The little squirrel on my deck has certainly struck a quiet pose of piety—hands meekly folded, head bowed, eyes cast downward. Perhaps he’s expressing gratitude for a glorious autumn day? Perhaps praying for his next meal? Or perhaps—more sinisterly—perhaps he’s simply trying to look like a humble, pious, innocent creature who couldn’t possibly be the same squirrel who’s been hanging from our roof and helping himself to huge chunks of the birds’ suet!
Unfortunately, endearing as he appears in this pious pose, I suspect the latter, and this little squirrel reminds me all too much of the pious poses we all strike at times to try to impress people—or to try to impress God! I know I’m guilty of that at times, and I was certainly a master of the pious pose when I was a teen-ager in my parents’ very pious home. My parents had a deep faith which expressed itself in many ways. They always attended every church service, and at home, we prayed together before each meal, they spoke often of their faith, and Dad, with sober face, would lead us in family devotions each day after breakfast or lunch.
All well and good, and I’m grateful, very grateful, for the faith of my mother and father and grateful for their sincerity in wanting their three daughters to share that faith. Unfortunately, however, much of what I practiced as a “pious teenager” was a form of piety rather than real piety or real faith. I learned all too quickly that appearing to be pious was pretty effective at getting my parents’ attention and praise. So I would pray long, lovely prayers, and I would also give glowing reports of what God was doing in my young life, even if what I said didn’t really resonate with what I experienced in my daily living. It certainly elicited praise from my devout parents and maybe even gave me the car keys more often than I would have been allowed them if I hadn’t been quite so openly pious! Like my little squirrel, I was all too capable of posing as a deeply spiritual person, even if I hadn’t really experienced all that I claimed. I was a genuine pious fraud!
Thankfully most people aren’t as easily taken in as my parents were! Pious frauds are usually easily spotted, and most people are not impressed by any of our pious poses put on simply to embellish our status. Certainly God isn’t the least bit impressed, because God knows our squirrelly thoughts and intentions all too well!
I do believe that God longs for a deep relationship of loving joy and trust with each of us, but I believe, as well, that such a relationship is only possible if we come to God “just as we are.” Take off our pious facades, and come with our doubts. With our longings. With our often fragile faith. With our sins. With our fears. Come in simple honesty to rest in the warm embrace of God’s welcoming love.
I can’t say I offer much of a warm embrace of welcoming love to that little squirrel on my deck. In fact, I’m really quite annoyed by his thieving ways and then his pious posing as if grabbing chunks of suet was the farthest thing from his mind. But maybe I should be grateful for his reminder of my own pious posing, past and present? Hmmm. Certainly something to think about!