Pride, it Goeth.

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Pilate And Christ Jesus Christ Superstar by roniyy“>

I feel compelled to scribe more on this topic of pride and identity, especially since it may not be just me that struggles.  One of my favorite artists is U2.  The moment I hear the word pride, I instantly go to the song, inspired by the life and work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I always smile ruefully to myself as the lyrics play in my head and I again commit to be part of making a difference in my generation.  It always serves as a moment of inspiration for me, then the smack-down of the real world sets in and I realize what an attempt that would be.  Still, there is always that flicker of a bigger flame that is fanned.  Much as I would love to shove down the passionate change advocate, she rears her ugly head and demands that I reexamine the chance to set the world on fire.

I have to admit having to examine my motives for fanning that passionate flame.  I have to ask myself if I   be part of change because there is a desperate need to see real and positive change happen, or because I have a need to be elevated?  That is a tough question, one I am convinced the great social and political change artists wrestled.  I hope they struggled, I hope they did and do as much as I feel called to tussle.

It is not an easy question.  I explored it when I first became a teacher.  Did I want to teach for the glory of standing up in front of a classroom and speaking to a new generation?  What were the real reasons that I wanted it?  The fact is, the more I did it, the more in love with “my kids” I fell.  There are many that I have as Facebook contacts, many that have emailed upon marriage, or a new baby, or when life has gotten away from them.  I consider that a holy honor.  There was always that nagging idea of my motivation at the back of my head.  If I were not teaching, what else would I do?  Without that title, who and what was I?

Fast-forward that same notion to 2012.  I entertained the idea of a lead pastor in a congregation and realized about a year and a half ago that was not my intention.  I can do the administrative work, but I would rather not.  Every stinking inventory test that I took confirmed that.  I had a battle of sorts as to what that meant as an MDIV grad if I were not in charge of a congregation…any congregation, including the big ones.  Now as I work on a non-profit and in the mix of all the nitty-gritty work it entails, I find that the question comes into focus again. 

I am forced to ask myself why I am involved, why I feel so passionate in telling the stories of those affected.  Is it the energy of starting something new?   Is it the impact and potential difference that doing the work and telling the stories provides?  What happens if it blows up and nothing happens?  Am I still ok? 

Henri Nouwen, writer and philosopher, invites me to consider a couple of understandings.  Our society relegates us to find our validation in what we own, what we do, what others say about us, and what we believe about ourselves.  Every conflict that I can think of falls into one of those 4 categories.  Either I am at odds with what I am, people say that I am, what I have/or don’t have, or what I do/don’t do.  Most of the conflict I encounter entail ones where I am at conflict with myself.    When I hear other people comment on appreciating me for who I am, I want to scream.

That is correct, I can acknowledge that there are many people in my life that I love like family–to whom I am not related, who would walk through fire for me, simply because I am me.  The concept of that makes me want to tear my hair out.  WHY??? What have I done to warrant such a connection? If that means that I have done nothing to warrant it, that also means that I can do nothing to keep it.  I think that scares me most of all.  As humans, we are conditioned to expect the worst from other people–to expect that given the opportunity, they would destroy us in a heartbeat in order to get ahead.   I spoke to a relative the other day who told me about how someone had gone off at them for no apparent reason.  This person mentioned that it would be ok and necessary to totally cut off people who intentionally hurt another.  I thought that that made sense, but at the same time was so sad.  I know there are many times when I have either intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else.  I also know how bad it makes me feel to know that I did so–regardless of the reason. 

I also know what it feels like to be cut out of someone’s life.  There is no more hollow feeling than to know that a person that once regarded you as either a friend, colleague, or family member no longer believes you worthy of their acknowledgment.  That is the main reason that I cannot stand apathy.  At least when we hate someone/something, we care enough to hate it.  Apathy is a void of caring–it feels so hollow, so empty, so alone.    I would rather someone hate my guts than to refuse to believe that I do not exist.    I have felt that, experienced the painful void of connection.  It stinks in a place that I cannot describe.  It is what makes it almost impossible for me to believe that someone would care about me simply for who I am, not what I do.  I cannot wrap my mind around this concept.

It is also the same reason that I struggle with the idea that Abba Creator would care about me unconditionally and without reserve.  I must have done something to earn it, therefore, I must keep doing in order to make it last.   I know the last statement from a  faith standpoint is wrong, yet my experience shows me different.  If, then, my reasoning and faith are in conflict, one must rise to the forefront of being more right or acceptable.  (sorry, debate training in full gear here)  If my faith is more acceptable, then my reasoning has flaw.  If that is the case, then what I have based my understanding of acceptance as is also flawed.  What do I do with that?  How do I respond?  How do I let go of personal pride long enough to embrace a more faithful understanding of acceptance?  Do I have the courage to do that? 

Someone challenged me to embrace the idea of accepting other people’s care for no other reason then that they care.  This idea scares me to the core.  I am terrified that if I do not perform or meet their standard of my existence, then I will lose their care, and ultimately, their love.  I know intimately the feeling of losing that, and am terrified to risk the gamble again.  You may call out my hypocrisy here as I type this and know full well that I would never hold my children to this standard.  That I tell them each day that no matter what they do, they are dearly loved.  That they are beautifully and wonderfully made.  They know this to their core.  I want to scream from the mountains that of all the ideas that fill them each day, they KNOW this!!!! YES!  Today, that hard work is established.    Even if they become mass murderers (which they won’t), they know that they are loved without expectation, without reserve.

So, what of my pride that will not allow me to breathe in the love from others not related to me?  What of this pride that requires that I push ahead and never let up?  My mother told me something yesterday that hurt the second that I read it.  She mentioned that I have always pushed and pushed and pushed to do it right and perfect and to have it happen NOW–and that I never change.   It was the last statement that hurt so deeply.  It felt like I had been disregarded and written off because I struggle so.  That is my struggle, and not one that she can fix for me.  I am not sure what I would have liked her to say instead, I just know how raw a chord that struck with me.

Again, I refer back to JC Superstar and this silent king that exuded such grace, such compassion.  I want to emulate that.  I want that more than I have wanted anything in the world.  I believe it is the hallmark of some of the heroes of social and faith change that I look to for inspiration.    ” An amazing thing, this silent King.”

I need to sit with that, I need to ponder what that means and what application that has for our world in 2012 as well as in my personal life.  If it was the extreme and rare concept then, it is even more baffling today.  How do I embrace that, and how do I model that for my generation and for those following?  This is a burden I feel intensely, and the flame of passion will not subside.  I pray for the courage to boldly love in compassion and mercy, and to accept it wholly.

Shalom,

cahl.

Consumed by Pride…response to my last blog.

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