This (frankly horrific) picture shows a bird in an oil slick desperately trying to get the oil out of its own feathers.
But of course, it can’t be done.
The bird needs outside help.Urgently.
In fact, the most appropriate verse perhaps is from Psalm 40: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”
But that’s only the beginning.
Once the bird is out of the oil slick, the work begins to get the oil slick out of the bird. And that takes time.
The picture came to mind this morning as I was reading this verse: “He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…” (2 Timothy 1:9)
I know that the word “saved” is bandied about rather freely, but when I look at the picture I see that it is the only possible word to choose. I am saved from the mud and the mire, lifted out of the oil slick and given a firm place to stand. A perch on the Rock, clear of all the clogging stuff that is killing me.
And he has “called us to a holy life.” Quite often we do a double-take at that point and think that it’s now all up to us to try harder to live a clean life.But the grace “given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” operates all the way through time -and Grace will lead us home! “He who has begun a good work in you will see it through to its final completion.
Sure I need to try harder. What’s wrong with that? It’s just that (like the bird in the picture) my best efforts are…uh…a little ineffectual.
The grace of God works through my good intentions, yes, but much more through the love of my family in Christ, trusted fathers and mothers who mentor me, take time with me,; with good friends who badger me and keep me sharp and encourage me; with beloved partners who stand with me no matter what…
And piece by piece, I find that God’s grace is renewing me, changing the very way I think and respond.
It’s a long process, to work that oil out of the birds feathers and flesh.
We tend to want instant results. We want microwaves and God offers us a slow-cooker.
But the result is assured. Look at Jude 24: “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”
He is able! He is able to keep me from stumbling about and falling back into my old ways! He is able to keep me and present me without fault!
And apparently that last word “great joy” can be translated “laughter”. I like that. Laughter and Grace in the presence of the King.