Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An overcoat

While driving Thyrza home from a couple of doctor's appointments this morning, she commented that I am always thinking about other people, never about myself. I didn't burst out laughing just barely avoided it.  "No, Thyrza," I told her, "I don't think about myself more than 24 hours a day."  She thought I was speaking in hyperbole. "You spend all this time with us, and all you ever do is listen to us," she said.  Well, of course, I thought.  When I'm with the elders all we talk about is the elders' concerns.  That's the way it has to be.  Their worries, whether they're about some phantom pain in a finger-nail or about some missing sheet of paper, consume these two old people now.  It's like their concerns have shrunk with the size of their living spaces.  Once they each hard large homes, careers, families, church responsibilities, professional and personal relationships to maintain.  Their spheres of influence were quite broad.  Grampie held an office at the national level of his professional society for many years, and I'm telling you, he and Beve's mom collected friends by the hundreds.  I know less about Thyrza's earlier life, but she was an educator as well, lived overseas with her military husband and family, had friends on several continents by the time they retired.  And a hobby that took her traveling to national conventions.

But these days, all their life seems concentrated in those three little rooms.  All their concerns are only about themselves.  It's easy for her to feel self-involved because her life is so diminished that she notices what most of us can hide beneath a plethora of interests.  So she sits in her chair and pays attention to every little pain, or at her desk, and re-shuffles all her scraps of paper.  Then she gets angry when Grampie piles his papers on top of hers, because, after all, her pile of papers is far more important than his.  Isn't it?

It's easy for me to go in and look like the model of patience and calm because my life isn't so confined, my interests are still broad, my brain still functioning at full-strength (at least I hope it is).  But this absolutely doesn't mean I am any less self-involved than they are.  Left to my own devices, I am always, only, about myself.  Looking out for my interests.  Paying attention to every little hurt, every new symptom, every nuance of change in my life and body.

This is, I dare say, the human condition.  The human, post-garden condition.  And as such, without Christ and His transformation, none of us has a chance in hell of being any different.  It takes spiritual discipline on our part, and the Holy Spirit working on His to create that transformation.  Philippians 2:12-13 speaks of this balance: "Therefore...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who works within you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose. "

Years ago--in college, in fact--a friend and I used to talk about putting on Christ (see Romans 13, and Colossians 3) like one would put on an overcoat.  We'd put Him on over whatever else we were so that He was on the outside where He could be seen by others.  Meanwhile, on the inside, the Holy Spirit would be carving Him into us from within.  And the longer we walked with Him the closer those two would come to touching, until one day we would really BE Christ, inside and out.  I don't for one moment believe I'm there yet.  Nowhere near, though, if you'd have told me when I was 18 that I'd still be saying this at 52, I'd have been shocked.  I was naive enough, young enough then to think I'd be all of a piece by now (well, I wasn't even sure I'd still be alive at the terribly old age of 52), all Christ's all the time.  But now I see how much greater the distance still is ahead of me.  The life long distance of putting on Christ as my overcoat, and asking Him to change me from within.
"Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Romans 13:14

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