The devil came chanting and dancing down the road, feet kicking up puffs of red African dust. Instead of the childhood variety that wears red pajamas and has a pointy tail, this one was covered head to toe in a mantle of long dead grass.
I was a rookie missionary with a lot of posture and hand sanitizer, but in spite of this still found myself intimidated by the blatant spirituality of West Africa. Exorcisms and curses were fine for Bible stories, but next to my North American sensibilities a working knowledge of these things had little room to grow.
So when this little devil came prancing towards my noble group, I wisely followed the leadership of the veteran missionary next to me, promptly locking myself in the jeep. (Another more intrepid soul engaged some of the villagers nearby in conversation.)
It’s a bit embarrassing to recall. My faithful supporters had sent their hard-earned dollars my way in the hopes of what? That I would run away at the first sign of a lost soul in an overgrown grass skirt? Ohhh, the shame.
I sometimes wonder who was dressed up that day. Was it someone I knew? Man? Woman? Young or old? I have no idea. But in Heaven’s eyes they were redeemable; in God’s image, beautiful.
And I ran.
There are things that even now I continue to hide from: things God wants me to see and experience. My pride and training buries these encounters under costumes of fear and ignorance. They are beautiful things, designed to bring me closer to the heart of God and further into His kingdom’s landscape of grace, but I run.
Scurrying out of the path of confession.
Away from repentance.
My church recently had a service where a wooden cross was erected. We were invited to write our darkest secrets on a sticky-note, get out of our seats and paste our souls to that cross. Some no doubt scribbled about their pasts, others put down the sins of the present.
I was simply overwhelmed. I know I was supposed to print the specifics of my dubious nature, but there wasn’t enough room. They only gave me a sticky-note, for goodness sake! What kind of a person do they take me for!? I needed a damn scroll.
So I sat there awhile doing business with God (that’s what they call it in charismatic circles: “doing business with God”), finally wrote down the only thing that made sense, and went for the long walk down to the altar.
What would you print today, if I gave you a sticky note? I invite you to actually write it down, and then find a creative way to dispose of it. If you have a fireplace, lay it down in the fire of God’s love for you. If you’re near the ocean, write it on a stick and let it float away on an unending tide of grace.
Just quit running.