"...be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (from Matthew 10:16)
You may think that the title, Crimson or Clover? has a typographical error, but it does not. Yes, I really meant it to be Crimson or Clover and not Crimson and Clover. Most Baby Boomers will probably remember that Crimson and Clover was a hit song in the late 1960s by Tommy James and the Shondells. In fact, I was reading this week on line that Tommy James first wrote the title and then the lyrics of the song. He chose that title because crimson was his favorite color and clover was his favorite flower. But this piece has nothing to do with the song, although for those of you who know the song, it will probably be an "ear worm" in your head for the rest of the day!
No, I chose the title for a very definite reason which you'll come to understand as you read this piece. I looked up the definitions of both "crimson" and "clover". Crimson is (frankly) the color of blood. It's defined as a deep red color which includes a slight purplish hue. Clover is a plant and flower in the pea family. I didn't know it was in the pea family. There are three leaf clovers and there are four leaf clovers. I was surprised to find on line the reason four leaf clovers are considered "lucky". It said that comes from an old Christian tradition which says the four leaf clover represents the virtues of faith, hope, and charity, along with luck. That's interesting, but I really don't like the whole concept of "luck". It would take a different posting to explain why I don't like "luck", but I guess I'd rather think of the four leaf clover as symbolizing faith, hope, and love (love is charity, in fact "love" is a better translation of the original Greek word agape than is "charity"), along with blessings. (Yes, I like the idea of "blessings from God" much more than "luck"!)
Crimson or clover? How can one person's "clover" possibly be another person's "crimson"? How can one person's beautiful field of soft green clover, symbolizing faith, hope, love, and blessings possibly be viewed by another person as a horrible gash in one's flesh- the result of an act of hatred and violence- gushing crimson blood? In fact, that dichotomy actually happens, more than we might like to admit!
I have a friend that I'll call Doug. That's not his real name. He was estranged from a couple of family members for quite a long time. That estrangement was deeply distressing and painful for him. Doug is a committed Christian. He has prayed for the miraculous healing and reconciliation of his relationship to the family members again and again. Just a few days ago, a miracle happened! In fact, they met, they talked; each of them "let their guard down" and there was a wonderful, miraculous restoration and healing of the relationships! Doug's a lot like me. He's very sensitive and he's very emotional. He "wears his feelings on his sleeve". As such, he's tended to innocently, "set himself up" to be badly hurt, as have I. What did Doug do after that miraculous reconciliation? Well, of course, he posted it on Facebook! I will have to change the names and particulars of the family members, but his posting went something like this:
"I want to praise God that He has miraculously restored my relationship, not only with my cousin Bill but also with my daughter Renee! We'd been completely at odds over a financial matter for several years. We had not spoken. The situation was hopeless. But God has totally taken care of the problem. We've talked, and our relationship is healed! I love my daughter Renee more than life itself! And my cousin Bill is like a brother to me! Thank God that He answered my prayers and restored us!"
Wow. To Doug, that was total clover! It was heaps of faith, hope, love, blessings and all good things for Bill and Renee. He meant every word of it. Doug genuinely loves his daughter and his cousin Bill. Doug couldn't wait to shout it from the rooftops how much he loves them and how much he loves God! Less than twenty-four hours later, I received a phone call from Doug. He was stunned and devastated. He'd heard from both Renee and Bill. They were livid! They viewed his posting as a selfish and mean betrayal! To them, Doug had spat in their faces; he'd slashed their throats, leaving crimson blood spewing out, and mocking them before the entire world!
I had a heartfelt talk with Doug. I asked if writing and posting that item on Facebook made him feel wonderful and happy inside. It did! I asked about his motives. They were pure. He couldn't in a million years have expected the response of Renee and Bill. Doug was experiencing a crushing hurt that's difficult for me to explain, but I told Doug, I do understand! Then I told him a story from my past.
You see, I'm also a guy who thinks and feels clover and not crimson! In telling this story from my past I am also going to have to change some names and some details. I had a friend I will call Vic. Vic died four years ago. Vic had quite a complicated life! As a young man, he was extraordinarily successful. He was a highly committed evangelical Christian. He was very, very successful in his career. He had quite a charismatic personality. He had success seemingly just flowing from him! People admired and loved him in the Boston suburb where he lived. This was all during the 1980s when he was in his forties. Later, Vic walked away from God. Vic divorced his wife and remarried a much younger woman. Vic moved to another state. Vic committed a serious federal crime, and spent several years in a federal prison. Vic later got out of prison and divorced his second wife. Around the year 2000, Vic "came back to the Lord" as we born-again Christians like to put it. He worked a humble job until his health failed. He lived in an elderly housing facility in a blue-collar Boston suburb. It would take a thousand words to tell of all the particulars, but around that time Vic became close to me. I went through my own serious life crises around 2010. That's when the church I'd pastored for years was closed and I nearly had a complete nervous breakdown. I was in a bad way. I will never forget, during that time, the day Vic called me. I was totally distraught. He spent a long time on the phone with me, just reassuring me and extending to me the love of Christ. He promised to be there for me no matter what time, day or night. He encouraged me that I could look to a brighter future and did not have to be despondent. Even as I write these words, I'm almost in tears. I can't begin to tell you how much Vic came to mean to me.
In early 2014, Vic died. He was a very controversial person. I knew that many people absolutely loved him and that many other people absolutely despised him! It really bothered me that so many people despised Vic- that so many did not believe he'd really come back to God and died as a kind and wonderful Christian man. I paid what I believed would be the finest tribute I could give to him. I wrote a piece on my blog on the day he died- just like I'm doing right now. I very bluntly stated who Vic was and what he'd done, good and bad. I wrapped it up talking about what a wonderful friend Vic had been to me. I consider that the day he spent the hour on the phone counseling me, he saved my life! I ended by writing, "Vic, I love you!"
I must admit, I was so proud of that piece! It was one of the finest things I'd ever written! I was so glad to get the definitive word about Vic out in public! And, once I put it out on my blog, I did get a lot of feedback. A number of folks contacted me. They told me how much that piece had meant to them and how positive it made them feel about Vic. So many were so happy to learn that despite his failures, Vic had died as a wonderful committed Christian and a wonderful friend.
I fully expected to hear from Vic's family- from either his first wife or one of his grown children. Of course, they'd love what I'd written! I wondered which part of my post they'd appreciate the best. I knew I'd probably be asked to say a few words during Vic's funeral service. Maybe I'd even be asked to read my blog posting at the funeral! The next day, I received a phone call from Vic's oldest son, Andy. Boy, was I excited to hear from him! It did surprise me, though, that Andy didn't sound very happy. In fact, he was very matter-of-fact. It was almost like talking to Jack Webb from the old Dragnet television show. Andy, Vic's son, told me he and his siblings were very unhappy with what I'd put out on the internet. He said they were getting calls from many of their friends who had no idea their father had committed a crime and gone to prison. They were really upset. Firmly, Andy told me to take my post down.
I was crushed. Despite all I'd been through over several years, nothing had crushed me like Vic's son Andy's phone call. Honestly, over the past decade, nothing before or since has crushed me like that! I took the post down. I seriously thought about making a copy of it to hold onto. But I didn't. I did go to the funeral, but I was embarrassed and uncomfortable. You see, to me, that tribute piece to Vic was clover all the way. It was faith, and hope, and love, and blessings. But to Vic's grown kids, I'd just hacked them apart with a machete and spilled their blood all over the Boston suburbs!
This is very unscientific, but I'd guess around 95% of people are more like those who have a crimson outlook in matters such as I've described here and maybe 5% are the clover folks. Are the crimson and the clover like oil and water? Can they ever come together? Can they ever understand and appreciate each other?
I think so. At least, I hope so! I do have some thoughts for each. If you're a crimson, like most people, please try to understand we clovers! It's O.K. to tell us it was embarrassing and hurtful that we said or wrote something that you found appalling, but please try to do it in an attitude of love and pleasantness and not with anger and hostility. Please...? It's O.K. to tell us, and we need to learn from it, but there's a right way and a wrong way to tell us, believe me! And, if you're a clover like me and like Doug, you've got to pay attention to that Bible verse I opened with. You know, if Doug's posting had been something like this:
"I'm so thankful for the immediate family and the extended family God has given me! I love them and I love God for giving them to me!"
I think it would have accomplished what he wanted to accomplish without the hostile reaction that followed. And if I had used Vic's initials in my piece instead of his full first and last name, or if I'd have given him a fictitious name, but it would have been pretty obvious to anyone who'd known the whole story of Vic that I was talking about him, it probably wouldn't have set off the friends of Vic's children, and I probably would have gotten away with writing and posting it!
Frankly, there's a lot more I could write, but I think I'm going to leave it at that! I do hope a lot of people read this and I do hope a lot of people will think about this! I guess this is being very manipulative, but writing a piece such as this is gut wrenching! And, there's only one thing worse than getting negative feedback about a piece such as this: That's getting no feedback at all! I am amazed when I write a heartfelt piece such as this that gets no comments at the blog site or on Facebook, and generates no "likes" or "shares" or personal e-mails to me! I would love it if you'd comment or "like" or "share" or send me an e-mail or a message, or send the link to this post to friends of yours! I can't tell you how much I'd appreciate it, and I hope you'll receive that as clover and not as crimson!