Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jelly Island

A few weeks ago I had to take our puppy Allie to the vet. I am still undergoing indoctrination into all things doggie, and I suppose this was a necessary next step in the process. You may recall from previous posts that I have not traditionally been a pet person. Not that I dislike animals or anything, but rather that I simply prefer to enjoy them on either the Discovery Channel or the end of a fork.

Mostly my frustration with animals is that they tend to take far more than they give. Now, if they could do a few dishes or clean a bathroom once in a while, then my view of pets might be radically different. But so far, we have had a hard enough time training Allie to do…well, just to doo somewhere besides on the rug in front of the TV.

Those of you who are animal lovers are, I’m sure, protesting by this time, declaring, “But pets are wonderful because they love you unconditionally.” Which is true, if by unconditionally you mean providing that you feed them and rub their bellies for hours on end. If that is what you mean by unconditional love, then yes, they do that.

Anyway, my trip to the vet got off to a difficult start as Allie seemed to innately know what was about to happen because usually she comes right away when I call her. But when I tried to put her in the car, she began running around in circles, not circles big enough to make it impossible for me to catch her mind you, but rather small little circles that seemed to accentuate the fact that it was Allie and not me that was firmly in control. Our neighbor’s workers stood and watched in delight as this racoon sized dog eluded my capture and occasionally stopped long enough to mock me and let me catch my breath, in between my hysterically shouting, “Allie. Allie. Come–here, Allie. Allie Come. Come. Allie. Allie. Allie. ALLIE!!!!! UGGGGGH.”

By the time we reached the vet, I was completely worn out and my self confidence had been greatly shaken. Its amazing how much self–confidence we derive from what we can (or, in this case can’t) do.

The receptionist at the vet’s office took my information, name address and phone number as well as Allie’s name, and made us an official file and we were taken right in. When the vet grabbed the thermometer, I immediately began looking for some reading material as I had no desire to see where she was going to put it. The only reading material nearby was the file that the receptionist had made and so I quickly grabbed it and began scanning the information.

Sometimes, people (like dogs) don’t always hear what we say and I chuckled out loud as I read the name on the file.

It read: Mr. Jelly Island.

You know, Jelly Island, that wonderful little fairy–tale place right next to Peanut Butter Bay, where the Doughnut Dolphins can be seen jumping in unison alongside the Gravy Boats as they head out to the Syrup Sea. Tra–la–la–la–la. Yeah for Jelly Island!

On the whole, the day thrust me into a major identity crisis as though the headline of my life suddenly became, “Gelatinous Land Mass Man Outwitted by 1lb. Dog.”

This week we just finished a seminary class on the History of Christian Missions. And one thing that I am reminded of as we have studied the spread of Christianity from the Middle East to Africa, to Europe, to Asia and eventually on to America is that the Gospel when properly understood, never robs a people of their identity, but rather it reveals it.

And I have noticed a tendency in myself to look for my identity in so many things, in my meager accomplishments, in education, in writing, or yes (sadly), even in really dumb things like clothes or gadgets. It seems my whole being constantly is crying out and asking, “Who am I?” And yet, any answer to that question that is not rooted in Christ leaves me in sorry state of affairs. Because when my identity comes in what I do, or what I wear, when it comes in things so fragile that you can wake up one day and find them simply gone, then the chief characteristic of your life becomes an endless desperation to cling to what perhaps you never really had to begin with.

And this is the trouble with postmodern thought. If there are no absolutes (which is preposterous – because then that statement itself could not be absolutely true!), then there is nothing other than the temporal and absurd to which we can cling, to which we can turn for life and hope.

Consider the words of the apostle Paul, who said, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” (Gal. 2:20). As I meditate on that, and on what a profound sense Paul seemed to have of his life being “hidden in Christ” (Col. 3:3), I am reminded that what Christ offers us in our identifying with him in his death, is in reality the supreme entrance into the abundant life he has promised us.

And apart from that, we, and those without the gospel, will forever be mere Jelly Islands.

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