help

Lap 15 complete – finally I have earned some air. I come up to stand gasping next to the wall, and immediately confront a medium-sized frog, not a foot away from my face.

Instinctively, I am horrified. I imagine myself reaching forward to pull more water behind me, only to grasp a handful of frog. I think about crossing myself in gratitude that this did not happen while I was cardio-ing.

Then I think to be surprised that this frog is a) here and b) alive. Don’t amphibians absorb things through their skin? This pool is saline. I don’t think frogs prefer to ingest saline.

But I believe I would rather find a frog in the pool than find a dead frog in the pool, and I think about putting it out on the side, ending its futile scramble up the wet tile. Then I recoil; frogs, you can feel all their guts and muscles through their skin and they poke you with their pointy toes. I am almost done here. Someone else can find a dead frog in the pool. This saline-soaked amphibian is insignificant compared to humans’ larger impact on the environment, says a comfortingly rational voice. I turn away from the wall for a cool-down lap, but I am halted by some other pesky but suddenly very loud voice in my head: it’s going to die because you’re afraid to touch it?

I look at the frog. I summon all the love I can muster for the frog (which is really too big to be all that cute) and I find the courage to pluck his or her fleshy midsection out of the water, onto the side of the pool. Goodbye, frog.

I finish my swim and start walking home but that question stays with me, and I am ashamed that I could have left that frog to slowly die of salt and exhaustion. I knew it wouldn’t hurt me; why did I almost not do something so small? I was so quick to prioritize my [clearly irrational] fear over life, one small and barely-there life, but a life nonetheless. No reason, really – I just wanted what I wanted, which was to shun responsibility for something slimy.

And still that question stayed with me, and I feel compelled to keep asking myself, asking you: is someone dying because you’re afraid to touch them? 

Maybe that person is the extremely depressed or socially irritating lady at work or church. Those people are important and you may be supposed to take care of them. But what I’m really talking about is the very poor around us, the dirty, those living on government checks you don’t approve of. Some say it is evolutionary, I believe it is certainly instinctive; at first sight we can’t help but fear those who are different from us. And we defend ourselves with automatic judgment of those who don’t meet our standards of cleanliness, ambition, or morality.

Or maybe you’re waiting for “a call”, maybe your faith depends on signs and wonders and trust me, I’ve been there too, but don’t you see how clear your call is already ringing through Genesis, Deuteronomy, Ruth, Isaiah, Amos, Joel, the epistle from James and for heaven’s sake, the Gospels? Just do it, will trembling hands to touch the leper; let justice roll down and love will cast out fear – that is a promise of God.

It has been said before, but I will say it again. Justice is not a fad, to be followed or rejected at will. It is a command of God to his holy people and in the end, the obedient will not tell you that they have not been blessedBut they very well may tell you that they are tired, lonely, frustrated, because the workers are so few. Some tire of “the social justice spiel”, but as long as any in the church do not participate with Christ in God’s vision for shalom on this earth, I will not stop praying with God and pleading with people –
May the lazy and the promiscuous find grace for their hearts before condemnation of their sin;
May the fatherless find adoption before neglect;
May the dirty find a hug before disdain;
May the hopeless find understanding before false cheer;
May the drowning find salvation before exhaustion.

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