The Ugly Ducklings

Illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen, Andersen‘s first illustrator

An old fairy tale came crashing through my study this morning. Perhaps you can remember it, “The Ugly Duckling”  by Hans Christian Andersen.

Now I don’t think about children’s stories very often. I regard my thinking about them to be a bit of an anomaly, and certainly not everyday fare. Maybe it should be a more regular occurance. CS Lewis once wrote,Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” I think he might be right.

“The Ugly Duckling” is a story about an homely little bird raised by a flock of ducks in a barnyard. He doesn’t really fit in and can’t ever seem to master being a duck. He is clumsy and ungainly and rather strange looking.  He is abused or ignored by his companions. He doesn’t fit.

You see, he is a swan. He can’t seem to fit in with the other ducklings. He really doesn’t belong. He tries hard to make it work, but his best efforts at being a duck are doomed to failure. It isn’t who he is. He isn’t a duckling, he is cynget.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29, ESV

You see, you are different. And you can’t fit in. We have a different destiny than those who surround us. We are “swans” and we can’t change who we really are. (Some try, but to no avail).

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

We are the ugly duckling who will never fit in. The transformation takes time, but to the amazement of his “friends, he becomes what he was meant to be all along.

Brokenbeliever, try to understand– once you accepted Christ as your Savior, you began to be transformed. You are now a “new creation.” You will never fit in.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT

This is a miracle that the world can’t grasp. It is the spiritual makeover that defies any explanation or reasoning. You have become a swan, the most “graceful” of all creatures.

ybic, Bryan



Sorting Out What is Real

It’s a windy cold, gray day here in Alaska.  Very typical for November up here in “the Last Frontier.” Just as typical  is that I have had a heaviness descend on me, (just like when the fat kid sits on the little kid at the bus stop.)

But this onslaught of present grayness seems to be a premonition, I feel, of what I face trying to survive through another long Alaskan winter, (and I don’t know if  I’m going to make it this year.)

Oddly enough, I’ve been thinking about ecosystems and symbiosis How the trees in a forest touch each other with their roots.  The big tree in the sun, “shares” with the little tree in the shade.  It’s the way they gently touch each other– helping, and encouraging and strengthening.

The Church is very much like this.  As a mentally ill believer, I have a lot of needs and weaknesses.  But knowing this, I draw from what God supplies by means of fellowshipping with others, and prayer, and the Word. (FYI.  I’m not good at any of the three.) But I guess I am planted in a good spot.

I think that when we finally make it to eternity, we will be interlaced with each other to the extent we really aren’t sure who is us, and who are our loved ones and our Christian ‘brothers and sisters.’  One thing is certain–we’re not going to survive the journey alone.  We just can’t do it on our own.

I must keep myself rooted firmly into “today”.  I can’t handle tomorrow’s sorrow today.  I have a special friend who believes he has to live “moment-to-moment”.  He says that this helps him navigate the hopelessness and the despair from depression.  One day at a time, and pace myself.  This, and perhaps, be just a little more gentle with myself? Maybe?

An interesting thought, not sure who said it, but it seems true:

“There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.” 

The transformational reason is that we grow after we hurt, that pain endured will change us.  I think this is what God has intended to happen.  (Good thing, not to waste our sorrows.  After all, we’ve already earned them.)

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy)

Meeting Samson


The story of Samson (Judges 13-16) is painful. It ranks as one of the saddest tales in Biblical history, and reading it through again only frustrates me. Have you ever seen a piece of fraying cloth. Threads have worked loose and the edges no longer hold together. The mid section maybe fine, but hem is coming apart. The issue is one of integrity.

That is what I think the judge Samson was like. Incredibly gifted, but irrevocably flawed, he was ordained to be a deliverer. Think of him as a “freedom fighter,” called and equipped to set his people free. He was a man of intense contrasts:

  1. uncommonly gifted, yet strangely unconsecrated,
  2. incredibly strong, yet spiritually weak,
  3. called to deliver, but yet died as a captive

You might say he could never conquer himself. Forbidden things became permissible. He never could really say the most important word– No! Lust drove him as often as the Spirit of God did. Samson became a tragic figure in the history of Israel, known more for his failures than his victories.

“Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20, NIV).

This is perhaps the most tragic verse in Scripture. Samson had compromised to the point of being released from his gift. His attitude was that it would always be there for him, but that wasn’t the case anymore. They would gouge out his eyes, and chain him to a millstone to grind out grain.

Interestingly, in Hebrews 11:32 Samson is mentioned as an example of faith. But how much pain was afflicted on him, and how more brightly would’ve been if he would’ve learned to resist his appetites.

I have a tendency to fray at the edges myself, leaving me with an unsettled feeling. The hems don’t always hold. They come apart. The story of Samson reminds me of my need to watch myself closely. The lesson is loud and clear. Perhaps there is a Samson in everyone of us.



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