I’m listening to a self-help book about creativity on tape titled Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (who also wrote Eat, Pray, Love). In it, Gilbert discusses a book that she failed to write, the concept for which began when she learned about an incident that occurred in the 60’s or 70’s in Brazil.
Gilbert recounted how, the Brazilian government decided to build a road through the rainforest. The project was mismanaged in many ways, but did finally get under way – at least until the rainy season hit. Work on the highway had to be abandoned until the rainy season ended, at which time the workers returned to find that the entire highway and all their equipment (some so big that the tires were more than six feet tall) were swallowed up by the jungle and the mud.
This world is like that. Sin is like that. If we abandon our efforts to tame the jungle of sin – of human nature – of this world’s demands and situational ethics and “shiny things” – we will come back to find that all that we have done so far has been swallowed up by that jungle.
Jonah (you knew I was going there, didn’t you) was swallowed by a great fish. But, long before that, Jonah was swallowed up by his own prejudices or preconceived notions of what ought to be done. By his own words, this is why he ran: He was afraid that Nineveh would repent and God would cancel His plans to destroy it. [See Jonah 4:1-2] Commentaries differ a bit on what really bugged Jonah. Was he jealous for Israel? Did he fear being considered a false prophet? Whatever the case, he tried to “cut and run,” but God brought him back to the job he was given to do.
Sisters, we cannot let human reasoning, our own plans or preconceived notions cause us to quit making inroads in the jungle of sin. If we do, the jungle will take back our hard-won ground and swallow up all of our previous efforts.
Another, more sinister example of neglect leading to being overcome is the parable of the swept out mind. Luke 11:24-25 [NIV] When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.
To me, this parable suggests that the house has been cleaned but then was left unattended, especially in light of the preceding parable. Luke 11:21 [NIV] When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.
With that swept-clean mind, either no one was guarding the house or at least they were not staying strong (had let down their guard) on guard duty.
Consider also the immediate preceding verse, Luke 11:23-25 [NIV] Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. This suggests to me that there are only two options: either you are actively working against the jungle (of sin, of self, and of this world) or working in its favor.
While we need to be vigilant and keep hacking back at that jungle, lest we be swallowed up by it, there are a couple of “swallowed-up” situations we should passionately seek:
- We should look forward to having our mortal selves swallowed up by immortality. [See 2 Corinthians 5:4]
- We should look forward to the time when death is swallowed up in victory. [See 1 Corinthians 15:54]
Sisters, we are either fighting the jungle or we are being swallowed up by it. There is no middle ground. Get out your machetes and keep hacking away. We will rejoice together in the day that death is swallowed up in victory and we are all swallowed up by immortality and the jungle cannot touch us any more.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.