Before darkness overtakes you

20 Apr

SMILING_DalmatianMy dad brought him home for us. A wriggly white puppy speckled with black spots. And equipped with sharp puppy teeth and huge paws. My brothers, sister, and I named him Pepper– for the spots he wore and for the energy that wound him up like my brother’s Wizzer.

Cute five pounds grew into strong 40 pounds while I wasn’t looking. Pepper’s body grew into his feet, but his internal discipline didn’t. He shredded everything his puppy teeth and flexing jaw muscles could handle—our toys, the blow-up wading pool, and Dad’s snowmobile seat.

The last offense put him on the list for deportation as soon as another home could be found. While he served his sentence in the garage, he grew crazier and plotted an endless array of techniques to escape when the side door opened.

His favorite (and easiest) attempts were when a 60-pound girl with knobby knees and long blonde-ish hair brought him dinner. I stood outside the wooden door picking at the peeling paint to work up courage and bravery becoming a Marine before turning the rusty knob. Pepper outgunned me. On his back legs he seemed to tower over my slight frame. Confined all day, his puppy-energy-expenditure did not come close to the needed quota. And his teeth. Oh, they were sharp! No wonder I stood there without opening the door.

More than a few times, he lunged at the door when he saw a crack of light and wrenched it free from my shaking hand, dog food raining down around my sneakers as his dish went flying. I screamed, then bolted, too. The game was on for Pepper. I was his terrified, and very unwilling, playmate.

He nipped at my ankles, and my legs pumped faster. More than once he knocked me down and puppy-played with his teeth on my thin skin. Several times he treed me in our little orchard, and I hurled apples down on him. Another game to him (who knew little green balls came from heaven?), and frantic self-preservation for me.

———-

Right after entering Jerusalem to cries of “Hosanna!” from the crowds, Jesus predicted his death on the cross. His heart was troubled even as he encouraged the crowd: “You will have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” (John 12:35)

The crowds still did not know Jesus was Messiah. You can almost hear Jesus pleading with them to understand while he is still among them – before evil came nipping at their heels even though his sacrifice would drive out the prince of this world. (John 12:31)

Again, with just his disciples this time, Jesus entreats them to believe he is the Son of God as he predicts one of them will betray him: “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.” (John 13:19) Yet again, his spirit was troubled.

As he comforts his disciples and prays for them, the mood of John’s Gospel changes. Tension and fear are replaced by Jesus’ deep love for his friends. Three times he encourages them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Instead we are to believe in him for gives divine peace and has overcome the world.

Jesus’ heart was troubled at what lay ahead beyond any crisis or despair we can imagine. (To begin to describe what he suffered would take several posts.) The urgency for his followers to believe who he is in John 12 and 13 melts into the love song of Chapters 14-17. Immediately following, Jesus is arrested, and everything he predicted unfolds – his arrest, crucifixion, and death; Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the disciples’ abandonment; and his resurrection as he conquered the grave and the prince of this world!

He still has influence, this prince of darkness. Unless you are a hermit without access to the news reports this past week, you have watched the evidence that darkness still has a foothold in this world. The horror at the Boston Marathon is not the end of what evil will do in this world. There will be more – much more. But we do not have to be terrorized like a little girl with a snarling Dalmatian snapping at her heels. Jesus took on trouble so we could have peace.

And peace, wrapped in light, shows up brilliantly against the darkness.

———-

Ready for Sunday

What he suffered for me is reason enough to worship him. That he did it because he loves me makes me love him back.

But it’s still hard to remember this in a way that translates to a practical overcoming attitude. How to remember his peace when faced with evil? I think being prepared is key. One way to prepare is to nurture the relationship by worshiping him. Another is by memorizing his Word. Both cause me to think about the eternal (instead of the temporal) aspects of the situation.

A good verse to memorize: “You, dear children,are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Thank God the people of Boston can breathe a little easier tonight. Praise him that even in the midst of horrendous evil he is greater.

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