Have you ever been impaled by a cactus? It’s not fun. Have you ever forgotten something or made a mistake that sticks with you like a spine of a cactus? That’s not fun either. I’ve definitely made some big mistakes in my life. I also have a disdain for cacti.
I’m thankful I grew up at Johnstown Christian School, a small Christian school in rural western Pennsylvania. When I was in tenth grade, our science teacher, Mr. Griffith and several others from our school went on a mission trip to Russia during part of the school year. I wish I could say I retained everything I learned in his biology class, but it’s not my fault. Every year I somehow ended up with the exact same seat below one of the windows in our classroom. This window had several plants next to it, one of which was a cactus. I’m certain this cactus hated me because at least several times a week it would land on my right arm. Years later, I’m convinced there are still spines in my arm from that evil plant. I might not be able to tell you the anatomy of a frog, but I can tell you gravity is real.
Before he left, for some odd reason, Mr. Griffith asked my class to take care of two very important things. First, when he returned he wanted every single plant in that room alive, even the cactus. (Really? The even the cactus?) Also, we had to care for the tiny lizard. Now I should mention this was during a cold winter in Pennsylvania, and our classroom was in the basement of the school. Even the humans were frequently cold, so before he left, he made sure this heat seeking lizard’s home was relocated to the furnace room down the hall. The dry heat from the coal furnace would ensure this little guy would thrive during the cold winter. He stressed several more times, how important it was to keep the plants alive. We made certain no one was going to forget those plants.
For six weeks, we faithfully watered those plants using the cream colored flowered tea pot in the room. We made sure they had all the water they needed. None of those plants were going thirsty on our watch. I was tempted to arrange an “accident” for the cactus, but I didn’t want my GPA to suffer. Instead, I wore long sleeves to help protect my arm from its planned attacks.
When Mr. Griffith returned, we were so proud! Those plants were alive and thriving. He was happy about the plants. Then he told us he had something to show us. I was amazed at the realistic features of the model lizard he placed on the counter. Then it sunk in. This wasn’t a model lizard; it was a starved, dehydrated, and formerly alive lizard. Over the course of six weeks, that poor lizard had lots of warmth, but no water or food. (I feel like we should pause for a moment of silence.) I’m going to guess that, aside from the lunch meat eating catfish, the lizard situation is why we rarely had live animals in our classroom. We did have one formerly alive lizard watch over us for a very long time.
It amazes me how a class of about 25 students managed to forget about that lizard. I’m also amazed that we weren’t punished. That day, we were shown grace. God’s been teaching me so much about His grace lately. Maybe that’s why I keep remembering that poor lizard and his untimely passing. I can be very hard on myself. I tend to ignore this verse:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)
Even when we’ve made a mistake with dire consequences, God is always there. He cares, He loves us, and He forgives us when we come to Him.
Because of Jesus we have grace. Now, that doesn’t mean we should intentionally sin. I’m also not condoning lizard abandonment, but maybe we need to learn accept the grace God gives us.
Perhaps that little lizard’s short life had a message after all. Perhaps it’s also time I forgive that cactus.
I enjoy hearing from you! Has God shown you something about His grace in an unusual way?
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