Time of Landing Flies

This is the time of year when flies land on me.

Well, not just me. Not to be insulting, but I'm sure they land on you too. That's how it is with flies as the days grow shorter: they land on people. Also on the rims of coffee cups, and sandwiches, and plates on which sandwiches reside, and glasses of milk, and computer keyboards, and so on, edibles and nonedibles. Mostly, though, they land on you and me.

Native Americans had a name for this season: Quish-qua-go-yomama, "Time of Landing Flies." * As the maples don their scarlet robes, and asters glaze the meadows, and the angling sun gilds storybook landscapes, flies lose their minds. It's the one thing that can disrupt the poetry of autumn, not to mention my focus. I'll be sitting with my laptop, writing some profound piece of lyricism that requires all the candlepower I can muster....

Me: <[Typing] O moon-kiss'd maid with...

Fly: [Lands on my wrist] Bzzzt! (Translation: "Hi!")

Me: [Absentmindedly flick my wrist and return to typing]...a booger in thy nose / Wherefore art thou Romeo's? / Would that I might...

Fly: [Buzzes around a bit, then returns to my wrist. Flies are nothing if not persistent.] Bzzzt! ("I like you!")

Me: [Flick my wrist again] Dammit.

Fly: [Lands on the frame of my computer screen] Bzzzt! ("Will you be my friend? I think we could be great chums, you and I.")

Me: [Swatting at fly] Get a-WAY! Go! Shoo!

Fly: [Returns to the frame] Bzzzt! ("I offer you friendship. You respond with hostility. Will you not reconsider? I have powerful connections.")

Me: [Positioning my hands to clap them together against the fly] You shall die.

Fly: Uh-oh. [Takes off before I can nail it, then circles back and lands momentarily on my knee, out of reach] Bzzzt! ("Pthhhhtttt!")

I once was having a tabletop conversation with a friend when a fly zipped down out of nowhere like a tiny black meteor, straight at my shirt front. I glanced down at my chest but saw nothing, so I continued talking. But my friend's eyes had grown large, and I could tell something was distracting her. Finally she said, "Bob, did that fly just fly into your pocket?"

"Ha, ha!" I said. "Nah!"

Then from my pocket I heard a muffled Bzzzt! (Translation: "Don't be too sure about that.")

I looked down. There was the fly, looking up. We locked eyes, not an easy feat when teeny-weeny compound eyes are involved. "Bzzzt!" said the fly, which I took to mean, "This is great! I really like it in here."

That's how flies are this time of year. They whiz all over the place like miniscule stunt pilots on amphetamines, performing side slips and barrel rolls and all kinds of maneuvers with no discernible purpose. Then they land on me.

I don't get it. I don't like it. And I don't like flies.

"Bzzzt!"

No, we cannot be friends. Now get off my kneecap.

__________________________

* Actually, Native Americans had no such name. I made it up just now. But they would have invented it if they'd been paying attention.

Seventy-Seven Times

There he was, crouched in front of the fire, poking the logs with a stick to refresh the flame. Peter sat down on a large, flat stone next to him. "Jesus?"

"Yes?" He didn't look up.

"I have a question. How many times must I forgive my brother? Seven times?" Jesus gazed into the fire, seemingly captivated by the orange heat that wavered and crawled across the coals. Firelight and shadow played across the side of his face. Then...

"No, Peter, not seven times. Seventy-seven times."

"Whaaat! How am I supposed to keep track of that?"

"Exactly."

Not seven times. Seventy-seven times.

Like three and forty, the number seven in the Bible has particular significance. It represents perfection, completion, or so I've heard it said through the years, often enough that I think it's true. So what does it mean to forgive seventy-seven times? What was Jesus telling Peter--and what is he telling us?

How about this: Forgive, and keep forgiving, until the job is done. Forgive without keeping score, unto perfect perfection. Whatever it takes. Do it.

What Forgiveness Is Not

Notice that Jesus is not saying, Trust. He is not advocating, contrary to all common sense, that you put your confidence in a person whose behavior is patently untrustworthy. You can forgive the mad dog that bit you, but you're a fool to step back into the kennel with it.

Jesus is also not saying, Forget. Forgiveness is not forgetfulness. Forgetfulness may follow forgiveness--or it may not. But forgiveness doesn't hinge on your ability to blot something out of your mind. After all, you can't forgive what you've forgotten.

Finally, Jesus is not saying, Deny the injury. Forgiveness is not denial. Don't tell yourself the wound is nothing. You can't forgive nothing; you can only forgive an actual wrong done to you. It matters. It is something, not nothing.

No, forgiveness is not blind trust, nor impossible forgetfulness, nor pretending the arrow in your back doesn't hurt. It is, rather, a seventy-seven-mile journey of desiring God's truth, grace, and freedom, not an eye for an eye, for the one who hurt us.

It starts, perhaps, with this: "If I could send them to hell, I would not."

It moves into this: "Father, grant them life!"

And it ripens, I would like to think, into peace, gladness, and wholeness of heart for ourselves.