Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Meet Mr. Weasel

This is a long-tailed weasel (mustela frenata). According to the most convenient online dictionary there are two definitions:
  1. Any of various carnivorous mammals of the genus Mustela, having a long slender body, a long tail, short legs, and brownish fur that in many species turns white in winter.
  2. A person regarded as sneaky or treacherous.
I'm no naturalist, but perhaps the weasel gets his well-known reputation for skullduggery from his habit of stealing and eating eggs of other animals. Their name "Mustela" means 'one who carries off mice,' and the weasel is known as a fierce fighter who will attack animals many times its size, fighting ferociously. But when we say to someone "you little weasel" we are not giving out a compliment. 

Which brings me to Jacob. (His story picks up in Genesis 25-35) Maybe you've heard of him by his more famous name "Israel." That's a great, godly name that means "one that prevails with God."  But Jacob was his given name, something that meant "supplanter," "one who grabs by the heel." Literally, it was a reference to his birth as a twin, grabbing on to his brother's leg for a boost out of the womb. But apparently this kid lived up to his name, managing to swindle his own (older) brother out of his birthright.  He disguises himself with a clever "arm wig" to fool his dad into blessing him, and with his mother's help executed to perfection his plan to steal the family "nest egg." Liar, cheat, manipulator, Weasel...That's our man Jacob.

See this is the thing I love about the Hebrew Bible. The characters there are wildly authentic. You can't make this stuff up--it feels too real. Too close for comfort, in fact, because when I watch Mr. Weasel closely, I confess I see myself. Take for instance this week. I am playing the game of LIFE with my kids, a Christmas present to the fam. My son (Lil' Weasel) has a recurring habit of cheating at games, which he sharpened to perfection through a series of bank "withdrawals" convenient "spins" of the dial that just happened to land him on "Collect $500,000" spaces. You know the drill. So in my best fatherly tones, I lectured him on the dangers and evils of cheating. Then about two thirds of the way through the game, I spin a "three" which should have landed me on a "Pay $20,000" spot, but noticing that my kids are distracted I stop at "two" which was a "Collect $200,000" spot. Isn't that convenient? I shocked myself by continuing on as if nothing had happened. 

A momentary lapse? A silly child's game? I think not. I'm no naturalist, but I can spot a long-tailed weasel when I see him. I have this distressing tendency to skulk through life looking for the eggs left lying in a convenient spot, and well trained in the artifices necessary to give those eggs a new home. All my religious devotion can't mask that weasel musk. And when I read more of Jacob's story, I recognize how Mr. Weasel relates to his creator. 

0 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

Jacob in the famous "Jacob's Ladder" scene realizes that the God of his father Abraham and Isaac is near him. He didn't realize it. He's a little spooked at first, but then he thinks, "Hey, maybe there's something in this for me." So he starts negotiations with Almighty God, to get him on Team Jacob. "Look, IF you will be with me, look after me, give me what I need, then I will cut you in on 10% of the action. Sign here, and here, and here."  Awfully nice of Jacob to cut God in on his life. 

I feel that way--immature faith, self centered deals with God for my aims, my goals, my "eggs." Mr. Weasel, signing God onto the journey as a guide and go-to guy. Immature faith, better than nothing, I suppose. But in need of growth for sure. 

How does your faith grow? Do you find yourself making deals with God? Cheating children? (ok, that's probably just me) Are you in touch with your inner weasel?



J.R. Peaks said...

Dr. Kidd, thank you for your brutal honesty. It's one thing that weasels are known for - their brazenness. They just go for it. I know we have talked about the "inner weasel" before, and I must confess that I know him very well.

This weaseling or striving (for those who can't hug the inner weasel) really is not all bad. Maybe I am wrong, and I say you may correct me on this one if I am.

But I began to recognizing my weaseling, I begin to see things amidst my weaseling that really just need to be redeemed. Let's notice some of these things.

First, this is not an excuse to be a weasel, but maybe merely a different perspective that might shed light on what has to happen for good to come from a weasel.

The first thing I note is that Jacob is a grabber. Albeit there is selfishness amongst this idea, there is also the spongey side of it. Some people are not easily satisfied. C.S. Lewis once said that people are the converse when it comes to satisfaction. Jacob always wanted more, which can be good, unless it's out of control. Maybe the weasel can use this to bring himself back to the Lord always being his satisfaction (Ps. 107.9).

Secondly, Jacob is a smart guy. He is not an idiot, he is inventive, creative, and definitely excellent with his words. He knows how to get things done in unique ways. He doesn't even get caught most of the time until it is way after the fact. This scheming again could totally be something that would advance both the kingdom of God and the weasel's life if redeemed.

Thirdly, Jacob is a hard worker. Albeit that he uses everything to his advantage, but no one can say that is work ethic is crappy. He gets what he says he will get and his is an accomplisher. Again, another great trait just needing an adjustment here or there.

These three thoughts are the main things that I can see in his life that are not all bad. (although through 2 months of down time God revealed all of my Jacobic tendencies besides these three). Let's just look at one more thing. He totally does want what God has promised for him. This is seen because he obviously is pursuing the prophecy of his life before he was born. The problem was that he wanted to do it his way, his time, his style. I love that God says, let's "arm wrestle" for the bragging rights on how this is going to happen.

Of course God won, but think about this. Jacob wrestled for a long time. His tenacity and his audacity is for the greater good. Did Jacob ever cease in these ways, not really, but he did get a name change. This name change is not just the cool thing to do, but rather it denotes a change in his identity.

I love that God changes his name to Israel. I once read in one commentary that translated Israel as meaning, "One who strives with God." I love that wonderful preposition that strikes me in a powerful way. It is okay to strive, but what is the source of your strive? Is it you? Or is it God. Jacob, the weasel totally was called the one who is satisfied, who is intelligently creative, who is works hard, and the one who wants God's promises - but all this is done with God.

Therein is faith. Faith is the coming alongside of the preexisting will of God both in agreement and in support of God's ways, realizing both the momentary and futuristic purposes of God are conferred in, through, and by that alignment or to say it like i said earlier, with the "withness" of God in these abilities.

I am a weasel. I know this way well, but I am asking God for his "Withness" moreso in my life, so I can be a Israel and not just a Jacob. Now I want God to make deals with me and not me make deals with him. It's so much harder to do things the Jacob way.

In the words of an amazing worship leader, "Does your striving make you strong?" I would say yes, but only in your trust of yourself, which will always fail.
That one verse should say, "Some trust in horses, some in weasels..." Loving trust is the key to unlocking Israel from within Jacob. Praying for more of that in my life. I need it.

Anonymous said...

I have two thoughts: one on how I am a weasel, and another on the difference between godly and ungodly striving.

First on my weaselness. I am especially weasel-ish when it comes to dating vs. singleness. I grew up in a non-Christian home, and during high school my mom encouraged me not to date anyone seriously but to date lots of people so I could figure out what type of guy I liked. So I went from relationship to relationship, never taking it all that seriously. There were many times when I vowed to stay single for several months, or "until I feel like God gives me the okay"--which translated to as soon as someone else asked me out. In college, this continued somewhat. Although I only had 3 real relationships in college, I was constantly dating in between those, completely uncomfortable with the idea of being alone. In fact, being alone terrified me; I wondered if I was destined to be single for the rest of my life. I remember when one of the staff girls from my ministry decided to do missions for 3 years in the Philippines with Food for the Hungry; she was already 26 at the time, and she realized that when she got back she would be almost 30. She shared that she had struggled with that idea, of trusting that if God had someone for her to marry, he would be there when she got back or eventually--and if He didn't, she would fight to believe that God's plan was better than hers. The idea of being single for 3 or more years freaked me out beyond measure. In my heart, I was unwilling to accept that God would have me be single for any period of time. I wanted acceptance and approval from men more than I wanted God's best for me. Even recently, I disobeyed God's very direct and specific nudge to be single for a time so He could bring about healing and growth in my heart. I was reminded of my weaselness in this as I came up with every excuse possible about "not limiting God's grace," "God wouldn't want me to pass up a good thing," "who am I to limit God's timing..." Yeah, gross, I know. God definitely taught me about being "satisfied with his goodness" (Jer 31) through the consequences of my discontentment.

Second, about that whole godly and ungodly complaint or appeal or striving. How does this passage relate to Job and Habbakuk, who both brought their complaints before God? Job's was pretty ungodly (as we learned from God's rebuke), but Habbakuk seemed pretty on track with wanting God to "play fair" and not let the bad guys rule over Israel. And the story of Jacob and Esau has been significant to me not in how Jacob was a schemer (although I always wondered about that), but in how Esau gave up his birthright for a single meal (Heb 12). I don't want to be like that. I want to see each situation, every opportunity to sin, as a choice between my salvation and a crappy, temporary comfort. I've never been one to just give in without a fight to understand, that has been a hard thing to overcome in my walk with God. How do I trust in God's promises even when I don't understand what's behind them? Like, God's love. I understand and believe that God loves me and that His love is unconditional because of Christ, that nothing I can do will ever add to or take away from what Jesus accomplished on the cross for my salvation and holiness. But it doesn't make SENSE sometimes! WHY does God love me? WHY does He promise that everything will work together for my good, and that He intentionally forgets all my sin because I am in Christ? IT BLOWS MY MIND! Which makes it hard to walk by faith in. I, like Jacob, want some claim in that promise. I want to know that I've wrestled it out of God, that I bring something to the table. But I know I don't and I can't.

In my weaselness, I generally only want God when it means I don't have to say no to whatever it is I think will satisfy me at that moment. By God's grace, I am dying to that part of myself and walking by faith. That verse in Jeremiah 31 is what my aim is these days: "And my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord." God's goodness sounds pretty awesome to me.