If perhaps, you have read some of Gator’s columns, you may have noticed a familiar ‘ring’ to most of them. It could be described as being experienced [sic]. There is an astonishment and puzzlement when Gator has one of these ‘experiences’ and remembers them even with accents and vocal tones.
The time at a wonderful, thoroughly scholarly Bible study for example. It was early in the morning at the study and there was a mention of a prison sentence for one of our brothers. Of course, Gator had to bring up the fact that he had spent a ‘bit of time’ in a prison in southern Spain. Before Gator surrendered this experience to the large table of solid and mature men, he asked: “has anyone here ever been in Jail?” Silence. “Just for an hour perhaps as a mistake in a traffic violation?” All eyes on Gator now. Another claw in the mouth moment.
An alligator death roll of himself as it were. Oh well, no use prevaricating about it.
So Gator explained how it goes with guards and camaraderie in the ‘bull pen’. It was only six months at hard labor (summer in southern Spain gets a bit hot) but it felt awkward in the telling. As if I was tainted somehow OR more holy because I was a worse sinner than they were. Awkward because Gator was one of them that now embraces the Truth and Beauty too. I envy them a bit but not too much. Envy is not nice either.
The stories of Peter and Saul come to mind. They claimed they were the worst of sinners and Gator feels he is in good company with those ‘giants of the faith’ Aren’t we all? There is an admission that eases the pain of being such a bad person. All the guns and drugs and the things polite people don’t talk about when military men seek entertainment. Sinful things. The easy sins to recognize. The so called ‘small sins’ of omission or even thoughts of enjoyable bad behavior are just as bad. Lust and greed are easy traps for us. There is a rescue in this story.
Someone that stole money from Gator’s wallet that was lost at Tractor Supply. At least they turned in the wallet! But that doesn’t change any judgment of the theft does it? Half way efforts are pitiful. Cursing that old driver that is going too slow instead of ramming them doesn’t change the mistake. Gator is working on that one, having pretty good success too. It only takes a few seconds to repent the words or even the thoughts. It still takes time.
Living a holy life seems impossible and the good news is that it is impossible. Gator is doing much better for certain. He is not trying to kill someone and has not done too much of his old life stuff. A little bit perhaps which in the eyes of the judge is the same as all the rest of us. “Thank God I am not like that Tax collector over there!” An old quote of judging another. Same deal. We are all bad even though we think in degrees of badness.
Yes, Gator is a bad person. But the best part is knowing it! Not the I’m better now thought but the thoughts of being directed more and more to listen to our Lord and live the life He has for us. Small things that are actually good! Someone we all know did live a perfect life and gave his perfect life up for me! Saved from judgment! All my sin? How can this be? God dying for me. I was drowning and a hand reached down and pulled me out. All I had to do was yell for help and mean it.
This week Jack got in the pool a bit early and by the time a new acquaintance showed up, all the lap lanes were full. That quiet and undeniable voice told Jack to surrender his lane to this man. Three times (an old number of denial) Jack shrugged it off and finally at the shallow end of the pool, Jack stopped and asked the man if he would like to use his lane. “that’s OK, I can wait!” was the reply. Three or four minutes later a lane opened up. The important part was the surrender. It felt right. It was simple really. It wasn’t easy though. It was enough obedience to expand the relationship between them too. It delighted Jack that he could actually do that and mean it. One small step and the feeling that freedom can be found in Jesus. It’s pretty good.. Jack Gator a. Jimi Hendrix