. The lizard simply had the misfortune to catch their eye.
The hostility lay in the boys hearts long before and long after that moment of release, which I am sure brought only a momentary relief.
Jesus said many things about enemies. One verse in particular was used as a proof-text justifying the missionary lifestyle of the 1950s:
Matthew 10: 36-37
36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' 37"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
Verse 37 was the verse used to demand the true disciples abandon their children to religious day/night/weekend/months-upon-months-at-a-time care in order to pursue their noble careers as missionaries. I guess they didn't read down to verse 42 where the Lord says that meeting a child's needs in his name is an act truly worthy of reward. Ironic, no?
42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.
You want more irony? As Focus on the Family, home schooling and being a SAHM became the new Christian standard, my mother-in-law (yes the same one who sent her five and six year old little boys to full-time, twenty-four/seven, around-the-clock, ten-months at a stretch childcare!) confided how lucky she was that none of her daughters-in-law wanted to work outside the home.
She was the ultimate career woman, but because that career was religious then it was not only okay, it was proof of her commitment to Jesus?! But her daughters-in-law were considered good precisely because we didn't have a career outside the home? Confused yet?
The truth is whatever the Christian culture glorified as the most righteous, the most committed, the most spiritually earnest course of action, that was the one my mother-in-law wanted to be associated with. She chose her career path right after Jim Elliot's death, when all the truly committed seminary students were being urged to take up Jim's calling as their own. Going to become a Bible translator to Stone Age tribal peoples was what the most righteous, the most committed, the most spiritually earnest evangelicals would do.
Many, many seminary students responded to that manipulative calling. It was the QF/homeschool movement of its day. That's why there was a whole pack of angry, wounded little boys walking in the jungle that day.
Today the most righteous, the most committed, the most spiritually earnest evangelicals are the QF/patriocentric crowd. But some things never change. It is still the children who suffer.
The days of my husband's exile to boarding school are over. The pain and anger of abandonment are not. So if you read my blog, please say a prayer for my husband,that he would find true healing.
And if you are living your own life trying to please God by doing whatever the Christian culture glorifies as the most righteous, the most committed, the most spiritually earnest course of action today-
STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
All you need to know about pleasing God is found in Hebrews 11:6
6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Pretty simple: believe he exists, try to get to know Him. God speed on your journey, seeker! The iguana and I would like to ask you to keep it simple. Love God. Love people. Live loved.