The daily ramblings have recently featured a little dialogue between father and son. Eldest son Matt has allowed me to post our discussion on some questions he is pondering. If you would like to catch up the series started when Matt had a thought provoking, soul-searching encounter with a homeless man in Salt Lake City. I responded to some of his questions about being more transparent, pride, and the challenge of finding real friends. Here is Matt’s response to the first round of the dialogue.
First, I love the dialogue. It’s a little more public than I would prefer but I appreciate the opportunity for a son to engage his father in the deeper things of life. Thanks for taking the time.
The other night Holly and I were discussing this premise of authentic relationships. (Before you think we are the intellectual types this conversation was jammed between recorded episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and ER). She looked at me with cute blue eyes after hearing me ponder these lofty thoughts while using big, theological words and said, “Matt, the only thing that matters is who God believes you are”. She turned to resume her consumption of scandalous, action-packed pablum in front of the television. Her thought has not left me.
A few days later I brought it up again on a car trip. The only thing that matters is what God believes of us…is that true? I mean, I know it’s true in the same way I know what a baseball looks like kind of true. Cognitively it makes sense. But spiritually I can’t get my mind around it. Your thoughts on pride struck me in this same way.
But I have to be honest with you. This will be a lifetime project. I have gotten better at allowing the Holy Spirit to gain control of my pride. But I still take back control at times. Why? Because I do have things to “protect”. I want you to think I am smart, successful, a good husband, a good Dad, a good Christian. The truth is I am all of those things some of the time but definitely not all of the time. And why is that such a problem to admit?
It makes sense to me. Yet, making sense of something and living it are two distinct things. In my head, I know pride and arrogance consumes me more than I wish to admit. Years ago I recognized this while simultaneously loathing that part of me. I can control these feelings through false humility, downplaying the gifts and blessings as not being special or different. I can dip my eyes during a compliment or say quick thanks that belittle the person attempting a sincere gesture all for the sake of being “humble”.
In keeping the C.S. Lewis theme going he said, “I would prefer to combat the ‘I’m special’ feeling not by the thought ‘I’m no more special than anyone else’ but by feeling ‘Everyone is as special as me’”. Seriously? I can understand we are all messed up. We see that everyday. But we are all special? It sounds too Sunday school turned Stuart Smalley for me. In our modern Christian culture the Fall dominates Creation. Yet, the truth is God believes I am special, and you are special, and everyone around us, everyday, at every moment is equally special.
Through false humility I deny what God has so graciously provided and, in the midst of this denial, neglect to recognize how special God sees those around me. What would we have to do to see ourselves and those around us as equally special? Is it even possible to not create layers, caste systems, socio-economic boundaries, denominational trenches, or the multitude of other things that separate us and label us superior or inferior? It’s a discouraging thought.
But here’s something to ponder…Henri Nouwen writes in Out of Solitude (a great 1 hour read) that when we truly reflect and look deeply into our soul that “it is in this solitude that we realize that being is more important than having and that we are worth more than the sum of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It’s there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received.”
How do we change what we cling to daily? Are Christians or churches more proud of being present for people or a resume of conversions, giving, and ministries? Can anyone truly believe that God sees us as more valuable than the sum of our efforts? And, if we did, what would that church or those kinds of Christians look like?
Those are my questions…I look forward to the dialogue.