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What People Think, part 2

What People Think, part 2

For a while I thought this was normal.  Everyone must live under this hyper sense of self awareness.  But I found exceptions. I found them in the mission field.  I found them in my church.  I found them sharing the gospel to a group of homeless men at a shelter in Seattle.

They shared a brilliance.  Not of towering intellect or flawless theology, but of simple luminescence. A fearless joy, the type of reckless abandon that must bring a smile to our Father’s face.  The unfettered enthusiasm of one who has won the race but continues to run.

I wanted it very badly. But it felt so foreign.  Every thought, every motive, every action, stained by this disease of posturing.  Escape seemed ridiculous to even consider.  I would bring it before the Lord, but sensed even He would smirk in disbelief at such a grand request.  I’m sure He did.  But being God, He hid it very well and reassured me it was still a worthy endeavor.

I do not pretend there exists a single route to such a goal.  If there did, I imagine most of us would have set upon the path long ago. Of course some have certainly arrived, but I am unconvinced many of them ever set out in the first place. They seem to have simply been born that way, perennially untethered from the cords of dreadful vanity.  I wished them well, but they were of little help.

The secular world offered some assistance.  There was Scott, a friend who ascended The Tooth, a popular rock climb near Seattle, completely naked. He didn’t seem to care what people thought of him.  Or Keith, a co-worker who cranked The Beatles and played air guitar for random customers.

But it lacked depth.  Beneath their raucous veneer hid dry and brittle bones.  Ask a few questions, dig around a bit, they imploded like everyone else.  Haunted by fears and insecurities, they simply built a façade so blazing and bright you forgot there was anything behind it.

Sadly, the Christian responses were not always better.  Yes, they felt the same poisonous bite of narcissism but they listened to the devil far too much.  They were a sad and dark group, mumbling self deprecating words to anyone who passed by. For these poor souls, the opposite of vanity was self effacement, a wiping out of themselves. In this, they were successful, there was nothing left to see. A pile of blackened bones swept away and forgotten.

No, I would not find the answer with them. There was something very different about the true Christian humility. It seemed rooted in a foreign soil, and when I caught glimpses of it, however brief, I saw a surprising confidence.  But it wasn’t the measure of their confidence I found remarkable, but rather the character.

Their confidence, it seemed to me, was not tied to their skills, abilities or even their gifts.  They took joy and courage in these, yet I had the feeling that even if you stripped them all away, they would remain faithful. No, it was something deeper.

Their lives seemed to ask a question, of which the answer, I admit I have yet to see in my own life.  What, they said, was the point of worrying what people think about you when you are not the one they’re looking at?  I had no answer.  My life felt as if I were carrying around a giant window, constantly shifting it about to give everyone the best view.

They, however, simply held up a mirror. This mirror was set in the angle towards God, so that when I looked at them, the great majority of their image was exchanged for the Lord’s. They seemed to take great joy in this, as if it were an honor to simply reflect any attention they may receive.

These Christians, these holders of the mirror, I saw were very dangerous to the devil.  There was nothing you could take from them.  No insult, no injury, no pious judgment, nothing had any force behind it. If a sermon fell flat or a ministry failed, it landed no crushing blow to their sense of worth.

Their failure, as they seemed to view it, was merely a delay. A brief obstruction to learn from and quickly move past.  And perhaps even more, an opportunity to pause for a moment, look about, and find another mirror.


Comment from nate
Time February 11, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Thanks, this is really good. Well said!

Comment from Elizabeth K
Time February 27, 2009 at 6:15 pm

If only we all had such open honesty as revealed in this post. This might relieve much of the problem for us Christians.

But if I had to give a simple answer to this common dilemma, I would say the answer is love. You described the love for God at the end, but it is also our love for others. Love casts out all fear, and the stronger the love, the better. Whenever I find myself self-consciously worried about the opinions of others, it helps me to remember, “Hey, wait a minute… I like these intriguing people…. I want to get to know them, if they are willing, and find out what is beneath the surface.” Then that horrible awkwardness melts away.

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