Living in the Northwoods, there is a constant expectation that your day will, at some point, be rudely interrupted by a grotesque and hideous monster known formally as Ixodes Scapularis. In laymen’s terms, you may know them as ticks. My count this summer is seven, one being a deer tick (known for carrying Lyme disease) and one deciding to show up on the back of my neck at 11:37pm in the middle of my shower.
Gross gross gross gross gross.
A lot about life is gross. People can leave a sour taste in our mouths. Memories can disgust us and the news can make us want to throw up or run away. When the ticks of our days invade our carefully cultivated comfortable spaces, we are faced with the decision on how we’re going to handle them.
Conflict resolution, anyone?
I believe there are three ways to handle these things. The first way was so aptly and sadly demonstrated by an 8-year-old boy at the toy store yesterday. As I rang up his grandmother’s purchase, he began to whine and complain to her about wanting a toy that he already had. She was impatient; he was grabbing her arm; the whining increased to what I will call “scene-making” level. The tantrum had officially started.
That’s way No. 1: throw a fit. Whack out. Scream and throw things and yell and explode in an attempt to get rid of the problem and get life back on track the way you want it.
Secondly, we can do the opposite. We can run away, or, if that’s not possible, pretend it never happened. When the fight happens, the ugliness is revealed, the words are spat out, some folks’ initial reaction is to metaphorically plug their ears and say “la la la….not listening!” In Edith Wharton’s classic Age of Innocence, the plot centers around a young gentleman’s upcoming marriage in late-19th century New York. The upper-crust society thrives on rules, the chiefest being a strict avoidance policy of anything unpleasant. Newland Archer, the protagonist, is forced to grapple with this culture built upon embracing trivialities and ignoring confrontation, interruption, and problems.
But, what does Christ call us to do? How are we called to deal with life’s interruptions in a God-honoring way? I believe the answer lies in the Apostle James’s letter. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (1:2-3).
There we go. When the “ticks” invade, we are to face them with joy, because we are told the effect they will have on our spiritual lives! Strengthened faith. Endurance. Reliance on the Lord. It may be gross, it may be hard, it may be terrible. Your natural inclination is probably going to be to run away, freak out, or staple a smile to your broken visage, but as Christians we are called to something higher and better and more rewarding. We gain nothing if we revert back to the flesh; our faith can’t grow unless we obey and walk in a manner worthy of how we’ve been called. If we do not trust that God’s instructions are for our eternal benefit (and that he will guide and empower us through the Spirit to obey those instructions), help me understand how you expect to mature in your faith?
My Savior once said, “If you love me, obey my commands” (John 14:15). We are to fix our eyes on Christ and face life’s interruptions with joy, not only because God tells us to, but because we can know and anticipate the spiritual results of our trials! Who doesn’t want a more intimate relationship with our Lord? If it takes an ocean of ticks for me to know and love God more, bring it.