I am still not 100%. A night of fever, sore mouth, strange dreams, sweats, chills. I got humble and then I promptly stopped feeling humble when I got better. I guess that’s how we all work on some level. It’s easy to be humble and sin-free and cry out to God for mercy and make promises to God when you feel like you are going to die, when you feel so weak and helpless that you can hardly move a limb. Such must be the way to become like a little child in order to get into Heaven.
I wish I were humble at all times. I used to be much more humble, back when I was full of fear. Of course, I was covering up a lot of anger and hatred that would emerge when the fear went away and I had some sense of confident, independent manhood about me. Men are gracious and friendly, for the most part, if you are actively humble–not passively so. What I mean is that most men can detect a simpering coward, but they also can tell if you are barely holding back great contempt and desire to do violence to them. Sometimes when you are but a mere simpering coward, you are also full of contempt and violence–you are a great big angry ego out of control that wants to always get his way and dominate and control other men without bothering to learn anything about the ways of men.
Of course, the ways of men are not the same as the ways of God, but there are places where they dovetail, since men were made in God’s image. When I say men, I mean men and am not being gender-deaf or sexist, because I am talking about my experience as a man trying to navigate the world of men–which I will admit up front I am not much of an authority. Whatever I’ve learned is pretty minimal and probably only applicable to me and men like me.
God does come in through the cracks of the broken, humble man. He repairs the cracks, and what does the man do? He immediately goes back to being an egotistical asshole, sinning without any second thought to what he’s doing. Such must be the story of America and maybe other countries. We started out humble, broken, poor but blessed. We were humble people quick to thank God for what came our way, and then one day we woke up and realized we were #1, and decided we didn’t need God much to stay that way. I am not talking so much about atheist and non-theist people in business or whatever occupation but people who still say they very much believe in Jesus, and probably go to church more than a little often. The proof of what I am saying can be found in how the local Baptist university has erected a great shrine to its true god, football. The magnificence and care spent are astonishing when you see the new football stadium against the backdrop of the otherwise fairly poor and depressed community. The largest churches in the area–or, most of the state–can’t compete with the glory of the football stadium.
Perhaps God rebuked the school by exposing some of the hypocrisy–how women were routinely raped by football players and this was overlooked by the beloved coach and President–naturally, all schools with football programs probably have solid histories of this sort of thing, but in this case the coach and President were fired, because somebody still had a sense of values. Or, the lawyers they hired did a cost benefit analysis and determined it would cost them more in a few years to let the rape stories blow up in the national news. But maybe, God was still allowed to be involved a little bit, and someone woke up and saw that this so-called Christian school had made football their god or at least their religion.
I would like to think that God does rebuke those of us who have decided to follow Him, and ask for his protection and mercy. We who are Christians are every bit as likely to get what’s coming to us as the Jews did in the Old Testament when they turned their backs on God. God isn’t punishing the ungodly here on earth, in spite of what Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson might think when a city is hit by a natural or man made disaster. God is punishing us believers who have turned our backs on Him, little bit, by little bit.
God will rebuke me, and continue to do so, for many years to come. I pray constantly that He will exact His punishment on me, but not my family. Am I both gray AND balding due to my continued insistence upon pursuing stressful things wrought by pride? Probably. It probably is also genetics, but it has sped up because I can’t exhibit the kind of self control I should be applying as a grown man. So, I look in the mirror and see a very old man as a reminder that I am at least mildly cursed, and that I am mostly responsible for bringing this curse upon my head.
God will bring mercy to me when I am truly ready to be humble. When I am ready to stop having lustful thoughts and acting upon them. When I am ready to stop getting angry every time something doesn’t go my way or someone slights me, intentionally or not. God is waiting patiently for me to learn how to be truly humble–the kind of humility that on the surface can look like weakness, but it actually requires a greater strength to persist in self control and resist the tempations of the devil toward lust and rage. However, even the tiniest success cannot become a great triumph of the self, though that is what almost always happens. This is why the desert monks said pride was the most capital of the deadly sins. You get all of the others knocked away, and you start thinking you did it all by yourself without any of God’s help.
If there is any real difference between people of my grandparent’s generation and my generation and the ones that have followed, it is that members of my grandparents’ generation had a built-in sort of humility, if not always close relationships with God. They were humbled by the fact that many of them experienced the arrival of indoor plumbing, electricity, automobiles, air-conditioning, airplanes, etc. in their lifetimes. They didn’t take that stuff for granted. They lived through two wars and a depression. They were probably more likely to take that stuff for granted. They were tougher than some faux, comic-book-type tough guys like Rambo or the Terminator. A real and very persistent toughness combined with real humility–that was what got them through a lot, and that is what each successive generation lacks with ever greater amounts.
We might fancy ourselves to be tough because we go to a martial arts class, keep a gun, drive a big truck, even work out at the gym. For the most part, we do not deal with starvation, loss of children, threats of losing our land, losing everything. We rely on technology. We worship and adore it, and like to believe that ultimately technology will find a way to save us from all of the shit technology has created.
I for one can honestly say that I do not put God first in how I live and think. I am not as humble as I should be. If you added up all of my waking hours thinking about this or that thing, I don’t think God would even be in the top twenty during many periods of my life where I fancied myself to be especially righteous. I spend more time worrying about how things will come about in a good way or at least a not too terrible way, and not nearly as much time being grateful to God for His gifts and simply contemplating His Love and Glory.
In some ways, you could say that we are all atheists. We “turn on” God when it is convenient, but we think, speak and do as much as we can without involving God in the process. This is partly due to the fact that we get mocked by those who see this as mere superstition, but it doesn’t explain how people in a community of believers can spend their days worrying about mundane things, their jobs and football. In any community of believers or non-believers, how you choose to spend your time with your thoughts away from work and the necessities of life is your choice. At least it is in theory. Of course, this means that you probably end up not making as many friends in the office because you have no idea what’s going on with sports and other stuff on television. It means you don’t have as much to talk about with people who don’t care much about God, if at all. Even in a community of believers, you might get a lot of odd looks if you told everyone at work that you spent the evening praying, reading the Bible and contemplating God’s goodness, unless you work at a church.
But, you can also see for yourself if you start to be transformed in unexpected ways if you practice a lot of humility and focus on God’s Love. You might start to meet other people who are like-minded, or you might not even feel the need to have a lot of phony, superficial friendships, anymore.
It struck me as I was thinking about these things that this is why I want to be a pastor. It is a very selfish reason, to be for sure. I tell people that I want to help people, but the reality of it is that I am tired of my day job filling my head with preoccupations that aren’t Godly, and they aren’t even things I want to think or care about. Getting obsessed about marketing automation, lead scoring, sales pipelines, marketing funnels, etc. is all a lot of bullshit designed to keep me fooled into thinking I had a career I cared about, and keep me caring enough to remain engaged at the office all day long.
When I discovered the pure joy that comes with contemplating God’s greatness, and thinking of higher things and envisioning a greater, more perfectly ordered world to come, I knew I didn’t want to spend much time contemplating fantasy football, pop music, movies, politics, work, etc. What I discovered was that all of the joy I found in great art, poetry, architecture, music, nature, and yes, sometimes just being–what I discovered was that all of it could be abstracted into one Perfect Joy or Love that rules this universe. You might think that I am crazy, but once I tapped into it, I knew that all of the other constant attempts to cobble together a happy sort of life were just a bunch of fragments of happiness.