A good Southerner, a word to the wise type, a tried and true sixth sense, get-thee-behind-me you pitch-and-runner Southerner never suffers what he knows not to be true. If you’re talking to such as one and the interjections you hear are yeah, uh-uh, really, you joshin’ (with upward inflection) and the exclamation, “Is that right?,” you can bet—even if your diatribe emits a sweet fragrance—he ain’t buying. You know this because he is head down with ear contact only while he gets on with snapping green beans or shucking corn. His body language unwraps his intent until you’re finished joshin’, at which time, you’ll get direct eye contact and some equivalent of, “that’s the most cockamamie bull I’ve ever heard.” Then, after you’ve swallowed your Adam’s apple and shrunk into your shell, you understand your trespass and mutter your way out of his presence.
A good Southerner remains true to his Southerness. And isn’t a good Christian called to do the same?
When I decided to leave my avoidance to fully commit to Christ, when I exhausted all excuses in my indifference, I began to waken to what this new life meant. I was at once convicted in both senses of the word—guilty and convinced. My urgings leaned me toward becoming as Christ. But how? I knew I needed His leading. Earning was not an option. Effort was all I could give, to meet Christ where He needed me to be.
Life taught me what God was not. He was not the Santa Claus I wanted him to be, he was not the school master with right rules for me to give right responses and gain right rewards. Too often I was not rewarded. Life’s vending machine kept eating my quarters and getting my Snickers stuck. Every crooked path I tried or was offered, God was not there. Where was He? He was there waiting for me to turn toward Him.
And when I did, I gave way to His perfecting grace. A converted life, a committed life in Christ, must become a discipled life. I could not rest in belief. Not simply through His word did He speak, but through those life situations, through disciples more mature than me, through all those failures present and past presenting now as blessings. I took all this to mean God was always there and He intended not to leave me alone, but more, to take me where at times I did not want to go. I have been a reluctant disciple but willing enough to remain awake to His leading.
“And where are we going?,” I asked. “To perfection,” He said. “Nothing less.” My Southerness suggests my understanding is not His. Only in justice, mercy, and humility, only in faith, hope, and love can I begin crossing the desert of my misunderstanding. I thirst.
Because I am now fully His, when the pitch-and-runner comes, awakened, I can say, “Really.”
Pass me the green beans, please.
“Those who have ears…”