The Expository Files

The Concrete Porch

As I was jogging this morning, I remembered a scene about jogging from a movie I watched. It was a commercial to sell shoes, but the selling point was the freedom joggers feel on the road. I like the idea of personal freedom. No addictions, unmotivated by bad habits, motivated only by the truth in the moment.

So while ran I through about what I'd learned about the gospel. I didn't think about what I am about to say while I was running, but its an afterthought. I told a friend that although I am working to be a gospel preacher, I've never really realized what the gospel is until now, and now I have only a fleeting glimpse. But I do have a glimpse and I must admit that at first thought, the more I think about it, the less my life and our lives seem to line up with it. I don't mean line up as in measure up as much as I mean line up in the sense of "getting it." I really don't think many of us really "get it." I am not pointing the finger at anyone, but my thinking is that if I haven't understood it, there must be some around me who haven't either. Don't think though, that I am writing today to explain the gospel in concrete terms. If any explanation occurs, it will happen by simple analogy.

When I got back from my run, I wandered inside for a moment until I stepped out onto the back porch to continue cooling off. I folded up my forest green sweatshirt as I sat there on the concrete and listened to myself breath, interrupted by various imposing thoughts. I continued however to sit and listen and as I did, I saw a pigeon land on a branch by the empty bird feeder I made from old gray fence boards. Then I started noticing other birds all around. One came to a stop on one of the overhead wires; another was sleeping on a branch with his feathers ruffled. At last I spied an energetic little finch hopping from branch to branch, moving upward with every little jump, wings elevating him. He did his little dance, sang his little song and even hung upside down a couple of times before he sprinted like a foot racer through the air to another tree and a new adventure. Why can't I be like that little bird? Amazing how the day I felt like my house had me in chains I saw this little bird as spontaneous and full of bubbling joy as God intended. He easily and happily bounces through his life, not thinking about who he's offending or not concerned with letting anyone down. He does all his personal work like making nests, gathering food and caring for his little birds, but he's free from all the little personal burdens that I personally carry. Free, period, is what that bird is. Is that where we get that little catch-phrase "free as a bird?" That little bird is concerned neither about death nor its own life, doing its work while enjoying the creation God specifically designed for him.

Is that what the gospel is like? Freedom from chains to be spontaneous, joyful, full of life and energy, happily doing what God intended us to do because we are not burdened with this or that? I wonder. So often this life on earth turns out to be such "work." All of a sudden I am reminded that "work" was one of the curses sin brought into the world (Genesis 3:17-19). Perhaps "toil" fits better than work How can life be such a burden when we (Christians) are supposed to be set free? Could it be that we are not as free as we first believed? Could it be life according to the gospel if that life is one bound by chains and burdens?

When I got up from the concrete porch, I tried to do so without being noticed, but you know how birds are - they all flew away. Why do birds fly away? Perhaps they value their freedom too much to chance trusting in sin-chained humanity.

By Steve Quillian
From Expository Files 9.1; January 2002