Psalm 31 (Morning)
Psalm 35 (Evening)
Anyone in Missouri who knows anything about mules knows the granddaddy of trail rides for mule aficionados is the trail ride in Eminence, MO. Some friends of mine go every year, and I think the only time they’ve ever missed it is if there was a marriage or death in the family. I’ve never been, myself, but I feel like I have been there from hearing some of their stories over and over. My favorite one out of their combined library of stories goes like this:
A few years ago, there was this one old mule, getting up there in years, who had been going on the trail ride for what seemed like forever, and everyone always thought this year would be his last. He’d been sold around for a lot of years as a safe, dependable, not very perturb-able mule for a new rider. Different people would be riding him from year to year, but it seemed like that old mule was always there.
Evidently, one of the mule’s former owners was a cruel man, and not a popular guy on the Eminence trail ride. Now, this man had sold the particular mule in the story, and probably 15 years had passed. (Admittedly, I’ve heard variations of this story saying it was 10 years, others 20. I’m splitting the difference here.)
At night, the riders tie the mules out on an overhead “high line” so they don’t get tangled. Well, the mule’s former owner just happened to walk behind the line of mules, not even noticing how close he was to their behinds. Well, that mule wasted no time delivering a single, well-placed kick, square into his former owner’s rib cage, knocking him flat giving him several broken ribs, and pretty much ending his trail ride. That mule never forgot, and he certainly seized the opportunity when it presented itself!
No doubt, human nature being what it is, we dearly love it when bad folks “get what’s coming to them.” Paul, however, asks us to try a new way in our reading from Romans today–the Gospel way. It’s a way that asks us to consider the possibility that there is no “us” vs. “them”–that we are all one body in Christ–that when there is disease or dis-ease anywhere in the body, the whole body is affected. Rather than go on search and destroy missions to placate our wounds, the Gospel asks us to build each other up and respect each other’s gifts. It calls us to present all of us–the good and bad of us–to God and trust that we are enough, that we contain all the basic material for transformation. Tending each other’s wounds is a part of that transformation, as is revealing our own.
The significant thing, I think, about that mule story, is I highly doubt that mule had plotted that moment against his former owner. It simply presented itself, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and it was over in one swift kick. We humans, on the other hand, can sure expend years and years of energy plotting. How much time have we wasted plotting, when we could, instead have used it for a greater good? No doubt we all have our unattractive impulsive moments, but it always seems easier to recoup and regroup from those than it does trying to come out from under a systematic pattern of holding resentments and nursing grudges.
When is a time you’ve attacked your own body (literally or figuratively) by hanging onto a grudge? When is a time that it came to light in one swift kick?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, is a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. She occasionally finds time to write about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid.