Wes Seeliger writes in One Inch from the Fence about an old alligator at the Houston Zoo. He nicknamed it “Scarface” because a fellow reptile had chewed a hunk out of his snout. The wound was covered with a grotesque mass of scar tissue that made this 18-foot long gator one of the ugliest most vicious-looking creatures he had ever seen. He tells about the day he and his son fed marshmallows to Scarface. Wire mesh was the only thing that separated them from jaws that could snap a horse’s leg like a twig. And the whole time his hand was just one inch from becoming Seeliger-burger!
But there was a fence! And that made all the difference in the world.
I love the title of our series on the book of James: the Gospel on the ground. And that’s where life is lived—on the ground; terra firma. But the terra is not always firma! Several times a week, if not every day, we feel the tremors of this adventure called life. Frustration with the kids’ schedules. Annoying neighbors. Unexpected car repairs, and water heaters that won’t heat. Too much month left at the end of the check. Tremors that sometimes cause us to lose our balance. Tremors that should remind us that the “big one” that can change the whole landscape of our lives is out there somewhere.
How do you get ready for that? What do you do when you find yourself being stared down by a “monster gator”—a temptation that dogs you, a health crisis, a terrible mess that you have made, an unpredictable world—just waiting to chew you up?
James has some powerful advice: remember the fence! That makes all the difference in the world.
God gives grace to the humble. So, submit yourselves to God. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up (see James 4:6-10 NIV). Peter echoes James, and then adds, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Submit to God. That goes against the grain of our independence, doesn’t it? But, submission to God is our fence. I’m not going to win against that gator. And God says that I don’t have to win—I don’t even have to fight, because the fence of His grace is there. I just have to give myself to it—submit to God.
And, someday, God will get me Home to a new heaven and a new earth where there are no gators and earthquakes. Until then, I will relish the adventure of living one inch from the fence!
This, as we prepare to gather again on Sunday October 15, listen to these songs and submit your heart to God.