I am profoundly, deeply, absolutely and only human. No surprise there, right? But I think there are a lot of people who are confused on this point. You see them all around — outraged, entitled, critical, and despondent. People who expect other people to part around them like they’re Moses crossing the Red Sea. (Although, truth be told, Moses was an incredibly humble guy, so maybe that’s not the best analogy.) There are folks who feel inspired to crow about their triumphs and bullishly blast their opinions (thanks, Facebook.) People who delight in grinding other people to dust under the spike of their ultra-high heel. People… and here’s the sad part… who despair when they look in the mirror one day and realize they aren’t actually divine.
But this old school Reformation doctrine is actually incredibly liberating: I am totally depraved. I’m a sinner, a screw-up, a miscreant, a nobody. I can’t do anything to earn grace, nor un-earn it, neither (which I’m pretty sure sounds best in a purely redneck accent.) In spite of my obvious, repeated, shameful failures, I am loved, celebrated, and empowered by the only one who’s Somebody. Which is altogether great.
What baffles me is that there are a lot of other nobodies out there who gleefully understand this, who revel in this thing called grace, but still sorta think maybe they’re just a little more somebody than anybody else. I mean, y’all, I do it, too — it’s kind of Total Depravity 101. But it’s an ugly thing, a ruin-your-day stench that sits heavy over everything like a green fog. Out of that prideful swamp comes a lot of hurt: little smirking remarks turn into bruised egos and mean spirits and spite. Roam around on the internet for five minutes and you’ll start to see it everywhere — people, Christians, just completely scornful of other people, supposedly in pursuit of truth but fully devoid of beauty or love.
This is the world where we send our babies off to kindergarten, the world where we launch our books onto Amazon, the world where we brace ourselves to take a stand about anything sweet under the sun. We have got to do better.
Next time I want to say something sarcastic, what if I just… don’t? Next time I post a review, why not season it with kindness and not drown it in salt? What if I held my tongue more often than I thoughtlessly spouted off, read that email a second time before I hit send? Back in the day, people named their daughters Prudence and Mercy — time for a counter-culture comeback, y’all.
But here’s the other thing, the thing I actually do have some measure of control over (because I’m thinking no one is going to jump on the Prudence and Mercy bandwagon.) Tim Keller calls it “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.” Wow. To get to a point where it really doesn’t matter what other people say. To make like Elsa and let it go. Not to define myself however I want or to pat myself on the back, but to really lose myself altogether, to be completely astonished and delighted and transfixed by Somebody — Somebody brighter, better, bigger than me. Keller points out that in Christianity we get the verdict before the performance, so that now we can joyfully live out the verdict — live free.
“That He might become greater, and I might become less…” That’s my prayer today.