Friday, September 12, 2008
Take It All Off, Honey Head
So, I wish that I were making this up, but I’m not. This is a true story. A young man was attacked by a grizzly bear while attending an outdoor leadership school’s expedition deep in bear country. Now these attacks are not that common, but they do happen on occasion. In this particular case, however, the young man wanted to make dreadlocks in his hair. He decided that it would be a good idea to rub honey in his hair instead of not brushing his hair for a really long time and committing to the long dreadlock making process. He took a short cut. I don’t think that I need to tell you this was a bad idea. I don’t even think that I need to explain any further, or even finish the story, because you are already smart enough to figure out the way that this account progresses. The bear attacked this guy's head in his sleep! He had honey on his head in bear country!
See, you are supposed to hang your food out of the reach of a bear as well as anything else that may attract a bear to your camp. You are also supposed to cook and eat far away from your campsite. In other words, you are not supposed to sleep with food, or rub it on your head, because you might endanger yourself or others with the increased probability of a bear attack! Now, I am trying not to dog this guy and I do not have anything against dreadlocks. There is, however, a right and a wrong way to go about attaining dreadlocks, just as there is a right and a wrong way to go about hanging your food, and eating and sleeping in the bear infested wilderness.
In an expedition in the backcountry there are many rules to follow to keep yourself and your group safe and sound from harm to get through to the end and to finish well. Another of these rules, besides not rubbing honey on your head, is dressing in layers. You have to change clothes a lot in the wilderness. It is icy cold at night and can be extremely hot during the day. Layers are the only way to go. In considering these layers, cotton is not an option; neither are a lot of other clothing choices that we may make in the front country. We must strip ourselves of these insufficient threads and trade them in for the right gear that we can put on to keep ourselves warm at night and cool and dry during the day. Proper clothing is essential for survival.
In the expedition of discipleship, following and learning from Christ, Paul gives this instruction to his readers in Colossians 3:3-14:
“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.
Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. ”
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 3:3-14
Two realities are clear in these passages. The first reality is sin, the old life or the old person we were before following Christ. Sin is stupid, much like putting honey on your head in bear country is stupid. The second reality that emerges from this passage is that we must take off our old layers, our old selves, our old ways of living, and our selfishness to make way for our proper “expedition clothing” when following Christ. We must put on the new self, the self that God intended us to be. We must put on love.
We should identify very easily with this young man who put honey on his head, I know that I do. Every time I go back to the old selfish way of living, doing everything that pleases me, and in my time, and whenever I feel like it, this begins stupid time for me and leads to destruction in my relationships, with myself, with others, and most importantly, it leads to destruction in my relationship with God. I know better than to go back to the way that I used to live, but I go back. I give the enemy a foothold. I put honey on my head in bear country. I am supposed to know better and you are supposed to know better.
We can change. We must change. We must change out of those filthy rags and slip into something more comfortable and fitting for our journey. We must strip away the old and put on the new. There is a new wardrobe for the expedition of following Christ, and we must put it on. We have to strip off the old insufficient layers of self and put on Christ. He has layers for us with His label on them to replace our old rags.
So, take it all off, honey head.
Shaving my head and changing my clothes,