Friday, November 8, 2013
Charles Dickens' Great Expectations includes this brief passage of when Estella first made Pip feel worthless:
I took the opportunity of being alone in the court-yard to look at my coarse hands and my common boots. My opinion of those accessories was not favorable. They have never troubled me before, but the troubled me now, as vulgar appendages. I determines to ask Joe why he had ever taught me to call those picture-cards Jacks which out to be called knaves. I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too.
Most of us, at some time in our life, take a long, hard, and very unfavorable look at some aspect of our being. Now, I know that there are aspects of my own being, as I am sure you are aware of yours as well, that should be changed, and I know that I would be a better person for having changed them. However, there is a difference between a decision of our own to better ourselves or to grow as a person and someone else giving us reason to feel less than or inadequate in our being because of their evaluation of us.
It might be anything. It could be something we might change as easily as our own socks or something as difficult as the fact that we were born taller or shorter than someone else has decided is "appropriate."
I have tried, when confronted with hurt in my being to ask, "Would I be a better person for taking this individual's advice? Would I be a more loving husband or father? Would my preaching improve? Would I remedy some inconsistency within my Christian testimony?" If the answer is, "Yes," than it is appropriate to thank the person, recognize an opportunity for self-improvement, and put the suggested action to work as quickly and efficiently as possible.
However, if the answer is, "No," I recognize that my Savior is wiser than either of us and has given me certain talents and abilities as well as certain challenges and shortcoming - all to His glory, and all to be put to use in doing the work of His Kingdom.
If you have ever read the 500+ pages of Dickens' masterpiece, you will remember that this one event, a passing comment about the roughness of a young boy's hands and the commonness of his boots, marks the beginning of a dissatisfied life where Pip continually tries to better himself but never seems to find satisfaction. It awakens something within him that new boots can never cure.
Paul writes in an almost insulting way to the church at Corinth. He tells them that they really don't have any wise members in their midst, none of noble birth, hardly any with any real degree of athleticism. It's enough to give a complex worse than Pip's! Yet, Paul goes on to remind them that all this is to God's glory because of the Holy Spirit's ongoing work within that local gathering of believers.
Whether that is important to you or me or not comes down to whose opinion really matters most to us, doesn't it?