Monday, August 23, 2010

On Becoming a Jolly Beggar.

The very first year that I was a Brownie Girl Scout, my mama and daddy bought 50 boxes of cookies. Good thing those cookies really do freeze well or else I would have weighed 95 pounds as a 2nd grader. Why did they buy 50 boxes of cookies? Other than that it was simple from the accounting standpoint (50 boxes at $2 bucks each = 1 Benjamin) and my mama can put away Samoas like a 300 pound man (Hi, Mom!), I needed to sell a certain number of boxes in order to get the patch for cookie sales that year. Believe me, it was critical. Not having a "Cookie Sales 1986" patch on my Brownie sash was like being marked with the scarlet letter in a Puritan village in 1846. What a great example of the ridiculous things loving parents do for their children. Back to a modified version of my original question: Why did my parents buy 50 boxes of cookies so that I would get that coveted cookie patch? Simple: I didn't want to ask anyone to help me. In my simple 6-year old mind, perhaps I thought that somehow I would be able to do it on my own, but my parents knew better. They let me do it my way and when it didn't work, they were right there to my rescue.

Fast forward a few years. Specifically to a couple of weeks ago when a friend and I were at Panera catching up over coffee discussing love, life, and other mysteries. When I got to the end of my update, she sat there with tears in her eyes and said "I have no idea what to say to you. Usually I'm the one telling you about my life and when I get to the end, you tell me what I need to do next or how to fix it." Yep. That's me. The thinker. The fixer. The doer. The girl who can step back from a situation, assess it, and make it right. Even keel, clear thinking, and in control with everything in order. And if you're wondering, as a matter of fact, I do take my humble pie a la' mode.

I think that Kelly Clarkson's song "Miss Independent" was written about me. [Her follow-up hit "Miss Egocentric" might have been about me as well.] As with most personality traits, my independence can be both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because I can change a headlight, check my oil, and put air in my tires just as well as someone with the Y-chromosome. It's a curse because admitting that I need help with something or can't do something myself is as painful as it might be to floss my teeth with fishing line.

It really isn't hard to see where this is going now is it? Just like my 6-year old self, my 30ish-year old self loves to do things my way. On my own.

Do y'all remember the game "King of the Mountain"? Well, let's just say that a few months ago I was dethroned. For the first time in my adult life I was left without a plan. Not having a plan rendered me incapable of making even simple decisions. I would forget even the most basic things. One day I forgot part of my outfit...We'll leave it at that. I was a mess. And I hated every single minute of it. Sleeping? Couldn't do it. Eating? Couldn't do it. And those are two hobbies that I enjoy the most.

My hands were tied. I had been cruising down life's highway just fine going my own way and suddenly that way wasn't good enough anymore. I had encountered a road block of epic proportions with no signal on the GPS. So what did I do? I asked for help. I prayed for sleep and for my appetite to return. I was brought to the point of complete and total dependence for even the simple stuff. It was uncomfortable. I was kicking and screaming the whole way (figuratively speaking, of mama and daddy might have bought 50 boxes of cookies, but they would not stand for a child who threw tantrums), but God was faithful in even those simple things. Now, the fuller my tummy gets, the heavier my eyelids become. Finally, I realized that it would be much easier if I just surrendered my way and decided to go with God's way. So I cried Mercy and who was right there to my rescue? My Heavenly Father.

Recently I just finished reading [again] Philip Yancey's "What's So Amazing About Grace?" I could write from now until tomorrow about all of the goodness to found between the cover of this book, but it's the last chapter that I especially like for the purpose of this post. In it, Yancey discusses Simone Weil's conclusion that two great forces rule the universe: gravity and grace. Gravity leads us to believe that we can make it on our own and it is grace that corrects that belief. As in, when we are knocked down off of our high horse, maybe it's a good thing. CS Lewis said that "grace substitutes a full, childlike and delightful acceptance of our need, a joy in total dependence. We become 'jolly beggars'."

What?!? A beggar? And one who is jolly? Impossible. That was my first thought. I've never seen a panhandler after a Braves game with a smile on his face. But it's the source of dependency that determines if we are jolly beggars or beggars chained down in bondage. God loves it when we depend completely on him. When we come to him broken to bits with cracked little hearts, it's those cracks that are filled with grace. When we accept that we are weak and He is strong (hello...we all sang the song in VBS), that is when we will grow. I've got a lot of growing to do. And not the kind that results from eating Girl Scout cookies.

No comments: