herding cats

10 02 2011

my hero

From Jack Bauer to Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa to Batman, art and real life show us that flawed heroes are the best heroes. A flawless hero is too distant, too unreal; if we get a sniff of a flawless hero we send the paps round to expose them, whether it’s their affairs, temper tantrums, cellulite or simply mixed motives we love to bring them down. To our level? Or lower?

It’s probably because we know they can’t be real. Because we know ourselves. We may do heroic things, maybe every day – feeding the children, surviving the marriage, managing a smile, or rescuing kittens from burning buildings – but we know our heroic nature battles with our rubbish nature and usually comes out second best. So we need our heroes to be like us. And it is encouraging to know they are.

Maybe it’s just an anti-authority post-modern thing. But if so, the ancient scribblers who wrote down the early Bible stories were pretty post-modern. I’ve been reading Genesis and have reached the part where the grand stories and descriptive narratives of creation and garden and flood and the growth of nations and the beginning of humanity and human nature make way for the particular and specific as we meet a particular man called Abraham. And his temperamental and dysfunctional family.

He is a Biblical hero. One of the fathers of our faith, a patriarch, and rightly so; on a good day he was loyal, faithful, fearless and bold, striking out for this new and barely understood God through thick and thin. And so, a hero. But on a bad day… we don’t have to do much (any) digging to find the flaws. He lied, he was unfaithful to his wife and his God, he was hot-headed and arrogant and made a lot of money on the way. And his children… EastEnders would be proud to have such a family in Walford.

Follow me! Erm, hello?

This new family that Yahweh were certainly not chosen for their respectability, their compliance, their ability to wear hats or fit into Victorian family ideals. In fact I get the feeling that leading this family was a bit like herding cats. No sooner have you got them going one way than they have wandered off.

So why do it? The way some people understand God, he wouldn’t have the patience to herd cats, or even to heroically rescue them from burning buildings. The Old Testament God would just shoot them for going the wrong way, wouldn’t he? Didn’t he love a good smiting,what ever that is?  No. I think a proper reading of Genesis shows us that time and again God looks for excuses to bless, excuses to show grace; time and again instead of choosing compliant robots or even loyal and simple dogs he chooses cats, cats who don’t like to be managed, led or controlled, let alone herded. But he patiently waits, patiently nudges the family back on track when they’ve wandered off.

Hopefully that can be an encouragement to us who, like cats, get bored, wander off and would rather have a snooze. God’s endless patience with Abraham and his family, through Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and David and all the way through Jesus’ disciples and down to us is still… endless. No matter how much leading us is like herding cats.





3 responses

10 02 2011

Thanks Kevin – this is great. Hope it’s more Mother Theresa than Jack Bauer in St Helier at the moment!

11 02 2011
Mark pickett

Good insights Kevin. I once watched an extended family of orthodox Hassidic Jews arguing over who was going to sit in which seat in a railway carriage… Herding cats sums it up very well! Praise be that our God is not afraid of a challenge! If he had wanted an easy life he probably would have picked the Japanese as his chosen people. Pillar of cloud/fire? No need,……. Ever seen a party of Japanese tourists?….. All the Lord would have needed was a giant umbrella held aloft with a camera dangling from it, they’d have followed him anywhere!

11 02 2011
Tweets that mention herding cats « the blog of kevin -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kevin Lewis, Kevin Lewis. Kevin Lewis said: New post about heroes, villains and how God must sometimes feel like he's herding cats. #e100 #biblefresh http://fb.me/RpO3URUB […]

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