During vacation last week I bravely went on a solitary hike down in the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona. For some reason, no one else in my family felt like getting up at four in the morning, driving two hours from our camp site, and spending the day looking for birds. I love them all anyway.
I expected to see fellow birders out on the trails, but I had the forest to myself (along with a bottle of pepper spray). As I hiked along, I realized why I birded alone—instead of a multitude of birdsong, I only heard the plaintive cry of a Mexican Jay. Evidently I had arrived at the famous birding haven well ahead of the migratory birds.
After giving a mental shrug, I kept on hiking, hoping I’d see or hear at least one cool feathered friend before I headed back to camp. After a half a mile, a cheery little sound announced the presence of a bird, but since my auditory memory isn’t that great, I couldn’t figure out whom I should look for. Nor could I see anything. The giant pine and sycamore trees marched along the rocky creek bed, but I failed to see any fluttering wings or hopping movements.
My eyes glazed over as I stared at the bark of a nearby pine tree. Suddenly, the bark moved. Surprised, I yanked my camera into position and discovered that the moving bark had a long beak and two clingy claws. A Brown Creeper! It had been awhile since I had seen one, and I had never managed to get good photos before. I happily spent the next thirty minutes getting beautiful shots of the master of camouflage. If it hadn’t been for his sweet spring song, I would have walked right on by, clueless about his presence.
Sometimes, I feel like a clueless Christian. I bop along doing my own things when, BAM, out of nowhere, I trip and fall. That happened this week when Pedro quietly admonished me for my less-than-loving attitude towards a colleague. In his wisdom, he spoke to me right before walking out the door for an appointment so I could pick myself up and examine his words in solitude.
As much as I hated to admit it, I have let my personal preferences for personality types overshadow my feelings—which in turn color my actions. Even though someone’s personality feels like fingernails on a chalkboard, Jesus calls me to respond in love.God asks us to respond in love to the nails-on-the-chalkboard people in our lives. Click To Tweet
Instead, I go to great lengths to disguise my feelings about the person. I think I have done an admirable job of camouflaging my antipathy, when in reality I have secretly catalogued every scrape on the chalkboard. It doesn’t take long for those annoyances and unresolved interactions to gain bulk and weight to the point that I just. don’t. want. to. spend. any. time. around. that. person.
And so I enter the avoidance phase. I go out of my way to not show up where that person might be. I manufacture excuses for not showing support. In short, I think I have masterfully camouflaged my feelings but my actions sing out for the careful observer to hear and see.
That’s me. Clueless Christian surprised by subtle sin. Now it’s time to screw up my courage and restore the relationship by discussing my feelings in a kind way with the person I’ve been avoiding. I should probably thank Pedro for helping me recognize the error of my ways, too.
What about you? Do subtle sins ever surprise you?