The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 30, 2013

Not where I should be, but thank God, not where I used to be

Keeping The Faith By Bev Davis (1949-2010)

— Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis originally was published May 20, 2010. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.

While waiting for a dental appointment, I flipped through a devotional magazine and found a little story that’s kept running through my mind this week.

I don’t often encounter really hateful people whose stinging barbs remain painful days and weeks later. When I do, my gut reaction is to fire back a stinger worse than the one I’ve received. I’m high-strung, hot-tempered and overly sensitive to criticism.

I have one good friend who sums me up in two words  — “high maintenance.” He’s right. I’m working on that; honest, I am.

Like I’ve heard preachers often say, “I’m not where I should be (spiritually), but thank God, I’m not where I used to be.” I’ve made progress, and the little story gave me an added incentive to keep moving in a positive direction.

According to the little parable, a man was trying to save a scorpion from drowning in a stream. He extended his hand and made a little perch of his index finder. Every time he tried to get the scorpion to climb up on and be rescued, it stung him.

A friend watched the painful process and finally tried to draw his friend’s arm back from another painful stab.

“Man, you’re crazy,” he shouted. “That thing isn’t going to get the message. It’s too stupid to be rescued. It’s just going to keep on stinging you. Give up. Let the stupid thing die!”

Extending his hand again, the man kneeling beside the stream said calmly, “The sting is the scorpion’s only way to defend itself. It doesn’t know I’m trying to help it. A scorpion’s protective nature is to sting. My protective nature is to love. Should I forsake my loving nature because the scorpion doesn’t know how to receive help?”

People who “sting” us usually have something painful going on inside. For some reason, they feel vulnerable and perceive us as a threat.

I’ve often done that with God. He’s been going to great lengths to rescue me from something rotten in my character, and I react defensively to the messenger He has sent to try to fish me out of my dilemma.

God is love. Pure love. Only He knows how to measure love against justice, mercy against our offenses, truth against the lies we tell ourselves.

If we’re going to call ourselves God’s people, our lives have to be characterized by love. We can’t be touchy and put off by every little offense, and we can’t be judgmental and give up quickly when we’re called upon to try to help someone floundering in a dangerous lifestyle or a bad set of attitudes.

We may get stung, often and relentlessly.

But we can’t forsake God’s loving nature in us just because someone else isn’t far enough along on the journey of faith to appreciate our help.

Don’t fault someone who’s just not there yet. Keep trying to do whatever God leads you to do as you reach out to him or her. In time, your “scorpion” will stop stinging and climb aboard and be rescued.