Sunday, April 20, 2014

Obnoxious, Maybe. Loveable, Yes!

Look at this obnoxious little guy, sitting on my neighbor’s roof, cawing up an early morning storm on my day off!  You’d think I’d be irritated with this inconsiderate grackle but I’m not.  For some reason, I love these silly birds. 

One thing that endears them to me is they don’t hop like other birds.  They walk, putting one foot in front of the other. They strut around like little, rude people.

Curbside Attitude: I mean, seriously.
Who do they think they are?
They also seem pretty smart. One day a few years ago, as I was driving out of the library parking lot, I saw a big grackle working hard to tip over a Burger King bag to get at what was inside. I found him so entertaining, I pulled into a parking spot across from him to watch his efforts.  Here he was, digging into a greasy, fast food bag in the middle of the oil-stained asphalt.  Others might've found him disgusting but I thought he was clever and cute.

This past fall, I discovered a beat-up, old grackle hobbling around on a ugly, bent leg in my backyard.  His tail was nothing but a pointy, stripped feather shaft.  He was unable to fly and I was worried my horrid cats would get him.  My heart went out to the tattered thing so I began devising a plan to catch him and take care of him.  Then I started to wonder if this was a stupid idea.  I called the vet who confirmed my suspicions. He also went on to express how much he hated these birds, saying that they are awful and selfish.  According to him, they shove the young out of nests occupied by other bird species and dump their grackle eggs and the subsequent baby grackle-rearing duties on the poor, hapless nest owners.

(Now, I did not verify this claim.  So if you’re a kid doing a report for science and happened across this blog because you googled grackles, I’d advise you to not use this information.  A library card would serve you well.)

After talking with the vet, I fretted for a short while about what to do, worrying that one of the many neighborhood cats would get him before the night was over.  Finally, cringing with guilt, I just opened the backyard gate and watched that bent-legged grackle walk out into the world like a crooked, little man.  Well, he must’ve walked a crooked mile because a week later, while riding my bike, I saw that little stinker down the street and around the corner, strutting around a front yard. I was thrilled that he had survived!

It occurs to me that I would be a much better representative of Christ if I could take my ability to see past the pest-like qualities of the rude, selfish grackle and apply it to those I consider to be rude, selfish people, overlooking what I perceive to be their ugly behavior and pushy ways.  Of course, birds don’t cut me off in traffic or make a living dreaming up insanely annoying, unreasonable expectations for teachers (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Robert Marzano.) or let their kids scream relentlessly during their long, drawn-out shopping trip from one end of the store to the next with a shopping list that is apparently written in the exact same order as mine.  So it’s easier for me to look past the faults of annoying birds than to look past what I perceive as the faults of the people who make up the background of my life - those souls I encounter ever so briefly in traffic or at the post office, etc .  But that’s exactly what Jesus commanded his followers to do.

Yet, alas!  That’s one of the hardest things for judgemental me to do! I’m awful!  It seems the place my lack of human kindness is made most manifest is at the grocery store. On a bad Christian-walk day, when navigating the aisles of my least favorite national chain store, I find myself thinking things like, “Really, mister? You thought that t-shirt was appropriate to wear in front of your young, impressionable children?”  At the check out lane, I might be silently screaming in my head, “WHY? Why are these crazy parents buying two carts of soda and cookies for their ill-behaved children?!"

Sadly, my good Christian-walk days aren’t much better.  I whisk through my least favorite national chain store thinking something along the lines of, “I’m a nice person.  Look, how nice I am – smiling kindly at all these weirdos.”  

Sheesh, Andrea, shop at Gall-mart much? When I first started this blog, my mom said, “Oo, this might be so cathartic for you!”  Yeah, maybe, Mom, if carthartic means realizing I’m a gigantic jerk!

Oh, and you know!  You just know, I’m the annoying grackle in the background of someone else’s life. When I’m standing too long in front of a freezer case at the grocery store, some disgruntled shopper is thinking to herself, “WHY? Why is that lady with the ridiculous haircut blocking the entire Ben & Jerry’s section with her large backside and a cart full of cat food and wine?!” 

This is why, lady.
What business do I have being annoyed with other people? 

My really great Christian-walk days are those days when I walk through my least favorite national chain store (Dang, I go there way too much!) and pray, “Lord Jesus, please help me to see each and every one of these people through your holy eyes.”  Yes, it happens once in a while.  If it happened more often, I would see a store full of people who are in need of love and forgiveness just like me (Romans 3:23), who are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator (Psalm 139:14), who are uniquely equipped for a purpose (Ephesians 2:10).

I don't know about you but this ain't easy for me. Hopefully, it's clear that I'm exaggerating a little for comic effect.  However, despite wanting to be a super nice person, I'm still incredibly selfish.  I want the snack aisle to offer me a conveniently clear path to the Chex Mix, uncluttered by girls cussing at someone on their cellphones.  I will judge such girls for their lack of tact, instead of reminding myself that they are madly loved by God.   I have figured out that I am unable to change this about my wretched self. 

How relieved I am that God offers people like me grace. Jesus reassured his followers, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." What a load off! Jesus says right there, "You can't do this on your own."  The apostle Paul (who, by the way, may just be the church's most annoying nice guy) encouraged his friends in Philippi by writing to them, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13.)"

So instead of berating myself for being a creep, I can leave this up to God.  With a little humility and time spent in prayer, I can trust Jesus to change me and enable me to sincerely look at people in a different light. Just as I can look at a greedy, little grackle in a greasy parking lot, admire his ingenuity and root for him, with my eyes on Christ, I can see the beauty and potential in every single human being I briefly encounter!  That is a great reason to caw up a storm.  :)

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Do be nice to everyone.