Friday, June 21, 2002
I had an opportunity to spend a little time recently with a young man who just finished his hitch in the United States Marine Corps. He must have been a good one - he was trusted with some very sensitive, very strategic assignments. He reminded me of that tremendous two-word motto of the Marine Corps - "Semper fidelis." That's Latin, of course, for "always faithful." But then he told me that there is another unofficial motto that Marines have - one that helps them respond effectively to their assignments. "Semper Gumby." You're probably saying what I said when I heard it - "Uh, what did he say?" Well, you and I both heard it right. And, yes, he was referring to that animated clay figure, Gumby, that can bend any direction. So what is "Semper Gumby"? Always flexible!
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Semper Gumby."
Now, a case could be made for putting that motto up in lots of places in our lives. In fact, when it comes to being the kind of person Jesus wants you to be, you can't really be "semper fidelis" - always faithful - unless you're "semper Gumby" - always flexible.
It's built into the fundamental assignment, the title actually, that Jesus gives to each and every one of us - His followers. When His original followers were arguing over who would be top dog in His organization, Jesus blew all that pride away with our word for today from the Word of God. In Matthew 20, beginning with verse 25, Jesus says, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them ... not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to be become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave."
Man, I can just hear those disciples - I can just hear us disciples - saying, "Hey, wait a minute here! You want me to run around meeting everybody else's needs, responding to everybody else's agendas?" All questions cease as Jesus continues - "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many." If the Son of God Himself lived to serve the needs of others, who am I to be living to be served; to have everyone dance to my tune?
And being a servant requires that "semper Gumby" attitude. Rigid people make lousy servants. If it's all about you - your rigid schedule, your rigid agenda, your rigid demands - that's not the attitude of a servant. A servant's life is not his own. He responds each day to the needs around him - which requires great flexibility. Now that doesn't mean you have no plans, no schedule, no guiding sense of mission. But it does mean that you always remain open to heaven's surprises in a day, to God's redirection, to ideas and suggestions that God may send to you through other people. And you stay open to the hurts and needs of others as they may come up in a day.
It's the nature of servanthood to be flexible. It's the nature of being a follower to be flexible - after all, you never know which way the Person you're following is going to go. And we are called to be followers of Jesus. So, do an attitude check - and see if your busyness, your temperament have caused you to calcify into someone who's too rigid, too stubborn, too all about yourself. If you're not flexible, you're going to be frustrated much of the time - and you're going to frustrating to your family, your co-workers, even your Lord.
So, fellow spiritual Marine, say those two liberating words with me now - "Semper Gumby" - always flexible.