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Seals, Grudges and Grace

Seal rescue videos, grudges that grip our hearts and God’s Amazing Grace…how are these three things connected?

Seal Rescue videos:

My husband is intrigued as he watches YouTube videos of seals being rescued from the entanglement of fishing line. He can spend a long time watching all the intricate care that is taken to set the seals free. He is joyous when they scamper off back into the ocean. There are hundreds of these videos on Ocean Conservation Namibia’s YouTube Channel Recently a video of a koala being cut free from a fence came to me as a suggested video. Perhaps just being in a household where daily watching of seals being set free from fishing line had our newsfeeds cross.

Grudges that grip our hearts:

Let it go. That speaks easy and it takes power that is greater than our own will to do it. When the grudges are not ours, it may seem to be simple and easy advice to another to just “let it go”. Animals set free from fishing nets and fences came to mind as I considered how the greek word for “grudge” in our gospel reading (verse 19) from Mark 6:14-29 has a sense of being ensnared and something that is held onto. That’s what grudges do to us they ennare us and hold us captive.

Like the seal who swims into the net and cannot unentangle herself, so often this is the very nature of a grudge- it binds us. We need outside help to let it go. We need God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves- set us free. Let go and let God is the slogan that comes to mind. And our part is the willingness. Herodias wasn’t interested in that.

She takes grudge holding to a whole new level- her grudge sets off the events that result in the beheading of John the Baptizer. Her shame? Her fear? What is entangling her? She is bound by her marriage to Herod (who had her husband killed) and has been called out by John the Baptizer. Herod is also in bind of his own. Herod both feared John and liked to listen to him. At Herod’s own birthday party banquet ,to impress others after his daughter’s dance pleases him, Herod promises to give her whatever she asks. He entangles himself in a promise he makes out of his pride and pomposity. Herod is willing to give her half his kingdom. When she asks instead for the head of John the Baptizer on a platter Herod is ensnared.

It’s not fishing line or fence wire that ensnare Herod and his wife. Their grandiosity and grudges result in the beheading of John the Baptizer . When he hears about what Jesus is doing- performing miracles and healings, raising young girls from the dead and teaching in the synagogue Herod thinks it is that John has been raised from the dead and doing all these things. Grandiosity gripped Herod and now fear does as well.

The grudge against John the Baptizer entangled Herodias and was passed on to her daughter. She entered into the snare of her mother’s grudge requesting a gruesome prize for her dancing. Evil is expanding and it’s a graphic scene which Mark’s gospel tells with the most details, despite this gospel being the shortest of the four. It will still take more signs and wonders before Jesus will be acknowledged and identified as the Messiah, the chosen one of God. And still much more time before his true power to transform grudges and greed, grandiosity and fear are seen as some of the gifts he brings.

God’s Amazing Grace:

This is the gift that is beyond our human understanding or comprehension and outside of our ability to earn, create or deserve. God’s grace it is gift- pure gift. The seal cannot escape the net that will result in it’s death. The seal needs outside help. Herodias cannot let go of her grudge that will kill John even though his death will not ultimately make her life any better. And Jesus came to love her- just as she is. That is the nature of God’s grace- a love that is undeserved and unmerited. A gift that unbinds us and set’s us free.

In a conversation with a funeral director who daily deals with death and denial, entanglements and family dynamics, grudges and grandiosity. Those things that unfortunately can emerge and ensnare those who are in deep grief- we spoke about the song Amazing Grace in the version at the top of this post.

Chris Tomlin intersperses My Chains Are Gone with the well loved song written by slave trader John Newton.

My chains are gone, I've been set free

My God, my Savior has ransomed me

And like a flood His mercy reigns

Unending love

Amazing grace

John Newton’s chains didn’t leave him for a long time. Even after experiencing his own miracle of being saved at sea, having a conversion experience and starting to read the Bible. It would be more than three decades after his near death experience before he would renounce his former trade. Although his own being saved at sea was sudden- he would not quickly renounce the evil he had identified in slavery- he was entangled. Even after he wrote the powerful song it would still take time --for him to allow God to do for him what he could not do for himself--set him free. John Newton profited from his investments In the slave trade. He was entrapped in his greed.

Whether it is seals or grudge holders, rulers or slave traders, greed or envy- even with awareness and insight none of them could set themselves free. Neither can we.

If you take time to watch any of those seal videos or the koala one above- perhaps you’ll notice that to have the fishing line or fence wire cut the animal must hold still. They need to let go. Let go of trying to run away. If they don’t it doesn’t work (those are the super sad videos). For it to work they need to let the one who is helping them do what they can to set them free.

What entraps you? What grudges are you holding onto? Are you running from something that frightens or shames you? Sometimes suddenly and often slowly we become willing to let go. To hold still. To allow God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves- forgive us and set us free.

Grudges grip one’s soul. Grandiosity can back one into a corner needing to prove their superiority. God wants something so very different for us than that. The pure joy Dan gets when he sees those seals set free makes me think of how God wants to set us free. You see, I am back to where I started with the seals- some of those nets cut deep into their skin and it takes a long time for them to get untangled. They can’t do it for themselves. They need help and so do we.

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