This title is obnoxiously long. I realize that. It’s really wordy, unclear, and very jumbled. I thought about defining it in fewer words and decided to leave it. It says exactly what I want to say. Here’s why…
My dogs are obsessed with rubber squeak toys. I could put five different ones on the ground, but they go after the same one: the orange pig. And it never fails that my petite Shih Tzu Delilah claims it first and fiercely guards it, snapping at Samson if he comes anywhere near. He is 1 1/2 times her size, also a Shih Tzu (from the same litter…can you say co-dependent?), hefty and solid, but he is more passive and happy-go-lucky. She burns her calories being high-strung while he patiently waits until he has the good fortune of her taking a paw off the toy. She will go so far as to hide it in our shoes. She doesn’t always have to have it. But she definitely doesn’t want him to.
Often I see her lying there, paws guarded on top of the toy, while Samson lays in front of her, patiently waiting. He has longing in his eyes, and perhaps a bit of calculation. But he measures his moments. He is content to hang there a while until she lets down her guard or gets her possessive behavior better under control.
I love Samson for this—not so much the coveting, but the patience. He is a gentle dog, willing to take second to her more demanding nature. And while sometimes we find ourselves cheering him on to be more assertive, his quiet spirit draws me in.
So I ask myself, as I watch them, how many of us are Delilah? We hoard something we want to keep to ourselves, and we don’t want to share. I see this a lot in various contexts. Not in my particular church fellowship, but just in general, I see people not want to share the fellowship or youth group they are going to so they can keep that to themselves. Or, they want to keep their ministry small and exclusive so that they can stay intimate. I get this on some level, and in a support group or even private prayer setting, that is very healthy and appropriate, but in most other settings, my feeling is: Hope, love, grace, and peace are to be shared. Jesus is to be shared.
Or, taking it out of the church sector for a minute, they want to invite this friend to join the soccer team but not let this other one know about it. I’m not talking about keeping a birthday party limited to 10 close friends. We do have some limits we have to set. We also can’t include everyone in everything. It’s more about hoarding what is good and not wanting to share. It’s more about being inclusive in our lives, rather than exclusive.
There are other people out there, like Samson, longing for the orange pig. They are looking at us, patiently, knowing we have something good, and they want to know about it. If we have peace, why shouldn’t we share it? Or a good event/activity to go to? Why rule someone out just because we want to keep it to ourselves?
Perhaps the Good Thing Hoarders (we all do this from time to time) are afraid if we share it, there are fewer pieces of the pie for us. Maybe we think the people we bring along will look for all of their answers and peace in us. At the root of it, that seems a bit arrogant to me when we do that. It’s assuming we are always fully responsible for or the answer to someone else seeking something. Maybe they want to come along and connect with others beside ourselves. But why should we ever keep them from something good? Why do we think we get to decide who should be invited? These are questions I ask myself every time I personally hesitate to include someone in something and also during the times when I feel excluded.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are in a larger group setting and make indirect, private jokes or references to a different group they are a part of—but others in the room are not invited. Referencing shared moments publicly about that awesome moms’ group we are a part of may not be appropriate if we aren’t open to others joining us. Or, even better, let’s reference it and then invite!
If we have the orange pig (my silly example), and we have a chance to take a paw off it and invite someone to enjoy it also, why do we hold on so tightly, like my puppy Delilah? There are so many Samsons out there looking at us and wanting some access to the peace that we have, or the happy event that we’re going to. I believe we are so wrong when we rule out inviting them or do not open ourselves up to letting them join.
For those of us who trust in Christ, the orange pig analogy in this case is the truth and peace of Christ. I think sometimes we love it so much we don’t want to share it because we want it all to ourselves. But God is enough for the whole world. We need to take a paw off (not both) so people can see what’s under it: the amazing Good News that we have in our lives. If we shut people out of our ministry, small group, event, youth group, you name it, we are selfish Delilah holding on to what isn’t really meant to be just ours.
I encourage people both in their everyday lives of activities (non-faith-based), and for those who love Christ, in their faith-based activities, to open it up. Take a paw off. Love bigger. Open the doors wider. Hearts hurt around us all of the time wanting to be included, accepted, loved, trusted. Not everyone will jump in with the same level of commitment, but it’s not up to us to decide that.
Let’s not hoard the good things in our lives. There are some unhealthy people to keep boundaries with, yes, but excluding folks just because we want both paws on is a grievous error. We only have these good things because the Father gave them to us. I don’t care if it’s a soccer team or a Girl Scout club or a ministry. People hurt when we keep both paws on.
Where can we invite, welcome, incude, or accept a “Samson” who wants access to the good things we ourselves enjoy but isn’t going to force his/her way in?
James 1:17, James, brother of Jesus, speaking
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Photo credit: B. Brown, The Crate Escape