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(Podcast works best if you let it get a head start on downloading. hit play... wait, then hit rewind and start playing. I think this file will work better than my previous attempts.)
Elvis was fat.
As he walked, his belly swung from side to side.
I blamed Brenda.
I kept telling her not to give him snacks. She loved feeding him bits of cheese at bed time. Toward the end, before we put him down, he had such saggy parts folks had trouble telling his gender. (Sorry for the mental image.)
Now we have Rocky. He’s six years old, acts just like a puppy, and weighs a hundred pounds.
For six years I’ve told Brenda not to give him snacks. She’d sneak them to him subtly, and sometimes not so subtly.
Ticked me off.
She’s turning this dog into a flabby geezer like the last one. Can’t she see I’m right? Doesn’t she respect what I think and feel? Isn’t he my dog too? Why is she defying me on this? (Sounds a little like primitive chest thumping, doesn’t it? It is.)
We don’t always see eye to eye. And not because I am four inches taller.
When I was younger it was a bigger problem than today. Our disagreements seemed larger (they weren’t, we just felt they were). They seemed bigger because there seemed more at stake. I wanted to count, to be important.
We live as if we are playing poker. We put much value on every interaction, every conversation, discussion, debate, and argument, as if important hands are being played, showing all the world our true worth. We want to win. We need to win, want to make sure our points are made, that we get the shortest line at the checkout, the best seat in the theater, the sweetest piece of the pie.
When we talk with those close to us the stakes are higher. We are hurt easier. We hurt others more easily. We avoid tough talk with those we want to impress, talk tough to those we feel owe us.
I try to be fair, honestly I do. But I want to win. It is some sort of default setting. I like winning. I must win. Who I am, my value, my worth, depends on it.
This blog is a good example. My statements are made in a voice of authority. I write as if I am pronouncing great truths, instead of the ramblings of a middle aged man living in a moment of no particular significance. I’m pompous, self-important. (That’s what is cool about a blog... here I have full control.) As if these words are important.
It isn’t just in our personal lives. We judge what we say in meetings, in conversations in the produce section, in the aisles of church, with an eye to what others think of us. We want to seem wise, intelligent. We want to be respected. We want something persistently elusive.
What is so important? Why do I, we, feel we must win? Why do we feel slighted by trivial things? Why do I sometimes feel my position as the head of my home is threatened by a tone in her voice, some trivial act? Such as giving a piece of cheese to a dog.
Because, secretly, deep down inside, I, we, suspect we aren’t important. We want to be, but we suspect we aren’t. Perhaps we can convince everyone we are, and so convince ourselves.
For men it seems even more important. Perhaps it is biology. Perhaps culture. Men tend to get angrier over disagreements. They seem to have more ego involved in having their words tested, seem to be told from an early age that they must always be right (hence our reluctance to ask for directions). Men tend to abuse more, demand more, posture more. We seem to feel that those we love, those we have within our homes, must demonstrate their proper role, their proper position. There can only be one alpha. (It’s true, but it isn’t us.)
I’m sure this is an exaggeration. I mention it because it is something I struggle with, probably from trying to measure up to an overbearing father.
I am consciously trying to break out of my father’s mold. I want to embrace the philosophy that I am a servant of all.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as better than yourselves.” --Philippians 2:3
It kind of goes against the grain, doesn’t it?
The truth is we haven’t much to be proud of... but we are extremely important.
We are craven creatures... We are selfish sots, lazy liars, deceiving doubters, pernicious peeps. We are ever failing, ever self-motivated, ever less than we are meant to be.
And that is the good news. We are less than we are meant to be because we are so much more than we dare to admit. Animals do not fail. They are just as they are designed to be. They do not cheat, or are less than they are.
We are wondrous creatures. We have souls. Though we have a base, an animal nature, we have a divine element that is precious. We have the ability to fail, the predilection for screwing up. That would not be possible if we weren’t endowed with free will and a soul.
If we consider what we mean to Him, we will see we are extraordinary creatures. We haven’t the single-minded focus of angels, that purity of devotion which can carry us through centuries, millennia. They have souls, but they haven’t the free will.
Which makes us precious.
Ah... there it is. We suspected as much! It is exactly as we have been ineffectually trying to tell ourselves, tell others.
Something deep inside tells us we are important. The problem is the evidence denies it. We number in the billions, we aren’t all that rare. We are impure, unlike the divinity we sense in our spiritual lives, or even in the purity of the beauty of our world.
Our failings tell us we are not important. As a species we are destructive. We may be creative in small ways, art, poetry, literature... friendship, family, self-sacrifice... but the majority of our lives seem consumed in hurting and being hurt.
But we feel we must be important... somehow. We should be recognized, honored for our small, miniscule, contributions to this world. People should move out of the way of our vehicle on the freeway, they should wait on us quickly in the marketplace, should respect our authority in our homes. That’s my desk! That’s my parking space! That’s my place in the pew!
Why do we feel we are so important?
It is because of the whisper. There is something inside each of us that whispers to us. That tells us we are special. That we are unique. That despite our failings we are worthy of great compassion, great love, the greatest love. This whisper, the barest hint of a voice, speaks deeply to us. We recognize its truth though we have a mountain of evidence to the contrary.
I have been a jerk. Many times. I have been offended by trivial things. I have let my wife’s views, her opinions, her disagreements, offend me. As if my value is somehow diminished, rejected, by the thoughts and comments of another.
Here is what shows my true value: I am a man, a member of the species which the Creator Of The Universe cherishes enough to sacrifice ultimately for!
(Oh dear Lord God, oh my Master, how can that be so? Bless me Lord with the wisdom to understand.)
I am designed to walk in the cool of the evening with Him, and talk about my day, my way of experiencing what He has given me. I am supposed to be in a place, a beautiful setting, which holds me in honor, as the peak of creation, and share it with The Maker Of All Things.
I have learned that my value is very high, very great, because I am worth dying for. I am worth being tortured for. Someone did that for me. He let Himself be beaten, and whipped, and scourged, and mocked, and pierced, and nailed to a piece of wood.
That scares me.
Something has always told me I was important, and I have tried to act like it is true. But there has been another whisper which tells me that I am a fraud. That I am unworthy of honor. Unworthy of even the merest recognition. Of anyone!
Who am I that people should recognize me? Who am I that someone should stand up in my defense? Who am I that someone should pay my fines, make reparation for my crimes? Who am I that the Maker Of All Things, the being who holds the universe together, should stand before the might of an empire, the condemnation of a society, and say, “I’ll pick up the tab.” That is the truth of the bloody death and the triumphant victory of Christ.
The universe is billions of years old. And, at the proper distance, the proper perspective, it looks like a clump of soap bubbles floating in the darkness.
Drawing nearer we would see the film of those bubbles is galaxies surrounding huge voids of dark energy.
At the intersection of those bubbles the film becomes denser, the galaxies closer to each other, and in one such clump are a couple of spiral galaxies with a few elliptical galaxies orbiting nearby.
On the trailing edge of one of the outer arms of one the spiral galaxies is a medium sized, middle-aged main sequence star with a handful of planets circling madly.
On one of the smaller continents of one of those worlds I live in a valley about 150 miles long. There is a smallish town at the north end of that valley.
I live there. In this time, in this place.
I’m a mayfly on a speck of sand in the greatest of all deserts. An ordinary man who struggles with his own identity.
This ordinary guy, who is proud of all the wrong things, tries to be the alpha male in his own little pack. A silly little enterprise, borne of misconceptions. Borne of the fears of who I am not, the whispers of a dark voice that says I am nothing, and the whispers of a voice of light tells me I am loved.
The tragedy of these misconceptions is the stupid little game of poker I am playing with my life. I am so concerned about what people think of me, how I can hoard up political clout with careful husbanding of my resources, that I am missing the point.
Now, to the awful truth. Because I so crave the approval of others, especially of those I love, I am willing to let them die without knowing that they are loved by the Maker Of All Things. Because I want my dad to like me, to love me, I so crave his approval, I dare not displease him with a conversation about the only thing that is important.
Because I am so full of doubt about my true worth, I am willing to listen to the dark whisperer and believe I am not worthy, that I risk too much in telling my dad that Jesus loves him.