I really thought I was going to kick that football this time around. If you grew up on Charlie Brown cartoons like I did, you know where I’m going with this. If you didn’t, here’s the very pathetic tale of Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the elusive football (watch here): Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she’s got a nice shiny football for him to kick. But Charlie Brown remembered all those other times Lucy came to him with a shiny football, told him to kick it, he got a running start, and right when he’s about to kick, Lucy moved the football and Charlie Brown fell flat on his back. So this time, Charlie Brown says, “No way! Not this time!” But Lucy does whatever she can to convince Charlie Brown that this time will be different and she will let him kick that football. So Charlie gets excited — he’s finally gonna kick that football! — he gets his running start, and just as he is about to kick, SURPRISE SURPRISE, she moves the ball.
We all have a ‘Lucy’ in our lives. If you don’t have one yet, like my grandma used to say — keep on living. Well, my Lucy has struck again. And, once again, I find myself flat on my back, grappling with the issue of, as a Christian, how do you deal with an unfriendly friend?
My gut says: “you don’t!” And I generally follow that — with words or text messages, or whatever it takes to get the point across. And then I went to Bible study last night. It hurt my feelings. Once again, I’d been tested in the exact same area and once again, I had failed. Not by trusting Lucy enough to try to kick the football again, but in my reaction to falling flat on my back, again. Allow me to explain:
This year, people all over the world in a Bible Study Fellowship group are studying the book of Acts. On Monday night we discussed chapter 2 where the Holy Spirit comes to all of those who believed that Jesus (who had ascended to Heaven 10 days earlier in plain view of the disciples) was indeed the Son of God who was crucified to save us from our sins, resurrected, and now seated at the right-hand of the God the Father. When the Holy Spirit came and dwelled inside of each believer, there was a loud sound like a violent wind and the people in the crowd around the believers saw that the believers had fiery tongues and were speaking in foreign languages. The crowd was made up of many nationalities and all were amazed that they could each hear their own language when the believers spoke, even though the believers were only from the city of Gaililee and should have been able to speak just that language.
Peter preached a powerful sermon to those people in the crowd and told them that the reason they could hear in their own language is because the Holy Spirit had come, just as Jesus had promised, and the Holy Spirit brought the believers a new understanding and power. He told the people in the crowd that Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for all those generations and they ignored Him and rejected Him and wrongfully murdered Him. But here’s the remarkable thing: Acts 2:37 says, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” Peter told them that they, too, could have the Holy Spirit if they acknowledged their sin in killing Jesus 50 days earlier and asked God for forgiveness in the name of Jesus. Acts 2:41 says about 3,000 people became Christians that day. And those 3,000 went out and spread the word about Jesus all over the world. That day, a movement was born.
In case you missed what was remarkable about this situation, or what this has to do with Lucy, let me further explain: 50 or so days earlier this same crowd of people called out for the Jesus to be murdered violently. This crowd of people taunted Him, spat on Him, beat Him, tortured Him, or silently stood by and let it all happen — Just. 50. days. before. And now that the Holy Spirit has come, it’s as if this crowd’s eyes have collectively been opened. They are immediately cut in their hearts over what they did wrong to Jesus and they believed in Him and accepted His salvation.
What a difference the Holy Spirit makes!
“Lucy” may change or may never change — that is not for me to know or to say OR TO CHANGE. I have no authority over Lucy’s life, but God does. God can take a little boy named David, with a sling-shot and a pebble, and defeat a giant; He can take a lanky, shy, inarticulate kid and turn her into a Diva with eloquent words and the confidence to chase down anyone for an interview. With God, ALL THINGS are possible, and with the Holy Spirit, hearts can change, minds can change, words can change, deeds can change. I’m proof of that, myself! Far be it for me to conclude God is not able to change the Lucy”s in our lives, or in ourselves.
I’ve been Lucy before; I’ve told Christ every day “this time will be different, I promise!” Only to mess up, yet again. But He still loves me, still takes me back, and still intercedes on my behalf. So I can’t judge Lucy. I shouldn’t be angry with Lucy. I should pray for Lucy daily and love Lucy always — even if it has to be from a distance.