A dear friend of mine is an inspiration. She deals with a terrible cocktail of mental illnesses. She endures ordeals that I cannot even imagine. Over the years of our friendship she has bounced from ‘care home’ to ‘care home’. She has been in and out of the hospital. She has been mistreated by cruel people. Through it all she has continued to love frogs. She has frogs on her pajamas and stuffed frogs festoon her room. She has frogs on her notebook and frogs on her pencil. She says “I’m crazy for frogs!” Early in our friendship I asked her about her obvious attraction to frogs and learned that her frogs remind her to “Fully Rely On God” (F.R.O.G.) through the trials and through the storms she clings to this motto. She has learned that people may let her down and sometimes she cannot even trust her own thoughts but she can rely on God.
I think of my hero sometimes when I am uncertain or afraid. I thought about her frogs when I was preparing for our recent Shalom Saturday. The one circle I had ever been a part of had been led by a gifted counsellor with obvious training in psychology. These are not qualities that I possess. Any gifts inventory I have taken indicates that I am motivated by evangelistic rather than pastoral aims. I was seized by feelings of inadequacy. As I approached God with these feelings I recalled my friend’s frogs. I remembered “My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Of course I was inadequate! So what?
I cannot share much about the content of our circle. The sharing was personal and often deep. People shared their pains and sometimes their joys. We did not try to fix one another but in the centre of our circle was a candle reminding us that God was here in the midst of our mess.
Afterwards several of the participants thanked me. Each thank you made me grateful for my hero and her example and motto “Fully rely on God.”
I was again reminded of these frogs this week. I had spent the day in meetings pertaining to the part-time job which ends for me at the end of this May. It felt like a wasted day. I missed my friends from Street Hope. Then at 4 pm I got a call asking if I was planning to attend the Wednesday Night Worship & Communion Service at the Men’s Shelter. I replied yes and then I was asked if I could fill in as preacher. I replied yes and thought about frogs. My day was not wasted I got to do what I love. I got to talk about Jesus! Over the next hours I considered and rejected text after text for this message. It is so much easier to belong to a liturgical tradition where the text is prescribed! All the time I thought about frogs. Finally I settled on Jesus’ call to Levi (Matthew) to follow him. Levi had fallen so short of his priestly name. He was a betrayer of his people and profited from oppression, yet Jesus seems to say to him “You are just the kind of person I am looking for.” For Levi this was a call not just to forgiveness and reconciliation but to a new life of active following. Following can never be passive. Once we stop we are no longer following. So often like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration we want to pitch our tent and make camp in the lush pasture of forgiveness and reconciliation but the call is to follow Jesus. He promises that such obedience leads to abundance. Forgiveness and reconciliation are found at the gateway to the Kingdom abundance is found in following the King.
I am grateful to my hero and dear friend but I am eternally grateful to the faithful God on whom we can fully rely!