My husband and I have this saying, “Act like a duck”. This means that when the stuff of life gets slung in your direction, you let it roll off your back just like water on a duck. We say this a lot.
See, there are some things that I encounter which I deal with so well, but other times the least provocation and I am like a mama bear. It reminds me that the walls of this temple are still just the flesh.
I was reading Mark 7:14-23, NRSV,
14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
In these verses, Jesus tells me that what is outside of me has no power except the power that I give it. It cannot defile me. It cannot bring me to avarice, wickedness, envy, pride or folly. These things exist because I have absorbed them into my heart.
Just by the sheer fact that my husband and I use the duck phrase shows that we believe we have a choice. I can take responsibility for myself. I can choose in any moment how I will react to the outside. I can shed it, or I can absorb it.
For every event, or outside stimulus, there are two roads. When my dogs walk on the floor that I am mopping, I can threaten to make them survive on the streets or I can call them to me, rationally. We see it everywhere. Go to Target and watch people with their children. In an instant I see parents belittle their kids, robbing them of dignity, and not teaching them anything in the process. We have choices.
The difference between the roads is the sin that we choose, and have chosen, to hold on to. There are some things that, when said, sound different than others. They raise our blood pressure and make us uncharacteristically unsettled. Instead of deflecting these comments, letting them roll right off our back, we catch them, hold them, stroke them, and watch them. Alone, they have no power, but tended they become part of our hearts.
Today, in My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes,
“The temper of mind is tremendous in its effects, it is the enemy that penetrates right into the soul sand distracts the mind from God. There are certain tempers of mind in which we never dare indulge; if we do, we find they have distracted us from faith in God, and until we get back to the quiet mood before God, our faith in Him is nil, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is the thing that rules.”
When we see the outside moving in our direction, we need to pause. We need to recognize that this one might distract us. It might unsettle us, instill confidence in the flesh and temporarily remove complete faith in Him. These are the things that should look like water to us. When they come our way we need to remember that the Holy Spirit has built us like a duck. We are perfectly capable of shedding these words and events. We are able to take responsibility for our reactions.
Good luck acting like a duck!
Is there some situation, however small, that always seems to make it to your heart?
Father, thank you for giving us all the tools that we need to take responsibility for what comes out of our hearts. Continue to show us areas that need to be shed. Teach us how to act like a duck going into the stress of the holidays.