We’ve all heard that old adage “If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Well, here’s a confession. I think that’s bunk. In this world, we are often led to believe things are facts when they aren’t really anything more than convincing fiction. There are so many competing voices it’s hard to know what to believe.
A few years ago, while on a mission trip to southern Madagascar, I had a strange experience. (To be honest, I’ve had a few strange experiences in Madagascar, but I’ll stick to this one.) We were staying in the home of the Anglican bishop, which is an apartment surrounded by a veranda, located above the diocesan offices. It was warm that afternoon and the whirring ceiling fan lulled me into a delightful post-lunch sleep. I’m not sure how long I slept, but I was suddenly jarred from my nap by a tapping sound on the window followed by a loud Moooooo. The sound itself was not unusual as there is a large cattle (zebu) market just down the dusty road from the bishop’s home. It was the proximity of the sound that disturbed me. I was in a second-floor bedroom, and I was pretty sure the zebu was mooing through the window. I sat up with a start and turned toward the window only to catch a glimpse of a bird flying away from the windowsill.
I scrunched up my eyes, not sure whether I was actually awake, and took a moment to process what had happened. Was I hallucinating? Was this a side effect of my anti-malarial drugs?
I was certain I had heard a cow. Yet it was only an annoying African crow, of the type I saw on the veranda every day, that had come to pay a visit. It took me some time to piece together the truth. My kids had been in their own room at the time, so it wasn’t one of them playing a joke. I thought about the magpies that lived around our home in England. Highly intelligent birds that I’d been told were excellent mimics. Hmmm…
I confirmed my suspicions once I was finally able to log on to the internet. From the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I discovered that “African Pied Crows are able to mimic sounds and speech like some parrots.” That blasted crow had mooed at me! There was no doubt about it.
We encounter many dubious things in life that are pretty darn convincing, just like my acquaintance the crow’s mimicking skills. And sometimes it’s easy to believe those things are Gospel truth. For instance, maybe you grew up in a church that really drove home the message that you are a miserable sinner, unworthy of God’s love. My husband and I have prayed for many people who are deeply rooted in this “truth.” Now, before you dismiss me as a heretic, let me say that I do believe sin is serious business. If humans weren’t trapped in sin, Jesus’ death and resurrection would be pointless.
Here’s the problem. Many Christians live their entire lives believing they are unworthy. They easily identify with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 who begs Jesus to heal her daughter and points out that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” (15:26) But the truth is we belong at the Master’s table, and we don’t have to beg. That’s the whole point of redemption. We aren’t supposed to stop at the cross. We enter into a new kingdom reality through the cross. We become a new creation. (2 Cor 5:17) Does that mean we are perfect? Of course not. But we have been restored into intimate relationship with the One who is love — the One who has sought our return since the moment Adam and Eve left the garden.
Your Father has prepared a banquet for you. Don’t settle for the scraps under the table.
Your heavenly Father isn’t casting thunderbolts of judgment upon you from his distant throne. He’s beckoning you to sit at his table and enjoy all that he offers. Why? Because you are his child, and he loves you. You have been redeemed by him and restored to the place he prepared for you since before time began. Jesus’ inheritance — the fullness of God’s love — is yours. Picking up scraps from under the table is not your destiny!
But sometimes we believe the lies. We hear the enemy’s voice, or even our condemning inner-voice, and we believe it is truth. We hear the cow at the window, and it’s remarkably convincing, but it’s really just an annoying old crow.
I know how difficult it can be to put those deceptive voices of condemnation to rest. You know the ones I’m talking about. They hit you when you’re weak and worn-out. You’ll never measure up. You’re worthless. Your faith isn’t strong enough. You don’t belong. You’ve failed again. You’ll never really be loved. You’re not worthy of my love.
Lies. Every last one.
But your Father’s love is bigger than your doubt, and he’ll never stop pursuing you. Are you willing to be pursued? Are you willing to let the voice of love find a place in your heart? God’s perfect love really does cast out fear — and that includes the fear of not being loved. (1 John 4:18) Don’t let the enemy’s fiction replace the fact that you are a beloved child of God.
Stop and listen for the voice of love. It is the only voice that can heal a wounded heart. As Henri Nouwen puts it, “We are left with the choice of listening to the Father or of remaining imprisoned in our self-rejection.”
Whose voice do you trust?