Several years ago, actually 12, the movie “UP” was released by Pixar. The entertaining story about an old man, a talking dog and a little stowaway boy, all floating around in a house tied to hundreds of balloons, takes you on an adventure filled with childlike wonder… sort of like life. One of the more comical elements of the story is the dog, aptly named DUG, who wears a special collar that allows him to speak. However, DUG is often distracted by squirrels. We find him in mid-sentence when he will notice a squirrel, stop, gaze intently at the it and simply say, “Squirrel!” The comedic element makes it easy to see ourselves in DUG… easily distracted.
These past few years has presented us with many distractions. The distractions of a global pandemic (and yes, we did have one), political angst (and yes it will happen again), racial divide (and yes, we do have a problem), war (and yes, its ugly), income disparity (and yes, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer), persecution of Christians (yes, it is happening) and more, are obvious. I find that the proliferation of information, content and choices doesn’t help either. Sometimes I have a case of “paralysis by analysis.” However, other times I am overwhelmed by the needs of the people that I know and love. The postings on social media of someone’s pain, the prayer requests and prayer lists and the suggested pod casts, videos and books are all well intentioned, but overwhelming for me. I want to help, but I am limited, yet carry the weight. Our distractions can be good, they can also be not so good, and some can actually be destructive. Sometimes they are expected and most of the time unexpected. Many of my distractions are self-induced, but many are imposed upon me. However, which of these distractions has God placed into my life because He is asking something of me? I chuckle remembering the scene from the 2003 movie “Bruce Almighty” where the character Bruce Nolan, played by Jim Carrey, is trying to be God and finds himself overwhelmed by the yellow Post-It Note prayer requests. Help me Lord!
Meanwhile… God has a nice rhythm and seems to not be phased by any of these distractions. He is not surprised, has seen it before and, in fact, warned about it. He knows how we think and act (since He did make us), and He knows our limits. God knows me, and I think I know me, but I really don’t. Our limitations bring us to a place of humility, which in turn will often bring us to a place of less resistance to admit we actually don’t know a lot, are weak and limited. I remember going to meet my grandfather for lunch years ago. I had read a verse in the Bible that referenced end times. However, I was a bit confused about it (most end times stuff is confusing to me) and who better to ask then Billy Graham. During our hamburger lunch at the Marriott, I simply asked him my question. He looked up at me and humbly said, “I don’t know” and kept eating. I actually think that answer was the best one and the right one… and sort of funny. Henri Nouwen, in speaking about maturing as a Christian, makes the following statement: “Both theological reflection and spiritual formation require an articulate not-knowingness and a receptive emptiness through which God can be revealed.” In essence he is saying, the quicker we realize we don’t know much, empty ourselves and simply obey Him, the quicker we grow up as a Christ follower.
Events in the early church
My desire is to grow up and be in more intimacy with Christ, and yet I can easily find myself saying, “squirrel” and looking in that direction… and not all squirrels are bad. I was reading about the early church, and there is this scene that seems to have a lot of drama. Peter is imprisoned but then is miraculously rescued by an angel. However, James (John’s brother) does not have the same success. He is jailed and then killed. Herod, who is wreaking havoc on the early church, makes a speech one day. People are so awed by his speech they proclaim him god-like; therefore, Herod is full of himself. God has had enough and strikes Herod dead, in a gross way… eaten by worms. God doesn’t like when someone tries to take His place. I just imagined the conversations that the early Christians were having around their dinner tables (imagine if they had social media, 24-hour news and texts). Conversations around the news of Peter’s escape. Questions around why did God help Peter escape but not James. The disappointment for the family of James, who had hoped for the same outcome. Fear of Herod and his antics. Questions around God’s fairness, goodness and care. Suddenly (squirrel)… Breaking News (warning the images we are about to share are graphic in nature). Herod is found dead. Questions abound on what does that mean for the community? How will Rome react? Will the early church continue to be persecuted? How does this affect the economy? …Many squirrels to consider.
However, in the midst of the drama, there is this one statement that stands out. “Meanwhile, the Word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers.” I like that. Why? I guess squirrels have always been around, and it’s very easy to get caught up in what is happening all around us, especially when its sensational or bad. I am reminded that not much has changed about human nature in 2000 years, but God is the same and He is in control, and He sees all of this and stays faithful… Meanwhile, God loves you. Meanwhile, God provides for you. Meanwhile, God hears you. Meanwhile, God is at peace. Meanwhile, God teaches you. Meanwhile, the Son rises… Meanwhile, God…
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.
Read more articles by Stephan Tchividjian at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/stephan-tchividjian/