The Herb Of Grace

Theology and Poetry, Politics and Prose

expunging the dull cat March 13, 2008

Filed under: public theology,write-a-rama — Joel @ 3:37 am

There are few statements in the Christian ghetto which I despise as much as this one, “the moment you think you are humble, you are not.”  How is this helpful?  It is the same as saying, “the moment you think you are swimming is the moment when you will drown and die a horrible death after which nobody will mourn your passing.” 

                 What I think this statement about humility signifies is just how little we have made use of the fact that we belong to each other.  The benefit and the genius of living together is that it is never you that says whether you are humble or not but those to whom you belong; it is not even up to you to be wrong!  It is to those who I am building relationship with that the job of seeing me as I am is given, not to myself, for my definition of myself means nothing on its own.

  I might think, “I hope I am humble” and even, “I think I have acted humbly lately.” There is nothing in this statement which suggests pride, it is what it is and ever will be:  The self-statement of a person whose best knowledge of themselves is that their best guess is just that.

      What I am wondering is, “How did the person who first suggested this formula get to the vantage point, high in the hills of humility, to see that those who think themselves humble are not?”  He surely cannot have come from below, from the valley of pride.!  Nor could he have hailed from the planes of humanity, where mere mortals attempt to describe their situation to each other.  No, he must have come from the lofty mountains of arrival, and there is no more dangerous or illusory place than this.     The thing that is the matter with the person’s perspective which posits this question is that they could never have possibly posed it without assuming that they themselves were humble, thereby proving by their own formula that they are not and thus have no claim to speak about what humility is whatsoever.

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molecular friendship November 29, 2007

Filed under: storying,write-a-rama — Joel @ 4:53 am

write-a-rama, Tuesday, October 30, 2007

the man with a plan

I am thinking this morning of that man, that man with no feeling in his legs or in his arms.  I am thinking of the story of his movement, from the settled dust of acquiescence to being picked up by friends and brought onto a roof, cut through the flesh of the roof, lowering down, the cripple for all to see, a black ops operation by light.

the story just came to me, whirled round my head a couple times and then settled comfortably in the corner.  I haven’t thought of this story for years.  for many years of sunday school and so on, I think I deemed this story par for the course, a beginner test in Jesus, it never pushed me around the way the great stories do, I told it what to do and not to do in my life.

this morning, I am thinking about his friends, well, more the five friendships, the close knot woven in and out so neatly and tight that is looks more like a tumor in the rope than five separate cords.  I don’t know who brought up the idea first.  was it the legless man, “bring me to Jesus.”  did he have that kind of courage and hope?  wild.  was it his friends pushing him the whole way, pressing on the wound of his despair, pinching it and driving the knife deeper until it came out the other side at acceptance, he would be the laughing stock of the whole community, a dirty cripple lowered through the ceiling like some dunce king, some senator’s retarded son.
but these feelings burn away, burn way like news paper brought to flame at the outside of the fire, the wind catches their blackened skin and lifts it up, disintegrating on its way.
And this is really the point I was brought to this morning, not the possible shame, not the feelings of inadequacy, but this sense of wonder at everybody in the story.  for Jesus, he sees the hurt and faith in this man’s life and leaps upon the Father for healing, it is done, joyfully done, like a good father.  the five friends, taking steps forward together regardless of the possible failure, regardless of how it might look.  the bond is tight, they are each other’s evening news first.  they are each other’s movie reiview or report card, rap sheet or batting average, before any strangers are allowed in to judge.  the four friends lower the fifth down into empty space with, what I am seeing today is, a sense of adventure, of longing and stretching and hoping for something outrageous.

may all cohorts of friends reach for the unexpected and finds its deepest song, the kingdom of God.