Chasing Foxes Back Down Their Holes

Have you ever thought that we just have it all wrong!  I was reading the creation story the other day and realized that we’ve got it all wrong.  We start our day in the morning and end our day in the evening, but if you read the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis, God starts the day in the evening and ends the day in the morning…” And there was evening and there was morning, the first day!”   What’s going on here?

If you re-read the story, you will notice that God does most of God’s work in the evening, in the chaos, in the darkness.  In the first day all is dark and chaos, and God speaks light into the dark; order into chaos.  For some reason that gives me incredible hope!

For Christians, this work in the darkness comes in the form of Jesus, our Christ. God chooses to send God’s brightest light to the world, Jesus, not at the break of day, but at the darkest moment in human history.  A time we call the “inter-testament time.”  A time when God was so far away that the people of Israel had stopped even shaping words about God. It was as if the people of Israel had writers block!  But there, amid the world’s worse case of writer’s block, God chose to send “the word!”   For some reason that gives me incredible hope! Placing evening first and morning last, to me, seems to be more hopeful.  I’m reminded of a Frederick Buechner quote that goes something like: “No matter how bad things are, the worst thing is not the last thing.  There is always hope.”

This past week I went to a day-long pastors retreat where we learned about spirituality and leadership.  At the retreat a Henri Nouwen quote caught my heart.  It’s from his book called “You are the Beloved.” In the quote Nouwen talks about the voices of darkness that chase us.  He refers to them as foxes: “there are many cunning foxes jumping on our shoulders and whispering in our ears the great lie.”

The great lie is this: that we are of no worth.  That there is nothing new in the sun.  That our new year, our new day, our “new” anything is just flat, boring, and dull.  Nouwen urges us to learn how to chase those foxes back down in their foxholes to where they belong.

So how do we do that?   I think one way is not to let “the evening;” the darkness; the fox’s negative voice, be the last voice of your day. A good practice to incorporate in dark times is gratitude.  Gratitude is not an attitude, it is a practice!   You don’t do it just because you feel good…you practice it because your life depends on it. It’s a Christian skill that we nurture.  I remember the first time I played tennis.  I hated it.  I spent all my time chasing balls.  The balls never went where I wanted them to go.  It was no fun.  But through my coaches’ encouragement, and hours and hours of practice…there came a day when tennis was enjoyable.  I wasn’t working at it anymore, I was living it!  Practice gratitude until it become a part of who you are!  

Fact! Statistics show that for every negative word you receive from someone else, it takes 3 genuinely positive affirmations to begin to quiet that one negative voice!   So here is a practice you might try: start a gratitude journal.  Every evening list 3 things you are grateful for.  The catch is…every evening these 3 things cannot be repeats from previous entries!    A second practice is to change your self-talk.  Every time you have a negative or annoying thought don’t end it there!  Find some way to turn that negative thought into a positive.  Turn that negative into a positive ending! And a third practice, one difficult to do in this season…watch the sunrise!

My hope that as we learn to practice gratitude, hope will start living in our heart.

Your friend and pastor, learning to chase that fox back down the hole, Brook

Tim Schaaf