There are many days where I tend to think that Calvin was right. I can only speak for myself, but I feel all-too often that without the saving grace of Christ, I would be nothing more than a depraved creature caught up in the basest and vilest activities. I think of society as a kind of safety net for everyone, but if you fall through that net and you don’t have Christ, you end up a monster. Maybe it’s just me. I just don’t think I would be much of anything–certainly not a human being in any noble sense of the word–without Christ. For me, Christ didn’t come to make me into some kind of a saint. He came to make me whole and human again, and keep me that way.
There has become a tertiary form of redemption for me, in addition to my desire to remain within the bounds of social norms and desire to follow Christ–my child. Of course, I don’t think I would have my child without my willingness to follow social norms and follow Christ, but my son has become for me a third reason to not descend into utter selfish folly. I suppose this is another reason why I am discovering with each passing day how much I am just a mere man, and not a special saint. I very much needed to be a father and a husband–I would have probably failed spectacularly in life if I had attempted to be a celibate priest or monk. These things make me whole in ways that I can’t make myself whole in all of my efforts to have a personal relationship with Christ outside of the church, society and family.
It has often been the case where I read much about a great figure in history and start to think to myself that I could become like that person. Instead of lifting myself up from my chasm into a normal human, sea level plain, I keep exulting myself on up to the top of the mountain where the greats reside. Then, I utterly fall flat on my face, and fall deeply back into my chasm. If only I could be content with living as a mere man for months at a time. By “mere man” I mean one who has foibles, finitude, sins, character flaws like most any other man–but, not so many flaws that I would end up on the evening news for any reason. Just an average man with average problems, dreams, hopes, loves and sorrows.
Of course, I still struggle to maintain this way of being, and relate well to other so-called average men. I get more excited about new books than I do about whatever sporting event is on television each week. But, I can see with greater clarity each day how much of my uniqueness is the product of the assertion of pride–I am too proud to drink a light, domestic beer and watch the game, but there is nothing intrinsically exceptional about me that should see me spending so much time sitting here writing out words like this.
Of all the terrible traps I have found myself ensnared in, nothing has done a number on me quite like pride. My pride has caused me to make decisions to do things that were way beyond my capabilities and means. Pride has brought me to where I am today, sitting here contemplating whether or not I will continue with my studies. Pride has caused me to exult myself up high alongside the great thinkers of history, even as a more sobered, de-prided version of myself can read past writing and see it for what it is–a will spawned by pride to prove something to the rest of the world.
Pride sees me admiring the stack of books by my bed that I will never read. Pride makes me see other human beings in their worst lights–I always assume that others have the worst intentions when I am puffed up with pride. Pride can make me take delight in being materially poor and full of false humility as much as pride can cause me to feel superior to others who make less money than I do. Pride gives me the ability to always measure myself against any other human being on the planet and discover a way in which I am the superior human. All evidence of someone being superior to me physically or mentally is not a problem for pride. Pride can make the most humiliating defeats become evidence for how I was actually the better man.
Pride says to me that I am better than you no matter what you tell me you did. There may be some degree of a survival mechanism in place here–if I didn’t think my investment of time in trying to go about proving how superior I am was worth my time, then I wouldn’t continue to lift a finger to support myself and my family. But, with pride, the ego’s survival instinct has been rendered inordinate to the point that I am no longer even making the best choices for my self-interest and survival anymore. Too many years were spent letting a dull, warm glow wash over me while I drank too much and watched some crappy show and fantasized about how I too would one day be among these shiny, pretty people doing exceptional things. Without pride, I would have sucked it up and gone to work in so many humble roles while socking away most of my money in savings. There is no doubt I would be almost a millionaire by now if I had opted to save and invest all of the money spent on booze and the poor purchase decision wrought by booze and the terrifying credit card interest wracked by these purchases. Pride continually told me that such prodigal behavior was okay, because I was exceptional and would one day reap all these great benefits from others who recognized in me all of the lovely things that Pride saw in me.
When you read down through all of these various entries in my online journal, it will become abundantly clear that I was possessed by Pride. Pride had a hold on me even when I stopped believing that I could make a go of things on my own, and needed to get back to the church. Pride still rises up and tries to grab onto me. The basic thing it says is, “Look what you have done. No one else has done anything like it. You are special. What’s more, you are exceptional in a way that means you get to lord your specialness over others.”
And, so I do. Even though I rarely consciously allow such a thing to happen, I am always measuring myself against another person and trying to find the angle with which I am superior to them in such a way that enables me to think just under the conscious surface, “I am better than them.” No amount of looking in the mirror and seeing more handsome fellows, no amount of wheezing after running two miles, no amount of reading exceptionally good writing, no amount of witnessing truly righteous and godly people helping others, no amount of any evidence, really, can defeat Pride.