Friday, July 10, 2009

In Search of Wings

Mom and Dad say I was a naturally pleasant and cheerful child, even as a baby. They said I would greet them in the morning, while standing in my crib, with: "Hi! Hello! Good morning, Mommy!" I'm sure I was indulged and cosseted, being the third child and the first girl. But, even so, or despite that, I was sweet and good.

I also had a devilish streak, too. One time my friend, Suzy Kohl, and I were taking a nap at my house. I guess that makes us about four years old. For some reason we were placed in my brothers' room. We didn't nap, but instead the devil got into us and we proceeded to tear up the room. I don't know if it started with a demon or a dare, but before we were through the room was destroyed. Not even my brother Steve's brand-new box kite, which I don't think he had even flown yet, was spared. I'll never forget how sad and ashamed I felt when I saw his face. He stood in the doorway and his face crumpled into tears as he looked over the devastation.

But, when I was being good, truly good, my mother would say to me, "Oh, look, Chrissy: I see your wings budding. Look here!" She pointed to a spot just inside my shoulder blades and I would turn in circles trying to see behind me. "There," she said, "tiny little wings. Can't you see them?" When I cried, "Where, where?" she reassured me that they would grow if I would only be good.

I think I'm still by nature a pleasant person. I'm good natured and I laugh easily. I can't stay angry at someone no matter how I try. I easily forget wrongs and I rarely say mean things on purpose. That doesn't mean I don't hurt people by mistake, but I'm not vindictive in any sense of the word. But does that make me "good?"

I believe that, even though I have goodness in me, I'm not "good". My human nature, left to itself, is pretty rotten. I desperately want to be better, to get my full set of wings, so to speak. While I'm not consciously trying to improve myself every day, I do have a plan.

The main thing I try to do is to put good things inside my mind. I read great literature, listen to music that enriches my mind and soul, study great art and most important of all, I read the Good Book consistently. When I get sad or discouraged, I usually find that I've failed to "fuel-up." My storehouse has gotten low. I don't want to run dry. I know that none of these things will make me good, that only by being truly renewed in my spirit by God's grace have I any righteousness at all, but that by developing the habit of fueling up with good things will I ever have a chance of getting my wings.

When my youngest child, Ben, was about seven years old, he was sitting at the table eating breakfast before school. Beautiful music was playing on the stereo and I was busy getting his things together. When I turned towards him I saw that tears were streaming down his face. I said, "Oh Ben, what's wrong?" And he turned towards me and said, "Mom, why don't we have wings?" I suppose the music had touched his tender spirit and made him want to soar like a bird. I don't know where it came from but I said to him, "Because then we would have one thing less to look forward to when we get to heaven."

I don't think we will, like Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life, all become angels nor that we have to earn our wings when we get to heaven. But Ben was sharing my life-long desire to soar on wings of beauty and goodness. Next time you see me do something good, you'll know that I'm still trying to grow those wings.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Invisibility Cloak

I've been meditating on the imperatives in the Bible to "be humble." Paul, in Colossians, says to "put on" humility, as if it were a cloak. Peter says, "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'” (emphasis mine.)

In the much loved David Copperfield, the smarmy Uriah Heep says: "I am well aware that I am the umblest person going." As soon as you think you are humble, by virtue of your awareness, you are not. So, I am deducing that humility it is an action that we must employ, not a quality that we can claim to have.

It's not until the end of the saga that Harry Potter realizes the uniqueness of the invisibility cloak that Professor Dumbledore has given him. Throughout the story Harry employs the cloak to slip in and out of Hogwarts, to do mischief and to do good, but mostly he just takes it for granted. He draws it over himself and he becomes completely invisible to the eye and even to witchcraft, virtually undetectable. Invisibility is something which he puts on. In no wise, even as a wizard, is he able to become invisible any other way.

Where do I find a cloak of humility? If this is a characteristic that I am commanded to display but which I can't manufacture from within, then how do I go about putting it on? "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." So, is the Bible saying that if I chose to love someone in the way that is best for them then God will give me the grace to do it? This is tough. I like having the last word. There is something so monstrously satisfying in being justified in my own mind. But there is no peace in it. No, the only choice is to love and that can only be done well through the grace of humility, not in weakness but in strength.

I don't have to become invisible but I do have to get my motives and preconceptions out of the way. Choice is the action, grace is the means, humility is the result. After all, as Dumbledore says, it's not our abilities that make us who we are but the choices that we make.