Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Something Bit My Toe

 “The Yipiyuk” 
 by Shel Silverstein

In the swamplands long ago,
Where the weeds and mudglumps grow,
A Yipiyuk bit on my toe…
Exactly why I do not know.
I kicked and cried and hollered "Oh!"
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I whispered to him soft and low.
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
Yes, that was sixteen years ago,
And the Yipiyuk still won't let go.
The snow may fall, the winds may blow.
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
I drag him 'round each place I go,
And now my child at last you know
exactly why I walk so slow.

Eugene H. Peterson, (The Message, Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 1993, 1994, 1995) says, "Like the Yipiyuk, your sinful nature will resist letting go. For a while you may ignore it. Later you may insist it doesn't really have a hold on you. But if you hope to break its power, you must first realize it's there and admit you don't have the power to dislodge it." Like a parasitic monster from within or an addiction resistant to repeated attempts of self correction, the victim of the Yipiyuk must identify his affliction, then find means to correct it.

So like those bitten by the Yipiyuk, people who suffer from life-threatening behaviors and wish to experience God's grace and healing hands, must first recognize their needs.

To recognize a need, people must understand that it does exist and that it is a part of their requirements for a normal life. Physiological needs such as food, water, sleep and sex are relatively obvious and represent simple functions of the body necessary for human existence.

After physiological needs are met, needs of safety and love dominate behavior. These needs have to do with people's yearning for a predictable, orderly world in which the frequency of unfairness and inconsistency are under control; the establishment of the familiar as frequent and the unfamiliar as rare; and a sense of belonging in emotionally based relationships such as friendship, intimacy, and family. (Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality, Harper and Row,  New York, 1954)

Lastly, the needs of esteem represent the normal human desires to be accepted and valued by others. For example, people need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give them a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued. At last, people may feel self-actualization as they desire to become more and more of what they are capable of being. In meeting needs of self-actualization, people find their full potential and even reach that satisfying level of potential. (Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality, Harper and Row,  New York, 1954)

As people explore their levels of needs and find their particular toe-crunching Yipiyuks, they pinpoint their source of problems and seek help to eliminate their afflictions. From physical concerns to matters of esteem, the problem may be lurking and causing pain until found. Upon discovery, people rely upon professionals, friends, self-improvement, and God to remove their unsightly cancers and heal them as good as new.

Yet, what if people cure their afflictions but remain out there in the "swamplands" and more Yipiyuks are poised to nip at their bare toes? And what, oh Heaven forbid, if scads of Yipiyuks are headed their way?

Peterson says, he frequently talks with new Christians who think that becoming followers of Christ means sins such as lust are solved. Peterson says, "It's as though they think Jesus waved some sort of magic wand over them and-presto!—their sinful nature was transformed. Their lust was gone." (The Message, Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 1993, 1994, 1995) Yet, when they discover that their problem with lust seems even worse than before, they decide they'll study the Bible and pray more. Much to their surprise, that doesn't seem to solve the problem, either.

Peterson insists that people may grow as Christians, and they may become more like Christ in their spiritual nature. But in the flesh, in their sinful nature, they're no better than the day they trusted Christ. And because their lust is driven by sin, they can't reform it. Sin confronts the Christian in many forms each day because the violation of moral rules is so prevalent in our society. In simple terms, sin exists and flourishes generation after generation without complete reformation. These sins may affect the body, the mind, or the soul of people.

As sinful human beings, people's lustful, greedy appetites are so evil, they'll use God's good commands to tempt them, so, in a manner of speaking, God's law excites lust and greed. Almost everyone feels forbidden things are more exciting. For example, women who are off-limits take on a greater appeal to many men. God says "don't" and men's lust says "do." Conversely, God says "do" and men's lust says "don't." The physical attraction is met by opposition of moral reasoning. The lust for money is yet another uncontrollable temptation for many.

Then, facing sin itself, is part of being human, and, in the end, people are also responsible for their own sins. They come to God knowing that they need forgiveness, and in the Gospel many experience the good news that God has chosen to repair their brokenness, no matter what the sin.

People are and will remain sinners; still, in repentance they discover God’s forgiveness already reaching out to them even before their confessions come to their lips. (The Book of Concord, The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, 2000; and Bernhard Lohse, Martin Luther’s Theology, Fortress Press, 1999.) Pray for those who help others with their faith in God and with their own God-given talents and concerns. May the Yipiyuks never plague our collective toes.

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