Monday, December 17, 2007

Leaning Tower of Conversion

A few weeks back I picked up my Bible to read in Romans and the whole way through I felt condemned....preachers from my past echoing in my head as I read. Their message often carrying an undercurrent about how we, as Christians, just don't quite get it right enough. I don't willingly put myself in situations these days where I have to listen to condemnation in preaching. There's too much goodness inside oneself, just waiting to be discovered, to live out of a paradigm of condemnation. I am not saying we don't sin, that we aren't capable of atrocious attitudes and actions. Lord knows I am. But I don't define myself anymore as if that ability and reality is the whole of who I am.

Youngest son and I got into this discussion the other day. He looked at me and said, "Well you know people are inherently evil." No they aren't I said. We are created in God's image and what God created was good. "Ya, but that was before the fall," he replied. I countered that our created in God's image was still there. Sometimes it's just buried under a lot of muck and my place as a believer is to affirm the presence of goodness in people. All people.

Condemnation, being reminded that I don't quite get this Christianity journey right, does nothing but weigh me down. I refuse to see others that way anymore, either.

Except when someone pisses me off.

Yesterday I was looking for a conversion chart that would help me figure out how many ml are in an ounce. I was cooking up a storm for a church potluck and the recipe I had was in ounces while my can of tomato sauce was in ml. I asked for dearest one's help. He opened the cupboard where my leaning row of cookbooks reside and started looking. He wasn't quick enough for me. So I pushed right past him to reach for the cookbook I thought might help me. I didn't cut off the circulation in his arm as I bore down with my own, but our arms looked like a perfect X in our reach for the perfect cookbook. Don't you know the world is going to come to an end if I don't get the right book instantly? Dearest one patiently asked me to wait a minute. Patience my ass. I yanked my arm out of there so fast, turned on my heels, and walked away.

He shut the cupboard door, put the right cookbook on the counter and went outside.

I stood there and thought all sorts of nasty things. Wanting more than anything to blame my bad attitude on dearest one. In a nanosecond I was acting like a mirror image of my mom. Her exasperated sigh that if only my dad would read her mind and do it her way then all would be right with the world. Uh huh.
"Most people try to live by self propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself would be pleased. Life would be wonderful..........What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well. He begins to think life doesn't treat him right.....he is sure that other people are more to blame.... Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if only he manages well?" ~ pg. 61 Alcoholics Anonymous

I read that part of the big book daily. As I stood at the counter wouldn't you know it filtered through to my conscious mind. Damn. For all my internal stuttering of "it's your...your...your fault!" I didn't have a hope in hell of blaming my pissyness on dearest one. As I turned the can opener on the tomato sauce I realized when dearest one asked me to be patient it was as if the fog cleared and I suddenly saw how rude and inconsiderate I was in my haste to have that cookbook in my hand. I wanted to pretend it wasn't my arm in that cupboard. Until that moment I didn't know why I always reacted that way when dearest one asks me to have a little patience as I'm reaching past him or shoving past him without saying excuse me, or saying excuse me but not meaning it with any manners; both regular behaviours of mine.

The realization didn't magically cure my attitude but I was thankful for the clarity. Hopefully one day I'll have the humility in the moment to say, "oh that was rude of me, I'm sorry." Even better would be to stop being rude.

I decided when dearest one came into the house that I would apologize for my rudeness. I would explain how he has this canny knack of inadvertently pointing out my character defects and I'm really okay with knowing them if I find them. I'm not so gracious when others show them to be true. I was going to admit I needed to work on that, too.

All would have been fine except when dearest one came back in he told me how he felt about the little scenario before I could get a word out of my mouth. Which was non typical behaviour for him. He shared how he wasn't going to shove his feelings down in order to keep peace. He wasn't having any of that anymore, remember? I wish I could say I warmly received his thoughts. What I really wanted to do was make him shut up because he was wrecking my shining moment of humility. And God knows it might evaporate before dearest one was done talking. Lord have mercy.

Suffice to say we made it through. At one point I got so lightheaded and dizzy(maybe the result of letting some air out of my ego?) when I was apologizing that I started to resemble my leaning tower of cookbooks and nearly fell into the stove.

Today I don't have to beat myself up for being human. I am thankful for the clarity to see what's really behind my pissyness. Progress not perfection means the next time I act rude and inconsiderate I will hopefully stop midstride, humble myself and apologize.

Humility learned through the pages of a cookbook.
Gotta watch out for those conversion charts.


onionboy said...

There is therefore no more condemnation...


O {arts & fath} {faith & art}

Sue said...

Yesterday in church our pastor quoted the verse about Christ; 'who for the joy set before Him endured...'. Of course there is more to the verse but that was the part that struck me. In order to get to the joy He had to endure. We have the wonderful hope of joy when we endure and go through these things we face.
I'm smiling as I write because I see how much you are growing. It's wonderful to know that you will find joy as a result.

Merry Christmas Hope.

Steve F. said...

Hmmm...that's why they call it "trudging the road of Happy Destiny," Hope. The destination is "Happy Destiny," but there are times when it feels like we are slogging through molasses...just not making much progress.

My boyfriend (wow, that feels weird to write) is moving here from Missouri this weekend. Twelve-plus hours in a Budget rental truck, driving through the Ozarks on the last weekend in December. Outside of weather, fatigue, and weekend warriors on the road for 710 miles, nothing to worry about, right?

I may be coming to YOU for relationship help, come Monday...

We make shambling, stumbling progress, Hope. You are; I am. But so long as we are sunny-side-up, suckin' air and sober, there is hope of transformation, and of grace. At least that's my experience so far.

As Michael W. Smith sings, "Pray for me, and I'll pray for you..."

the Mom said...

Sorry for your difficult moment, but glad you were able to see the lesson in it. That's a grace.

As for myself, I have always thought that we are at constant war between the Goodness of being in God's image, and the evil of the Fall. Dome days we lean in one direction, other days the other. It is the totality of our lives not one specific moment which matter.Just keep leaning in God's direction and you will get there eventually.

God bless you and your family in this new year.