10 May 2010

Becoming Nothing

Last week a French friend handed me a good dose of humility, and boy did I need it!

Some of you may remember my recent post about the incident in the post office . . . well, two weeks after the fact, I still wasn't over it.  And not only was I just "not over it," I was still angry about it!  And while wallowing in self for far too long, I really let it go way too far in my heart.

Well, last week, I brought the incident back up.  My friend simply responded with "again?"  As we talked more, he said to me "I'm just really surprised by this.  Here you are, a Christian, and you can't forgive her.  I don't understand that.  You are holding this against someone who doesn't know Jesus!"


I stopped.  I hadn't thought about it in those terms before.  She was a stranger . . . what did forgiveness have to do with anything?  And, yeah, why wasn't I letting this go??  I began to process.

After accepting the reality that, yes, in fact I was harboring anger that had turned to bitterness towards this woman, I began to process why this minor incident had become such a huge mound of rubbish in my heart.  I started to understand that my anger wasn't towards this woman as an individual, but as a figure-head (for lack of a better term) for my frustration with the language/culture learning process.

No, it was more than it.  It wasn't just being frustrated with French.  It was really that in my heart I wanted to hold onto some form of dignity . . . but it wasn't dignity . . . it was pride.  Ugly, messy, selfish pride.

Jesus calls His followers to be empty of self . . . so, what was my problem??  I had always considered that process to be a pretty active one . . . you know, "lay it on the alter" not "have it ripped from my death-grip." Sure there are times that God uses our circumstances to chisel away the muck of self . . . but language learning is a whole different ball game.  My pride was stripped from me when I walked through the doors of this school.  Sure I "chose" to come here . . . but I had no idea what I was in for!  Most days I feel inside like I'm flailing around in the cold stormy waters of French groping in the dark for a lifesaver.  But what I forget is that I'm not alone, and I'm not going to survive if I do this on my own strength.  And the truth of it is, if I am a disciple of Jesus, I have no business seeking out ways to maintain my pride.  There is no room here for it!  There is no room on the throne for self.

I am reminded by M.J. Stanford's chapter on Self in The Green Letters that "This disintegration is something the believer can never enter into nor engineer on his own--self will never cast out self.  He has to be led into it by the mercy of the Holy Spirit--into failure; abject and total" (p.41).  Brennan Manning opens The Signature of Jesus with the reminder that "What Jesus longs to see in radical disciples is what he saw in little children: a spirit of sheer receptivity, utter dependence, and radical reliance on the power and mercy and grace of God mediated through the Spirit of Christ.  He said, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (Jn 15:5)" (p. 15).

So, there you have it.  I am still in the midst of the becoming nothing process . . . thankful that I have been led here by the mercy of a most kind and gracious Father.

1 comment:

Toney said...

Beautifully said and much needed for me today...and tomorrow, and tomorrow... and so on. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this!