I wrote recently about the discovery of two very young oppossums that I discovered in the garbage can in my garage. That was quite an experience.
I remembered, some time after publishing that post, an item I picked up at a roadside establishment in the middle of Tennessee a few years back. It is, or at least claims to be, possum in a can.
Most people will have one of two responses to such a sight. Some will say, “Mmm… that and a sleeve of saltines would make a mighty fine afternoon snack.” Those people, it’s relatively safe to say, are not reading this blog.
I dare say most of us look and that and think, “Why would anybody do that – even as a joke?”
It’s pretty obvious that it is a joke – one of a myriad of well-intended self-deprecating hillbilly novelty items that is so very common in that part of the world. If you look at the picture closely, you can see that it’s just a can of some sort of potted meat product (certainly a subject for another day) that has a new label placed on top of its original label.
You may be asking, “Ok, Mike, where in the world are you going with this?”
Well… you see, this can of possum bears a striking similarity to many of us that claim to be followers of Jesus.
It claims to be something on the outside that it is not on the inside.
You have probably known some folks who have claimed to be fervent and faithful disciples but something just didn’t seem right. When shaken up by life or stirred up by conflict the distatsteful substance on the inside seeped out a little and the aroma was alarming.
Jesus related an instance where one of the religious big-wigs was standing on the street praying – loudly, of course. He was boisterously thanking God that he wasn’t at all like that traitorous tax collector that just walked by and how he was grateful that he had his… stuff together. Jesus warned that this man, in that moment, had all of the reward that he would ever have – the attention of people around him who thought he must really be something special.
I’m guilty of this same attitude… hopefully less than I used to be, but it’s still there. I see people and have this almost instinctive thought that I am glad I’m on a better path, walking a better road, etc. I hate it because, in my heart, I know that I am just as capable of any foolish or wicked thing as anyone else. I’m not better – in fact, I am in many ways much worse for the most scathing rebukes ever voiced by Jesus were directed at those arrogant folks that thought they had it figured out.
But this can of possum is also a lot like some of the most amazing followers of Jesus I have ever known. While this can claims to be, in essence, roadkill, the contents are really safe and edible. I don’t want to eat it, but it’s not going to make me sick if I do.
These folks that I’m talking about are the ones who routinely put their own failures, their weaknesses, and even their ungodly habits right out there in the open. They don’t ask me to say it’s ok and they don’t insist that I affirm them. They are absolutely upfront about the fact that they are still, on the outside, sinful, ungodly, wicked creatures who are being transformed – woefully slowly at times – by the amazing grace of God. They will go limping into the Kingdom of Heaven on the irrevocable and indestructable crutch of God’s grace.
They are much like that tax collector that Jesus referred to in the account mentioned before. Jesus said that he heard the religious man’s prayer and he couldn’t even lift his eyes toward heaven to pray, but struck his own chest in regret and whispered his cry, “Lord, have mercy on this wretched sinner.” Jesus said that it was this tax collector that went home with the one and only priceless, unlosable treasure – being in a right relationship with the most Holy God.
I am a lot like this can of possum. So often I claim to be something I am not. But, more and more, I’m learning to put the worst parts right out there in the open. And, when this life is over, I too will limp into the Kingdom leaning wholely upon His grace.
So, are you at all like this can of possum?