I’ve heard a lot lately about Lucy and Charlie Brown and the annual football incident that we Boomers remember so well from good old Charles Schultz. Every year Lucy would talk Charlie Brown into letting her hold the football while he kicked it, and every year, no matter how much we hoped it wouldn’t happen, she pulled it away at the last minute and Charlie ended up on his back, the wind knocked out of him, staring at the clouds and feeling stupid. That scenario is a metaphor for so many of the things we experience in life, from politics to business to personal relationships. It’s a broken world. It seems like there’s always a Lucy out there trying to lure us into trust. We are all very wary.
I’ve been beating myself up lately with the old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” It comes to me in the night and beats against my soul like relentless waves on the beach. Like the dinosaur in Toy Story, “Now I have guilt.” Or I did. Then this morning I read the first part of the Sermon on the Mount.
Our church is doing an “89 Day Scripture Challenge” in the weeks between New Years and Easter. We’re reading the entire New Testament together. Today, according to the plan, I read Matthew 5. Years ago we memorized Matthew 5-7 as a family, so the verses are familiar. I’m reading the ESV now, though, so the subtle difference in wording made the concepts stand out and they were like salve to my aching soul. First I read through the beatitudes. I read slowly. I re-read and considered. Then I came to the famous words, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also….” Sometimes words are so familiar that they move beyond meaning and become only shapes and sounds. Today, though, these words pierced like a laser straight to my heart. There’s no shame in being twice fooled. I’m supposed to let you take your best shot. I’m supposed to believe that this time you’ll do better. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use wisdom and caution or that we should be totally naive. It does mean that when Lucy came to Charlie Brown and asked him to kick the ball, it was an act of grace and love on his part that he believed her. The shame was not Charlie Brown. The shame belonged to Lucy. Still, year after year, he forgave. Year after year he trusted, loved, extended grace, and year after year he ended up, breathless, staring at the clouds. But hey, he was looking up, and that’s what I’m going to do, too. Jesus can deal with the Lucy van Pelts of this world. I’d rather be a Charlie Brown.