Lone Rangers are just that: lonely. Frank and ferocious, Saul of Tarsus epitomized the self-made Pharisee. Like 007, he traversed his homeland, brutally exterminating Christians like bugs. Until Jesus got his attention, Saul needed no one and nothing. Jesus appeared to the arrogant lawyer, blinded him and forced him to be rescued by Ananias, one of the very Christian “heretics” he sought to slaughter. (Acts 9:1-17). Even after his shocking conversion, Paul learned (the hard way) that he didn’t need to fly solo through life.
I liked going it alone. Being the only child in the Tacker family had its perks, especially in the pudding department. There was always enough to keep me stuffed until the alien invasion. My life would never be the same.
EEEK! Pink and puffy, wet and wiggly, kicking and screaming, the alien invaded our home quite unannounced (or so I thought). The mother ship deposited “it” in our spare bedroom, and an endless array of grown-ups waited patiently to pay homage to the little interloper. As I peered into the room, a foul stench practically took my breath away. I gagged and escaped as fast as I could. I did notice, however, that Daddy had imprisoned the blubbering blob behind wooden bars. Thank God for that!
Two days later, I caught a glimpse of the noisy little creature. My vision was a bit blurry due to insomnia from the piercing shrieks that emerged from the room. The screeching never seemed to end – day or night. As I peered between the protective prison bars, I was shocked to discover a much smaller, balder version of myself – a “mini-me,” if you will.
What was it doing here and why won’t it leave? My three-year-old brain was in a quandary. Life as I knew it had begun to change. Mommy stopped cutting the crusts off my peanut-butter sandwiches. No clean underwear was folded and placed on the corner of the bed. If I needed panties, I had to rummage through dresser drawers and find a clean pair myself. Bedtime stories became shorter (and faster, too). Where were my kind, happy parents? This mysterious little alien must have sapped their strength and infected them with a dread disease. They looked haggard and mean.
As I surveyed my surroundings, I noticed that the living room looked as if a Texas tornado had touched down and deposited debris everywhere. Newspapers, dirty laundry, empty Rice Crispies boxes and muddy shoes littered the floor. Nobody answered the telephone. I went for days without brushing my teeth, and I was allowed to watch TV ‘til midnight. I confess I liked the perks, but I knew something was amiss. Would someone please tell me what is going on?
Finally, in a rare moment of quiet serenity, Daddy placed me in his lap and tried to explain. The alien was my little sister Kathy. She had popped out of my Mommy’s tummy two weeks ago (that can’t be right!) Pop also informed me that this hairless little person was here to stay. I was both put off and perplexed. Why was I not warned of this catastrophe earlier?
In retrospect, there were a few signs. Mommy and I had dutifully assumed the role of flower girl and bridesmaid in Ruth Moore’s wedding just a few weeks earlier. As I flamboyantly tossed my rose petals, I looked back to notice that Mom was wearing an extremely large pink lace pup tent. Mom’s burgeoning belly took up three-quarters of the wedding party snapshots. She scarfed most of the vanilla rosettes off the wedding cake before the bride and groom made it to the reception.
Mommy’s lap had definitely disappeared, and she also seemed crankier than usual. We often ate Cream of Wheat for dinner instead of meat loaf and mashed potatoes. Raiding the cupboard was always a treat for me. I was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs! Another change duly noted was a sunny yellow empty room filling up with teddy bears and rattles I wasn’t allowed to touch. Somewhere along the line, nobody was snapping Polaroids of every adorable antic I performed. My paparazzi disappeared.
I wanted to be the only kid in the Tacker house. My next-door neighbor Dougie Scott gave me a few tips on how to stop the insanity. When his howling baby brother Donnie encroached on his peace and quiet, Dougie duct-taped little Donnie’s mouth to silence the howling. Dougie will finish his time out in 2040. My resourceful pal also tried bribery to silence the little intruder. Every ten minutes, Dougie coated Donnie’s pacifier with melted Fudgesicle juice. His inspired plan worked like a charm…until he ran out of Fudgesicles. Dire times required drastic measures. Dougie hoisted little Donnie out of the crib with a Pooh bear baby blanket and hid him in the backyard doghouse with his pooch Spud. Shortly after, Dougie was shipped off to Grandma’s for a month.
Lana Rouse, my bestest buddy, gave me the low-down on ruling the roost after a newbie had entered the picture at her house. Her baby sister Bitsy had turned the Rouse house on its ear. Bitsy slobbered and gnawed on Lana’s favorite dollies, dismembered her My Little Pony and ripped every page out of Good Night Moon. Lana packed her Bambi backpack, stormed out the back door and ran away from home. She appeared on my doorstep begging for asylum. After three days, her mom finally noticed that Lana was gone.
This baby sister of mine had better watch out! I was not without resources. Armed with the advice of my cronies, I nabbed the little blue bear from her crib and tried to flush it down the toilet. Water poured out of the bowl onto the tile and into the hall. Spanking ensued, and the bear emerged from the dryer unscathed. I hid Kathy’s baby bottle under the living room pillow cushion, and Daddy tanned my hide. My plots became more and more elaborate. In desperation I smeared poopy diaper on the crib bars and cried, “the baby did it.” My folks were unconvinced, and my jello dessert was history. My last attempt to create havoc was to decorate her nursery walls with neon crayons and to blame it on my sissy. Nobody was fooled. My fury turned into quiet resignation.
Then one sunny afternoon a miracle happened. I peered over the crib rail and baby sister reached her chubby arms toward me. She wasn’t crying, she was cooing and seemed genuinely glad to see me. Mom entered the room and perched me on a rocker cushion. She shoved a pile of blankets in my lap, and told me to sit very, very still. My heart warmed. Maybe this little person wouldn’t be so bad to live with after all. Perhaps we could coexist peacefully. I still wasn’t sure she liked me because Daddy said babies often smiled when they had gas. But gassy or not, we bonded.
Eventually she stopped screaming and started talking. Kathy scooted around the house in her Hello Kitty pajamas and found everything I did to be incredibly clever. Peek-a-boo and hide ‘n seek became daily activities. Sometimes she even grabbed a toy in her little fist and handed it to me. I also discovered why God gave Daddy two knees. One knee was available for each of us when bedtime stories were read. Candyland was much more fun with two players, and most of the time Kathy let me win!
Life was good. We had the occasional tiff ending in tears and forced separation. Having a sister brought much more creativity when devising mischief. Kathy gazed at me with adoring glances when I wasn’t supposed to be looking, and she was warm and cuddly on winter nights.
All in all, I believe the alien visitation to the Tacker home was not a catastrophe, but a gift from heaven.
Just like Paul, the crusty apostle, I am a slow-learner when it comes to living in community with others. It took years for Paul to shed his self-made skin. Salty Paul never minced words. The apostle talked tough. “Hand the sinner over to Satan until he repents!” (1 Corinthians 5:5) “If you don’t work, you don’t eat!” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) He embarked on his first missionary journey at the ripe old age of forty-nine (old as the hills in Bible times). Paul was smart as a whip and pretty self-reliant. He braved shipwrecks and beatings-the ultimate tough guy. They should have named an action figure after him like “Energizer Paul,” the guy who keeps on going and going and going. Scaling mountains didn’t scare him. Roman soldiers couldn’t intimidate him. He held his own in a brawl in Ephesus when the Artemis silversmiths went ballistic. (Acts 19:24-34) The old geezer even had the guts to climb in a basket and be thrown over a wall when an angry mob wanted to lynch him. (Acts 9:25)
But Paul had a gooey center. He loved young Timothy and called him his “ true son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2). He thanked God for his kind Brother Titus, and taught him how to shepherd a flock. (Titus 1:1) A gentler and wiser Paul wrote the Thessalonian church and penned these words: “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)
From terminator to nursing mother? What a transformation! In the same sentence where Paul penned the legendary words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he followed those famous words with “I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.” (Philippians 4:13-14) Barnabus and Silas were his traveling companions, and even little John Mark, the screw-up too timid to travel, became his beloved friend.
Those of us who pride ourselves on our independence should reconsider. We need our “brothers and sisters” in the Lord. They pray for us, protect us, support us and well, just make life richer and more fun!
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” NLT
Why could Paul juxtapose his declaration of doing anything through Christ with the thought that he needed his friends? How do faith and fellowship mix? Is it spiritual to “need each other?”
Who are the people in your life who have supported you in difficulties? Write them here. Now meditate on those moments of support and comfort. Thank God for those “burden bearers” who have come alongside you.
Ask God to open your eyes today to see people that are often over-looked. Perhaps it is the cashier at the grocery store, the shy accountant in his office cubicle. Perhaps it is someone who seems sad and depressed. Speak a word of kindness and encouragement to them.