Dancing With the Porcupine

James 4:1-2

Vance Havner once remarked, “There are a lot of Christians like porcupines-they have a lot of good points, but you can’t get near them.”  How is it that God’s beloved children can become such a bristly bunch?  Is there a way we can get past our sharp edges? 

John Ortberg in his book Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them writes:  “As a general rule, porcupines have two methods for handling relationships:  withdrawl and attack.  They head for a tree or stick out their quills.  … Porcupines don’t want to be alone.  In the late autumn, a young porcupine’s thoughts turn to love.  But love turns out to be a risky business when you’re a porcupine.  Females are open to dinner and a movie only once a year; the window of opportunity closes quickly.  And a girl porcupine’s “No” is the most widely respected turndown in all the animal kingdom.  This is the porcupine’s dilemma:  How do you get close without getting hurt?”    That’s the question we ask ourselves sometimes when we attend church or when we date or try to strengthen our marriages or settle in to a new work place.  Dare I risk the quills of another’s self protection?  What we tend to forget is that we are always someone else’s porcupine.

James tackles relationships in today’s passage.  He seeks to get at the root of much of our relationship problems.  “What causes fights and quarrels among you?”  James says that the battles begin we we don’t feel we are getting our needs met.  We aren’t getting the necessary praise, admiration, attention or sympathy we feel we should… so we quarrel and fight to get it.  James feels there is a better way to get ones needs met:  Ask the Almighty!  Ask Him to supply your needs… your desire to be loved… your quest for significance.  Unplug yourself from getting your needs met solely through others.  Humans do not have the capacity to keep you charged up for very long… for they are plugged into you attempting to do the same thing!  I will share more about asking God for what you need later on in the week.

But for now, let’s get back to our poor porcupine.  Ortberg shares:  “Miracle of miracles: relationship does happen-even for porcupines.  On rare occasions, one porcupine will share space with another, and they become friends.  … Porcupines learn to keep their barbs to themselves.  Not only that, they figure out how to get together at least long enought to make sure that another generation will come along.  In an image too wonderful to be made up, naturalist David Costello writes, “Males and females may remain together for some days before mating.  They may touch paws and even walk on their hind feet in the so-called ‘dance of the porcupines.'”

Great picture!  Sometimes church is like that… pulling in our quills long enough to find a way to waltz.  When we each learn get our needs met in God – nobody gets hurt… and the dance goes on.

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