Scratch, scratch, scratch. I have arrived home from our church's family camp covered with mosquito bites. I tried to prevent getting bitten, for I react pretty severely to bug bites. My skin gets all red, swollen, itchy, hot, and I sometimes feel feverish and fatigued. I mixed up a blend of oils - citronella, peppermint, lemon balm, and witch hazel and faithfully sprayed my exposed skin, especially at dusk. I also have a specially treated bandana that is supposed to repel insects. I wear that around my neck. I've even got a large netting - it kind of looks like an upside-down mesh laundry bag that I wear around my whole head. And, I faithfully whip up my pillows and shine my reading light under them before getting into bed each night. You never know if a spider might be enjoying a warm nap under there!
Now, before you laugh too hard, you have to understand that for some reason, God created me to be bait (or should I say, food?) for any and all insects - spiders, mosquitos, wasps, ants, and my all-time favorite, the dreaded no-see-ums. You name it, they seek me out by name. I'm just minding my own business, not even thinking about bothering them, yet they still persist. I don't know how many times I've woken up covered with spider-bites, but Rich gets zero! When we're outside, I'm the one that's usually flapping my arms around shooing them away, while Rich calmly relaxes and enjoys the scenery.
So as I sit here trying hard not to think about my itchy ankles, but the more I try NOT to think about scratching, the more itchy they become! I got to thinking about how much these irritating bites are like sin. No matter what I'm doing - eating breakfast, typing on my computer, driving, talking with Rich, the itch is ever-present; never far from my thoughts and attention. I find my hand drifting down to my ankles especially when my mind has shifted into neutral - when my defenses are down. And once I give in to that first little scratch, I've got to repeat it, for now the itch has intensified. And I scratch again, and again, and again. And now, far from being satisfying, it's beginning to hurt a little. And bleed. And I must scratch harder and harder to satisfy that intense itching! Aargh! The only time that I don't hear the call to scratch is when my mind is completely engaged in something like trying to play my viola, or driving our large van in Seattle's rush hour traffic.
It's the same way with our fight against sin. Even though I am a new creation, I daily battle with sin. The temptation to give in to sin is always there - calling me; tempting me. And it grabs me when I let my mind shift into neutral. And once I give in to sin, just a little, it demands more. But it never satisfies. Sin costs. And the end of sin is death. James says, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
I'm learning that a key to battling sin is my mind...what am I going to feed it today? When I choose to soak my mind in the truths of God's Word, I don't notice the temptations to sin as much, for my mind and soul is filled with God and His great love and grace toward me. "Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ..." (1 Peter 1:13)
It was an evening that I had been looking forward to for quite awhile, although another part of me was hoping time would stand still and the evening would never arrive. But arrive it did and with great excitement, as this year Jonathan would be able to join us once again for our (9th? 10th?) annual Mother/Son Baseball Night to cheer on the Seattle Mariners.
We arrived at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal with time to spare, paid our $11 parking fee, and made our way up the ramp to board. A beautiful, sunny afternoon with a slightly cool breeze buoyed our already-high spirits. Jairus was wearing his Mariners cap and a too-small navy shirt with forest green stripes, Aaron had his Japanese Mariner's cap and a blue shirt, Jonathan sported a white cap, and I had on my #1 Mom Mariners shirt. We were all set.
It was then, as we waited in line, that my mind began to take me back in time . . . .back to 2006 - eight years ago, standing in the very same spot with a then 13-year-old Jonathan and a 5-year-old Aaron and a 7-month-old Jairus still in the womb. I remembered the harsh, disapproving stares I received as if to say, "What do you think you're doing, being pregnant with another child when you already have two boys?!?" Where has the time gone? I've traded in my very-pregnant-body for an aging, arthritic one. My sons tower over me (most of them.) Jonathan is 21 and off to law school, Aaron is now 13, and Jairus is almost eight!
How did my boys grow up so fast? When did that happen? I joyfully savored each fleeting moment, simply watching them as we stood in line. And like Mary, I pondered these things in my heart. I willed myself not to cry, though, for that would confuse and spoil our excitement. And, as all of our children know, I do not cry pretty - the first, telltale sign is my big, red nose. And it gets worse from there.
Once we docked in downtown Seattle, we faced about a mile walk to the ballpark. Even though I had been exercising and wore my good shoes, I was apprehensive about keeping up with the guys, but I was determined to try my best. Jonathan asked, "Which way should we go, Mama?" to which I replied, "Go ahead and take the lead, Jonathan, and I'll follow along." Holding on to Jairus' hand, I expected the guys to surge ahead, looking back every now and then to make sure I was coming. But after we broke free from the crush of the crowd, Jonathan directed, "Go ahead and set the pace, Mama, and I'll be behind you." So I did. We walked up the hill, and down 1st street in the heat, block after block. It was the same route that we took eight years ago . . . and try as I might, I got tired in the very same place. "Sorry guys, is it okay if we stop for a rest here?" I inquired, taking note of each of our son's responses to this halt to their plans. Jairus sat down next to me, happy to have a chance to snuggle close. Aaron willed his strong, limber body into neutral. Jonathan took advantage of the pause to take a few photos with his cell phone.