I’ve been putting this post off all week; two weeks really. Not this post, particularly, but a post in general. And I don’t have a particularly good reason or excuse. No major crisis or life altering event. Other than a chronic lack of confidence (which is ironic, given the first line of Thomas’ quote below).
And maybe it’s not exactly a lack of confidence, but a short-sighted view of others and myself. With that cryptic intro, I give you Thomas a Kempis:
We cannot place too little confidence in ourselves, because grace and understanding are often lacking to us. Little light is there within us, and what we have we quickly lose by negligence. Oftentimes we perceive not how great is our inward blindness. We often do ill and excuse it worse. Sometimes we are moved by passion and count it zeal; we blame little faults in others and pass over great faults in ourselves. Quickly enough we feel and reckon up what we bear at the hands of others, but we reflect not how much others are bearing from us. He who would weigh well and rightly his own doings would not be the man to judge severely of another. (a Kempis, Bk. II.V.1)
That quote speaks into void of quality reflection and prayer in my own life. I operate with an unconscious scale of value in my head, specifically as it regards ministry or church related work. I idolize certain movements or folks who are doing it “well” and I don’t look as fondly (in other words, I don’t read their books) on those who I deem not to be doing the flashy (though in this case it’s actually the opposite of flashy) work.
I get frustrated because I only have passion where __________(whom I aspire to be like on that particular day) has zeal.
Which leads to all kinds of self-criticism and just negative reflection in general. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar in your life or line of work. I start saying things like: “If only I lived in that neighborhood or worked at that church/ministry/agency then I’d be faithful, then I’d be living out my vocation, my calling.”
I’m reading a wonderful book right now by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture.
The caveat to that sentence is that only today did I begin reading that book with the real title. Before today I was reading The Wisdom of Stability: Why you should move to an underprivileged neighborhood in your city and share life with people in the same way some other people you really respect are, otherwise your faith and works are in vain…especially if you stay in the ‘burbs. Or something like that.
Which is crazy. If I followed the incoherently long subtitle in my mind, I’d directly violate the real subtitle: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture. But that was exactly the way I thought about all things related to the book.
Now hear me out, I think the work of JWH and Rutba House (and the countless others like them) is exceptional and I’m in no way trying to downplay that. I just realized that I was viewing my place–and the possibility for sharing life together there–negatively because it wasn’t like their place, which is probably the opposite of his work.
The whole thing was a big head game, doomed from the start by my inability to cultivate any kind of imaginative space in which to view my place and my call.
We live in a world governed by exteriors, a glance is all we grant or receive for most of our days. If it can’t hook me in 10 seconds or 140 characters it’s not worth my time. But sometimes we get hooked by the wrong 10 seconds or 140 characters and grow ignorant to the ways our views of the rest of the story become skewed by this momentary lapse of thought.
“we perceive not how great is our inward blindness.” And that blindness can thwart the unique gifting and calling to which we have been called, wherever our stability finds us.