From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay
Below is the next installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” articles about house painting and gardening and things like that. Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)
Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?
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I’m digging a ditch in my backyard. Thought that was blog-worthy…
Actually, it will eventually be a dry creek bed, a landscape feature that uses various shapes and sizes of rocks (which I’ve started amassing) to look like, well, a dry creek bed; one that, while currently dry, gives the appearance that, at the first drop of rain, could become a rushing torrent.
For now, though, it’s pretty much just a ditch.
If you saw my backyard you would probably think, “Didn’t you think adding some grass or a patio would provide a much better return on your investment than a ditch full of rocks?”
Yes – yes, I did. But I’m in ditch mode, so judge not.
As it turns out, digging and moving dirt by the shovelful is really good exercise. It’s also a good way to get a little sun and a good excuse to get incredibly filthy.
And to get bit by fire ants.
Fire ants – I gotta say, in the “I’m not sure we really needed these to be created” category, fire ants rank right up there with mosquitos. Of course, as God implies in Job 38:4…
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?”
…He doesn’t need my advice. But the absence of West Nile virus and little pus-filled blisters on your feet are two really good arguments against these two creatures of our God and King, should He ever ask.
So anyway, one day I’m digging away in my ditch dry creek bed, minding my own business in my flip-flops, my footwear of choice when doing yard work, when – zap! – a fire ant whose bite totally belied its small size decided to sample the soft spot between a couple of my toes. I did a little Riverdance jig trying to shake the little sucker off, and let loose a few heart-felt “ouches.” (Anything more than that and I would have been dangerously close to being condemned by my words on the Day of Judgment, according to Matthew 12:36-37.)
(Before you state the obvious, let me just say that no way am I going to put on socks and shoes when I’m working outside, other than when mowing the yard – who wants that kind of tan line? Having a flip-flop strap tan line is much cooler than having white feet from the ankles down. Looks like you been tap-dancing in baby powder.)
Throughout this whole DIY season at the Lizard Lounge I’ve continued to go toe-to-toe, so to speak, with the ants. Sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere. I can be crawling around pulling weeds when suddenly I’m in their midst. I feel like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput – I’m sure if they could find some ant-sized rope and stakes they would tie me down and bite me ‘til I cried.
And let me just tell you, the various home remedies for treating ant bites set forth on the World Wide Webs…? Not helpful:
- Fingernail polish (Right – I’ll just run down the street to “Tips and Toes” for a mani/pedi the next time I get bit. “Oh, and, by the way, can you dab a little of that Cranberry Capri on my bug bites?”)
- Worcestershire sauce (I think that would be like ringing the dinner bell at the ant picnic.)
- Taping a penny on the bite with Scotch tape (She: “A penny for your thoughts…?” He: “A fire ant just bit me and I’m thinking I’m gonna need some Scotch tape. Now fork over that penny.”)
- Preparation H (Just…no…)
Who comes up with this stuff? Think of the place where one normally applies Preparation H – who made the leap from that to bug bites? Maybe they thought the nauseating chemical smell would ward off future ant attacks. Were I an ant, it would certainly make me think twice before sinking my teeth into skin coated in it.
As annoying as ant attacks are, however, I’m sure if some big galoot were to run a shovel through the middle of my house just to make a ditch full of rocks, I’d bite him between the toes, too.
So, basically, the same One who saw fit to create these little foul-tempered, hypodermic needles on six legs also gave them their aggressive nature.
Not surprisingly, He gave us our nature, too. Important to note, however: the nature we currently have is not the one we were originally given. We were originally created with a nature like His, a nature that He pronounced (along with the rest of creation) as “very good.” (Genesis 1:31 NIV)
But something happened. Our original parents decided they wanted to have what they weren’t created to have – independence from their creator. So, like those ants, they bit something – not a toe, but the hand that fed them; the hand that created them to be perfect…and loved them…and gave them life.
And they got exactly what they wanted – but at a price. That “very good” nature was gone. In fact, a few hundred years later things had only gotten worse. Genesis 6:5 (NIV) tells us that God…
“…saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”
(“All evil, all the time.” Sounds like the slogan for a pay cable channel…)
Jesus was still talking about that nature a few thousand years later. Matthew 15:19 (NIV) records Him as saying:
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
“That doesn’t describe me,” I hear you saying. Not to argue, but the Bible would seem to disagree:
There is no one who does good, not even one. Psalm 14:3 NIV
Actually, there was One – the One Matthew quoted above – One to whom that description of our sinful nature didn’t apply, but One who didn’t hesitate to take responsibility for it and our place on the cross to save us from ourselves and our desire for independence from Him.
Jesus’ death in our place on the cross was the most powerful act in all of history, amplified by the staggering number of people He died for and our collective sinful natures. Not surprisingly, the result of an act of that magnitude is the power to transform lives…
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation… 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
Put off your old self…and…put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22, 24 NIV)
The old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
Exclamation point for emphasis!
So the good news is that we’re not stuck with our inherited-from-Adam nature and whatever ways it tends to manifest itself in each of us. By becoming a new creation we also get a new nature. Just note that we can’t do that alone – no matter how determined, how good-intentioned, how disciplined we are, the only way our inherited-from-Adam nature can change is by the transformative power of God’s Holy Spirit moving in when our selfish, independent, prideful nature moves out (or at least moves over).
For me, my new nature keeps me from saying anything worse than “ouch” when the ants and I square off over the battle for the backyard. For you, that could be something totally different. (Hopefully, it doesn’t involve ants.)
If you haven’t experienced that new nature or if you’re tired – tired of running, tired of going it on your own, tired of searching for something better but always coming up with nothing but a ditch full of rocks – then I’m here to tell you that Jesus is who you’re looking for. And in case you’re thinking that there’s no way He would do that for you, don’t you fret – He knows exactly who He died for…
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV
So while it’s impossible for the fire ants in my backyard to change their “bite now; ask questions later” nature, the same can’t be said for those of us created in God’s image. Remember that exclamation point:
The old has gone, the new has come!
Now grab a shovel and some Preparation H and let’s go dig a ditch.