If you see the Desilets family walking around with glum faces these days it’s because of one thing: November. No, we’re not getting the lack-of-daylight blues or dreading the cold winter ahead – November for the Desilets means it’s time to put our flip-flops away 😥. We’ve stretched their convenient, comfortable, non-confining use to the last possible days – but with temperatures falling into the 30s this weekend, we must finally surrender!
Speaking of flip-flops… One day this spring I was at church, attempting to sing along in worship, but I couldn’t focus because something was bothering me. There was a sharp object jabbing into the bottom of my foot. I tried to ignore it, but every time I shifted my position (which happens often with some songs!) I would feel it again. Since I was, of course, wearing flip-flops, I tried to just shake whatever it was out, but that didn’t work. Then I took the sandal off my foot and shook it with my hand. That failed, too! What in the world?
I finally gave in, sat down, and upon closer examination, found the culprit – the sole of my flip-flop had somehow completely absorbed a small piece of wood! Ouch!
We are natural born measurers. From the first time our sibling gets the “bigger” piece of the cookie to the day we throw on our dad’s giant boots and claim to be “taller” than him, we compare and quantify our world in order to know where we stand.
Our favorite thing to gauge may be sin. Like the New Testament Pharisees, we naturally survey the behavior of others in our world and, in most cases, decide we’re doing pretty well. Since we don’t struggle with certain sins, we perceive that we must be standing on some thick, sturdy soles.
But really we’re more like flip-flops! We are soft and more vulnerable to temptation than we like to believe.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” The solid shoes we perceive we’re standing on are only self-constructed stilts of our personal “sin ranking system” – we’re sure certain temptations will never trip us up, but Paul urges us to beware!
Though we see ourselves as unique, we are “common” and therefore capable of absorbing sin in all of its many forms. Because we narrowly perceive our invulnerability to be a result of our own “good choices,” we miss out on the broader picture of sin and its extensive infrastructure in our lives. Yes, some of our sin is straight-up going-our-own-way pride, but much more of it originates in weaknesses woven into our personality type and the particular pains and stresses this world has laid on us.
I’ll never forget the day my friend (who is one of the most loving and caring people I know) said to me, “I must believe that I’m just as capable of murder as the person who’s already killed someone.” A statement like this may sound shocking at first, but not accepting its truth is dangerous. I’ve seen it happen in my own life and the lives of others – the sins we judge most harshly (because don’t currently struggle with them) could, given the right combination of circumstances, easily become our struggle.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul shares that he was given a “thorn” in his flesh. We don’t know exactly what this “thorn” was (if we did we might measure ourselves ‘better’ than him), but we know it was there “in order to keep [him] from becoming conceited”. We’re flip-flops on purpose because it’s the only way we’ll learn how utterly dependent we must be on the grace we’ve been given only through Christ and the strength we are given only through His Spirit.
As I was pulling the “thorn” out of my flip-flop that Sunday, I felt around and found another one not far from it. I hadn’t noticed the second one because it hadn’t started to cause me pain yet – but it was there, ready and waiting!
The more I know Jesus, the more aware I am of how little I know myself. The more I worship Him, the more He reveals those thorns that are so absorbed into the roots of my being I can’t see them. And God is faithful, not only to provide a “way out” as the second half of 1 Corinthians 10:13 states, but also to “keep (me) from becoming conceited” by daily reminding me of my vulnerability. I may be a flip-flop, but thank God that His “power is made perfect in weakness”! (2 Corinthians 12:9)