Caught by my daughter’s camera lens, this kitty tiptoes along her wooden railing, peeking out from her far-away world of red poppies and tall grass. I like her cavalier air, this little feline I never met. She’s agile and confident, out exploring on her sunlit day, busy on her secret kitty errand. She makes me smile.
And her very perkiness leads me to random thoughts that converge (hopefully) into meaningful and helpful conclusions. Gazing at her on her fence-top perch, I think of:
- Lions and lambs
- Kitties tiptoeing along fences (her)
- Balance beams and not falling off (me)
- Running the race and making it to the end.
Lions and lambs and people equivalents
I once heard my pastor liken himself to a lion. He is very much a lion — a brave and gifted evangelist, not fearing other’s disdain or barbed questions. He also meant, though, that he knows his personality can tend toward a boldness that overpowers or shuts people down. He knows that if he operates from the flesh (Gal. 5:16, Eph. 2:2) and not by the Spirit, he can maul others in his fearlessness. He’s brave. He speaks truth and fears not the consequence. He’s a lion.
As I listened to him, I knew instantly that I, on the other hand, tend toward the lamb-personality. In my flesh, when not walking in the Spirit, I scare if you say “boo” at me too loudly. I default, in my sin-nature, toward the side of the fence that fears your response and cares too much about your approval. I might grieve my Lord (Eph. 4:30) and not speak of His love and beauty and majesty if I fear your response.
I hate this about myself. I want to be more of a lion.
Sideways distractions = an unbalanced fall
This leads me to the picture of the fence-kitty — and to my memory of long-ago days of practice on the balance beam. Great gymnasts, the ones who don’t fall off, know that they must keep their eyes fixed on the end of the beam. They enter a world of intense focus; absorbed and preoccupied with the beam’s end-point. No looking down. No glancing around at passersby, like this kitty is so able to do. God made kitties to balance, pretty much no matter what, but humans don’t traipse along narrower-than-the-foot boards with nonchalant ease.
In gymnastics meets, when I was nervous, I’d lose my focus and become aware of the audience and the judges and the other competitors. In the middle of a turn or a leap, I’d wonder what they were thinking of me. I’d take my eyes off the end of the beam, and I’d lose my balance. I’d fall to the right. I’d fall to my default side.
Sort of how I do now when I’m pushed out of my comfort zone: I take my eyes off of Jesus, and I fall to my default side, my lamb-like side — I hide and I self-protect. My focus, and absorption, and preoccupation become you and your acceptance of me. I sin against God as I make an idol of your approval of me — I cower in fear (my default side) and choose not His glory, but my own.
In that moment, I worship you. Not Him.
Running the race with eyes fixed
But, oh, I don’t want to. I want to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. I want to run with endurance the race set before me, despising any shame that might come. I want to lay aside this sin which so easily entangles me, this old way of self-reliance. I want to love my Lord with an absorbed focus. I want to look to Jesus.
“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:1-2
Kitties vs. you and me
So here’s how it all fits together. Kitties sashay along, carefree, jaunty and un-end-focused, on narrow fence posts. We, on the other hand, are meant to run a different sort of race. We must keep our eyes fixed on the true end-point, the One just ahead. He is the Lord Jesus, who leads, and goes before us, and keeps us from falling.
He knows that our days will be full of turns and twists, but He never means that we would balance alone.
When I think of kitties on fences, and lions and lambs, and balance beams and the race ahead, I want to quit falling to my old default side. I want my Father, by His Spirit, to slay my old desires for human approval. I want Him to work in me a desire for Jesus’ glory alone. I want to fix my eyes on Him, running the race He’s set before me, eyes riveted to His lead. I want to look to Jesus, who endured and despised the shame of the cross, that He might found and perfect my faith.
I want to worship, in all my words and actions, not you, not me, but Him.
Oh focus with me! Let’s set our minds to obey Him, and follow hard after His ways. Urge others along the way to join you, pointing each toward the One ahead, telling all to train their eyes upon Him. Teach them to throw off every encumbrance and any sin that entangles them, looking away from all that would distract them.
For there is none other worthy of worship, and preoccupation, and absorbed focus. In this life (and in the one to come), there is no other end-point!