As I was sitting in church last Sunday morning and, while the pastor was reading from Revelation, I had an itch on my right shoulder blade.
I reached back there, but could not quite get to it.
Nonetheless it went away and, not wanting to fidget like a four year-old, I attempted to focus on what was being read.
Just a few seconds later, the itch came back.
And it was m-o-v-i-n-g.
I made another attempt, again in vain. My wife, sitting next to me as always, was now casting a raised eyebrow in my direction.
The itch crawled onto my right shoulder and I plunged my left hand up my right sleeve and pinned the offending critter under the fingernail of my ring finger.
Now, it’s spring, I live in an oak woods, I had been outside just before church, so there was no doubt that the vermin up my sleeve was that most disgusting, hated, and revolting of all insect pests—the wood tick.
Of course, an alarm was now sounding in my head that I was attracting far too much attention than is proper in church.
I withdrew my hand from my short sleeve as quickly as possible while simultaneously attempting to engage my thumb in a pincer move to capture, contain, dispatch, and ultimately dispose of the tiny arachnid. (That’s right, wood ticks are technically of the same family as spiders.)
The tick escaped my grasp and was now on the floor of church, probably (okay, maybe) mortally wounded. Worse, the carpet in the church is beige with little wood-tick brown flecks and I had forgotten my glasses. There was no hope of finding it, and certainly not without becoming even more obvious than I already was and creating a mass wood tick hysteria throughout the entire congregation.
My lovely wife knew exactly what was going on.
“Did you get it?” she whispered in her best panic-stricken horrified church whisper.
“It’s on the floor,” I said.
“Are you sure it’s not on me?”
“No, it didn’t get on you. I’m pretty sure.”
Now, at this moment, I am absolutely sure my kind, caring, Bible-believing, saintly wife who loves me far, far more than I deserve wanted to scream at the top of her lungs,
“PRETTY SURE? WHAT DO YOU MEAN PRETTY SURE!?!?!?!?”
But she did not.
She collected herself and directed her attention to the pastor’s reading like a mature Christian.
So, while the pastor was reading to the congregation about the city of gold and the gates made of pearls and Lamb of God providing light for the heavenly city so there is never any night, and no evil or vile thing ever entering its gates, my entire family was trying desperately not to believe there were wood ticks crawling all over us.
Much, much later, it occurred to me that the whole situation was typical of how the enemy of my soul operates.
Even though I have been adopted as His own child by the God of the entire universe who created me in His own image, who loves me with an everlasting and undying love, who took on human flesh and died to take away all my sin, who rose again and prepares a place for me in His own kingdom, even though I believe and know all that to be true, one tiny irritation can divert all my attention from His glory and cause me and others around me to focus our attention on something other than where it should be focused.
And even after that irritation is gone, we continue to worry and fret about what is in the here and now of this world when we are guaranteed perfection in paradise forever.
All of us are human and bound to have things like this come upon us. I cannot truthfully say that I will not react in a similar fashion if I find a wood tick on me next Sunday in church. But I can thank Him and praise Him and pray that I become more like Jesus each day.
And maybe, just maybe, someday I will have the peace and presence and calmness of mind to quietly excuse myself, walk serenely to the restroom, and deal with my little problem in a way that does not detract from others worship and praise.
Today’s PraiseRejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:4-8 NIV)