Monday, April 29, 2013

Urban Legends

 An urban legend is a story based on hearsay and widely circulated as true; like alligators living in the sewers of New York. I had my first experience with an urban legend when my husband was in seminary. Kevin and I were having dinner with some friends when they shared with us an amazing story.

Kerri, a young lady we all knew, had been driving home from work at Union Planters (a local bank) when she spotted a hitchhiker on the side of the road. Even though she would normally never pick up someone she didn't know, she felt led by God to stop and give this guy a ride. He sat in the back seat and she began to converse with him.

After a short while, he said to her, "Do you know Jesus?" and she said, "Yes, I do." The stranger responded, "Good, because He is coming back soon." She was taken aback by his statement and looked in her rear view mirror to see the hitchhiker, but he had vanished.

"Wow, that's a really amazing story. But, are you sure it's true?" we asked our friends.

Our friends looked a bit offended by our statement. "Don't you believe that Jesus is coming back? Don't you think it could be soon?"

"Well, yes,"  I said, "We know Jesus will return one day, maybe even today. But we just don't know if this story is true. I am going to call Kerri right now and ask her."

I picked up the phone and dialed Kerri, she didn't answer. But, I got her answering machine and left a message asking about the story. She called back in about ten minutes to tell us the story was not true. She had stopped answering her phone because she was being inundated with calls about the supposed event.

The rumor on our seminary campus came to a halt, but we would hear this same story in various places for years to come. Usually there would not  be a specific person's name, but a sister or cousin or neighbor of someone you knew. There were always little details like the name of the road or the place the person was employed that helped lend credibility to the story.

Unfortunately, the story wasn't true. I took the job of cold water pourer and/or balloon buster to inform people that it was just a concocted tale. Not a fun job, but necessary nonetheless. Most often, people would be greatly disappointed.

However, there is no reason for lost hope. Because the real truth hasn't changed. The reality is still filled with hope. Jesus did die, Jesus did rise, Jesus did appear to His followers, and Jesus did ascend to heaven with a promise to return. He's still coming. I don't need modern day myths to assure me of what is truth. A made up story doesn't change the truth that Jesus will return.

So last week when I got caught up in the chill bump excitement of a new modern myth, I was almost let down when I discovered it was false. ALMOST.

 This myth is about the eagle and how it molts, supposedly pulling out all of its feathers, breaking its beak against the rocks, and ripping out its own talons in order to be renewed and live another 20 or 30 years. (Truth is that eagles molt continually like most other birds and they never break off their beaks or pull out their talons.)

The part of the myth that my spiritual sisters and I got excited about was how the other eagles would protect and feed this molting eagle while it was in this helpless state. The eagle on the path to new wings and health was not alone, he had his other eagles supporting him and helping him through the tough time of loss. He would only make it because of these other eagles; without them the eagle would starve and fall to the elements.

Kinda cool, yes? You can see why I was pulled in and wanted this to be true, right? But it's not. It's totally false.

Yet the falsehood of the story doesn't negate the truth of our need. We still need others around us in the hard times. If we have great losses and are at our most vulnerable, we've got to have friends that help carry us through. We can't make it by ourselves. Healing, hope, and health always come through relationships with others.

Eagles may not need a support system of other eagles, but you do need the support of others. Without others, you will succumb to the elements. God didn't intend for you to experience the pain of this life by yourself.  Don't walk your road alone. Reach out, make friends, get support and learn to fly again.

And please, never, ever pick up a hitchhiker.

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