Ostriches get a bad rap from people who don’t understand them. The unfounded myth is that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when they’re scared or threatened. I’ve heard it here and there since I was a kid. When I would see an ostrich at the zoo, they’re the ones that scared me. A full grown ostrich can be 7 to 9 feet tall, but they are aggressive, and not a friend of mine. The truth is though, the male ostrich digs a hole (sometimes 6 to 8 feet wide, and 2 to 3 feet deep) to place the eggs when he and Mrs. Ostrich decide to have babies. Each parent ostrich take turns getting their heads down in that hole and with their beaks rotate the eggs during the incubation period. The illusion they create with this posture however is a great metaphor for denial.
I’ve known some well educated, sophisticated, reasonably likable people who live in constant denial of something. Whether it’s a disease they are fighting, a relationship that’s broken, an addiction they can’t control, or some fearful circumstance of life that they simply can’t deal with… denial is an unmistakable symptom of a much larger issue. When faced with these kinds of dilemmas many people seem to just stick their head in the sand, like the proverbial myth about the ostrich. One might think they would search endlessly for a solution to their situation. Yet, rather than seeking wisdom or spiritual counsel or Biblical solutions, many just pretend the thing that causes their hiding action simply doesn’t exist.
One of the hardest things a pastor/teacher does from time to time is preach or teach about lostness. The human condition of being “lost” without Christ. It truly isn’t a “religion” thing, it is a “relationship” thing. The Creator knows us, He created us to have personal relationship with Him. But Sin encroached on this relationship, creating distance and communication issues between humans and their Creator. Since the very beginning, humans have tried lots of different ways (mystic and religious) to solve this issue because we are hard-wired in our DNA for this relationship to function properly, and when it doesn’t we know it… even if we deny it.
Regardless of how hard mankind tries to find its way back to God, every attempt falls short of what God intended. This is why Jesus came. To re-establish this relationship allowing for the human creature to find His way back to God. Don’t miss this next part.
We are so far removed from this event, the Jesus event, that many people actually deny at the top of their voices that it ever even occurred. Those who hold this view, deny their own personal need to acknowledge any god other than themselves. They, like William Ernest Henley in Invictus, believe undeniably that:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Granted, Henley wrote this poem while recovering from an amputation due to complications of tuberculosis. It is a tribute to that “stiff upper lip” concept of self-discipline and gut-wrenching fortitude of fighting against the odds of adversity. Unwittingly I fear Mr. Henley has captured the essence of the attitude of many people today, who don’t feel or believe in the need for salvation. They are the master of their own fate, the captain of their soul. They use the creed to position themselves diametrically opposed to the teaching of Scripture.
This kind of denial is the hardest challenge to face for those of us who are believers who care about people’s eternal destiny. Brow beaters, and Bible thumpers have tried for hundreds of years now to snap the denying souls out of their sleepy mindset to see their true “need” for God’s grace. How has this been working so far? I’m not in denial here, this very article might wreak to some of “brow beating” or “Bible thumping.” It’s not my intention, however. My point is that while we love people who are lost, whether they are friends or loved ones, we cannot make them believe in their own need to be saved. We cannot coerce them, or chain them up until they “confess.” Many have tried, doing more harm and damage than I fear any of us know.
So how do we reach, those who seem most unreachable, the denying masses? What form of communication can we use to reach down into that hole where they have stuffed their spiritual head, and speak truth to them in a way which will yield a positive response? What would God have us do?
Don’t deny the answer, for it too is denied by many, if only for its simplicity. Love them. Live out your love for them in such a way that you “earn” the opportunity to discuss spiritual matters. Until you earn their trust, and keep their trust, nothing you say or do will help them get past their denial and listen to your message. Oh, but love! Love indeed conquers all. When someone sees you willing to sacrifice yourself for them, like Christ did for you, then they “might” be open minded enough to listen.
But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, Christ.
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