A woman known to be her town’s “crazy cat lady” walks into the local pet store and makes a request of the owner.
“You want to buy a bird?” the man asked, shocked. “You have a lot of cats.”
“I know,” said the woman, “but the variety would be nice. A songbird, with a melody in its heart and lovely plumage. I really want a bird.”
“Birds fly. They don’t use a litter box. No ‘nine lives’ with a bird,” the pet shop owner shot back. “They demand attention.”
“Yes, yes,” the woman replied, “I know all that. A bird, please. How about that lovely yellow one.”
“The canary.” The owner gave a baleful look toward the bird on its perch nearby. He really liked that bird.
“It sings, right?”
The owner paused a moment, then he nodded.
A cage later and a few supplies, and the woman left with her bird.
Six weeks later, the woman was back in the store. And the owner could tell something was wrong. When he saw her pull out a paper bag and heard a faint peep, his heart sank.
The woman upended the bag on the pet shop counter and something yellow slid out.
The canary lay there, dazed. Two rubber bands wrapped around its wings and its barely there belly. Feathers were frayed and missing, and the pet shop owner noticed remnants of what might be masking tape on its beak. The bird had a distinct eye twitch and wheeze.
“Heavens!” the man cried. “What happened?”
“Well, for one,” the woman began, “it likes to sing at the crack of dawn and I’m not an early riser, so I had to deal with that. Then I let it out of the cage to exercise, and it got caught in the flypaper, so no more flying.”
She pointed to the rubber bands.
“It’s a terrible mouser and turns up its beak at my tuna,” she added. “Snotty little thing…as if the tuna I give my kitties is not good enough for it. A terrible playmate for them too.”
The pet shop owner could only stare, eyes traveling from the bedraggled bird to the woman.
“In summation, sir, I want my money back, because this is clearly not a cat.”
I think it is the scourge of our times that no one is grateful for what he or she has. This extends to how we are perceived by other people, sadly, as it seems also that no one is satisfied with us as we are either.
A spouse who now isn’t good-looking enough or as fit as society demands.
A worker who works differently or doesn’t fit within the culture.
A child with unusual skills or ideas that aren’t like ours.
A church member with a few character flaws and one of those “out there” spiritual gifts.
The truth is, everyone wants us to be something–or someone–else. Too many people have a personal ideal in their heads they want to apply universally, standards and restrictions that while reasonable for them might be totally unreasonable when applied to someone else. The world wants a cat, and yet you and I may be birds.
In short, many of us are forced into being someone we’re not.
Where this proves heartbreaking is when a Christian is not good enough for his or her church.
Every church has some legalistic conformity lurking within it. Doesn’t matter if you’re a Calvinist, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Evangelical Free, or whatever. Somewhere in your church is this idea that whomever it is that God has made you, that person you are is not good enough, not right enough, not conformed enough, or not gifted enough. You simply are not the person you should be.
And the only way to get out of that inadequacy is to ___________.
Now you can fill that blank with countless legalistic demands, but the fact remains: None of that is of God.
I can say that with some confidence because this is how God sees you (as written by the Apostle Paul):
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
If you are a born-again Christian, who began the work of making you to be the best you? God.
Who is currently doing that work in you? God.
Who is responsible for the timing of that work in your life? God.
So who on earth can say that the you you are right now is inadequate, not right, broken, unmanageable, incapable, lacking, ungifted, gifted wrongly, or any of a million other accusatory statements?
Actually, I’m wrong about that. There is one entity whose sole role is to go around telling you and me all those terrible things. Care to guess who? Hint: Think an entity Jesus vanquished utterly.
Tragically, people aren’t supposed to usurp the job of Satan, yet we do it all the time.
Now we would have to be optimistic fools to think that the world isn’t going to play accuser. The world’s in the grip of Satan.
But what excuses Christians to denigrate another Christian? When we act that way, aren’t we saying to God that He isn’t working so-and-so’s sanctification the right way? Aren’t we putting God on our timetable for His work in another’s life? Aren’t we simultaneously playing the role of both God and Satan? How totally messed up is that?
Folks, there’s wisdom in saying that God is working His way His way in the lives of every Christian on this planet. Sometimes we can help bolster that work when God asks us to, and sometimes He may ask us to be the voice of Truth in another’s life, but more often than not we give too much power to our efforts to remake people in our own image and not allow God the right to better them as He sees fit and in His timetable. We look at Philippians 1:6 and just blow it off, because deep down inside, we don’t believe it. We think we know better.
And that’s the oldest mistake in the Book.