A frost-stenciled showcase window displays a snow sled painted pink. No self-respecting sled in my day would have submitted to that humiliation. It would have been laughed off Campeau Street, the road they always closed so we could profit from one of the steepest hills in the city. That was the era when your mother waved bye as you ran out the door and didn’t see you all day, and you came home when the streetlights went on.
But it is obvious that the baby bunting-colored sled in the window is not going anywhere near a big hill, ever again—even its runners and steering gear are lacquered. This is a sled that has been sidelined, sent to the glue factory, put out to pasture. You may as well defang the Lion King and stick him in a carnival car. This is a sled with a lobotomy.
In front of another little shop (or “shoppe,” as shops that sell lobotomized sleds and the like are called) is an old push-reel lawn mower, such as I have in my garage—long wooden shaft for a handle, two small wheels at the base connected by horizontal mounted blades that chew the grass as you apply muscle. I think, “Well, I’m not the only one who still uses this.”
Then, on a fearful impulse, my eyes dart to and fro to take in the other wares standing, leaning, and dangling mute in the menagerie. The truth filters back to me that I have been utterly deceived in my assessment: This mower will never shave a backyard in clean rows, never do a noble day’s work and hold its head up high among other tools in the shed. It seems to slink from me now in embarrassment and mumble low: “Yes, yes, this is what has become of me. Do not look. Walk on by and leave me in my shame.”
Something there is that doesn’t like a sled painted pink. Something there is deep in man that rages against the sight of it propped on a porch, accented with a big red bow, a 120-volt landscape spotlight shining on it, cutting its silhouette upon the stonework, like a suspect in a police line-up. The word decadence comes to mind: a state of decline symptomized by the decorative use of things once practical, the vestigial organs of an erstwhile vitality—ornamental shutters glued tight to the house, not able to shut over a window.
Jesus, being hungry, walked up to a fig tree from which He hoped to find nourishment, which is the natural thing that a fig tree should do. So affronted was He to find only leafy show that He cursed it for its empty promise: “And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once” (Matthew 21:18-19).
Lord, I have kept a show of godliness and not the power (2 Timothy 3:5). I have gone to church and then held my peace in public, when someone might have been saved if I had spoken up. I have taken teachings that you commanded to “do them” (Luke 6:46) and have said that because I am “in Christ” I need not worry much about commands. I have read of the holiness that slew Uzzah but made much more of “Christian liberty.”
I have been a waterless cloud and deceptive brook when someone came to me hopefully, asking, “Please show me how to forgive, how to love my husband, how to conquer this addiction.” You saved me to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), and I blush to call my timid ways a proclamation.
Lord, I don’t want to be a sled painted pink on a porch. Bend me to Thy will, for I am not my own but purchased at a price. Let me make it to the finish line (to tweak Hunter S. Thompson) “skidding in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming”—Jesus is Lord!