Second Chances, Kicking and Screaming – Luke 13:1-9
One of my favorite cartoons has been around for years. You have probably seen a version of it. It’s an extension of the idea found in the inspirational poem, “Footprints.” In it, God is talking with a person with tear-stained cheeks, looking back on that person’s life as though their life’s journey consists of a series of impressions in the sand.
God points out, “My beloved child—I am always with you. See those two sets of footprints? That’s where you and I walked side-by-side.”
“Yes, God,” says the human, “but what about over there, where there’s only one set of footprints?”
God answers, “My child, there’s only one set of footprints there, because that’s where I carried you.”
In the cartoon, the person is relieved and brightens. Nice, right? But in the cartoon, the third panel, God continues, “And that deep pair of grooves over there? THAT’s where I dragged you, my child, kicking and screaming.”
Lent is that time of the year when we are invited to examine the “kicking and screaming” part of our lives, where we are reminded that sometimes we’ve fallen, and we can’t get up, so to speak. Yet, in the Christian Lenten understanding, we don’t depend on Life Alert but—thanks be to God—on God’s grace, on God never ever giving up on us.
The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree which we will hear this coming Sunday reminds us of the certainty of that abiding patience and protection that is an intrinsic part of God’s nature. While others might see our failures, pettiness, and flaws, God sees our potential.
And, O Lord, do we need that. Many of us are exhausted from two years of pandemic, and now a horrifying assault on a peaceful country on top of that. For some of us, that weariness has deepened into actual despair. We feel like giving up. We want “all this” to be over. God never gives up on us. When we are spiritually as crispy, prickly, and dessicated as a Joshua Tree, when we haven’t borne fruit for the last weeks or months or even years, nonetheless God is that patient gardener who sees the potential of our spirits for bearing fruit that could nourish a neighborhood. We may be prone to giving up on others and even ourselves, and be all too prone to “cutting our losses” and giving up, just like the owner of that fig tree.
But God not just insists on offering us the best soil and tender loving care in order to bring us back to a life of abundance. God insists that even if we haven’t been able to dredge up the ability to work on ourselves, God is willing to take the initiative. From the barest, driest branch a bud will form with the promise of new life. Even when we are certain we are alone, or worse, have been abandoned, God is right there alongside us. God is the God of second chances, even at times if we only go kicking and screaming.
Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts prayers, meditations, and sermons at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.