but bestows favor on the humble

This is a blog post from Oct. 2, 2009. I found it scanning memories on my Facebook page. Apparently, at one point, I could write and think and communicate things. My brain if foggier now. This is worth a re-post, though. I hope it is helpful to you in some way.


And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.” -1 Peter 5:5b

This was the beginning of the reading for Evening Prayer on Wednesday. These direct instruction passages make you think. This one is very important I believe. Tucked back in the back of 1st Peter – a very central thought. Relationships with others. How to “be” as a human being as you deal, as you will constantly, with other human beings.

It can be taken, I suppose, as merely a command to obey, and if you don’t obey it, you’ll get the hard side of God on the back of your neck. That would be an unfortunate way to look at this statement (or any for that matter). One would expand such a statement and ask questions:

Do you want to be close to God or far away? Would you rather be who God created you to be or some twisted other thing? Do you understand this whole thing? Do you get that it’s about the utter and complete transformation of your being and not just about you doing the right thing or being right or being good? One could ask those questions of the hearer – of us all.

If you’re always thinking, “I am humble in this situation, he’s the prideful one,” and you just know that God is favoring you or your side and “opposing” the other – if that’s you, you probably don’t know what humility is. If you’re looking for His favor as some kind of reward for your having been humble, and His active opposition to the other as some kind of punishment for their having been proud, you should see yourself as at the bottom of a very high mountain.

If we have figured out “how to be humble” in order to be on God’s good side –

“See! See me Lord! I am a humble man! Give me your favor – you said!”

You see yourself being what you believe is good and you try to shine the spotlight of yourself to heaven, so God will see you too. HE sees. He sees much deeper than our supposedly good actions. He knows the deep intentions of our hearts. We think we know them. If He exposed them to us as they really are, I think we would be destroyed by what we saw and heard.


“Change me, O God. Make me into the Image of Your Son!”

Let this be our prayer. Better, often, if we shut our mouths and lie down – throw dirt on our heads. Better we apologize when we feel we have no need to. Jesus had no need to die on a cross either – not for Himself. Better we forget what others have done to us and remember only what we have done, and lift that up to the Father in His great Mercy. Better we stop trying to find ways of showing how good we are, to others, to ourselves, or to God. Better we simply do as the Scripture passage continues…

So humble yourselves under the might hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. -1 Peter 5

And I imagine it would be best if we didn’t get too excited about what the “exalt you” business means or we’ll be right back where we started from.

God help us. Lord have mercy on us. Fill us with Your Grace, Father.

blog resurrection?

I’ve tried this multiple times – has never really worked. I haven’t worked it. I’m not sure it’s important – not sure it has to be. I like to think and write. I have, in the past, been good at it. I wonder if it’s something I should be doing.

you’re perfect just the way you are

Well… no, you’re not. I’m not either. Of course, I speak from within my own faith, but there really isn’t a major religious tradition on the planet that doesn’t recognize, in some way, that humanity is broken, that we are all broken and in need of being fixed. So, no one is “perfect just the way they are.” That is to skate around reality. To believe this is to avoid the hard work that belongs to transformation. In ignoring this, you not only keep yourself broken and welcome the continuing ontological harm that it can do to you, you also put everyone around you in harm’s way. Broken doesn’t fix or help broken. It just makes the mess more messy for everyone.

However you want to recognize that you are broken, it just needs to be recognized. You have to see it. You need to acknowledge the reality of it. I’m not talking about Hell or punishment. I’m not talking about whether or not you’re “good enough” to be loved or to exist. I’m not saying anything like that. I’m saying what has always been said, in either good and helpful or bad and unhelpful ways, that this cosmos, this realm of our existence, is cracked, is broken, and that goes down into the level of our being, all of us. We don’t come out perfect. Our “choice-makers” don’t come out working just right. And along the way, we may either learn to be good or learn to be bad, better or worse, if you will. But, we are in need of transformation.

This deep change we are all in need of doesn’t just happen in one way. It also doesn’t happen overnight or instantaneously. Just because someone, however well meaning or gifted, lays their hands on you, and you feel something amazing, and fall down, doesn’t mean you are FIXED. It may have been part of the process, but that one event didn’t do it. Just because you feel guilt over something you have done (which perhaps you should to some extent), and you go to Confession, confess your sins, are truly sorry and intend to be a better human, and receive Sacramental absolution from the hands of a Priest, does NOT mean you are entirely FIXED (think sex-abuse scandal, or about any psychopathic serial killer who’s ever gone to confession).

Transformation into what and who you were created to be is the goal, and this is a long process – life long. There are certainly tangible steps we must take along the way, and all those steps may not be the same for everyone, but we must take them. We must put ourselves under the running water in order to get wet and be washed. These are all analogies, you understand. Almost anything we can come up with to describe what’s going on in that deep, deep process is simply something we come up with so that we can at least partly understand it. We must open ourselves, get into the flow, step into the river, be washed, have reconstructive surgery, get a soul transplant – yes, all that. However we understand it (although partly), we have to find that way to put ourselves into the way, The Way. And if we expect it to happen quickly, we will be disappointed and perhaps, give up. Don’t give up. Adjust your expectations. Keep moving in that direction.

a happy button

I wish there were a happy button. You know, a button on the inside of you that you can push, and there you go, you’re “happy.” I don’t have one of those. I’ve often heard talk of such a mythical thing. You’ve probably heard it too – “Choose to be happy, you deserve it,” something like that. Every time I hear that, or something like it, I wonder where this mysterious happy button is and how it works. Does it actually work that way for some people? It’s in their “chooser?” They get to just make up their minds and choose to be happy?

I find that incredibly hard to believe. Impossible, actually.

First, or second of all, whichever number, this happy we speak of today, in this culture, here, now, is really just a construct. I don’t believe it’s something that exists in and of itself. I don’t think it floats out there waiting for us to grab hold of it and stuff it inside ourselves. It’s an idea which has developed over time, and we have come to collectively believe in it.

Now, even if it did exist somehow, in the way we think about it, to think that we can reach through the deep complexity of our human existence and simply “turn it on” is, honestly, kind of ridiculous.

Certainly there are things we can choose. We can choose, most of the time, what actions we will take, or not take. Even that is more complicated than we often imagine. But, sure, we can maybe choose to do more things that are positive as opposed to negative. We can choose not to speak when we obviously shouldn’t. We can choose not to drown ourselves in dark things when we feel (those of us who struggle with such things) the darkness coming on (and it does just “come on” for mostly no reason). I don’t have to close the curtains, turn the lights out, and listen to The Cure and The Smiths all day, or God forbid, Bright Eyes or Elliott Smith.

Yes, we can choose some things – for some things and against some other things. But I would be in favor of banning the phrase, “just choose to be happy,” or anything quite like it.

Wrapping this deal up, I’ll say this: As a Christian, I would echo both Scripture and Tradition by advising that we pray always. Never stop praying. If your prayer is simply groaning to God, not knowing what to say, do that. If you can only mumble the memorized prayers of your faith training, do that. Throw your hands out wide and let your heart speak. Do something!

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