Friday, July 18, 2008

What Will I Remember?

God, in his infinite wisdom, made it impossible for humanity to remember anything before the age of two or so. Case in point: if I had to remember someone sticking an aspirator up my nose to clean out the funk, I'd grow up and live in this world with a huge chip on my shoulder. What an awful experience! And it's got to be bad for the kid with it in his or her nose, too.

One of my earliest and most precious memories is the only recollection I have of my maternal grandfather - Luther Humbles. Grandpa carefully sat me on the kitchen counter and gladly and lovingly fed me a spoon of peanut butter. I don't know exactly how old I was at the time, but I was almost 3 1/2 when he passed away, so it was definitely before he got sick and went to the hospital several weeks before. Oddly enough, to this day, I'd rather have a spoon of peanut butter than just about anything. I don't know if my love for the condiment is tied to that very happy memory, but I'd like to think so.

Sometimes, I wish our memories as adults weren't so good. I think Paul felt the same way. He knows some memories can hurt us more than they help and delight. This is especially true in spiritual matters. While it's important to remember the milestones of God's faithfulness and activity in our lives, why is it we can't shake the disappointments, unmet expectations and unkindnesses? Even worse, why can't we get over ourselves: "our" accomplishments, "our" preferences, "our" successes, "our" importance, "our" inside scoop and "our" social prominence?

After listing his impressive credentials to the Philippian church in 3:5-6, he very crudely states that all those things are "rubbish" (vs. 8). That's the polite, American English interpretation for feces, manure, or yes, crap. I don't know about you, but neither the size of the crap nor its color impresses me. It may get my attention, but it's certainly not good attention.

Paul also says he is "forgetting" what lies behind (vs. 13). I think there's a good reason that he uses the present tense, there. He could have chosen to say, "Brethren, ... I've forgotten all that stuff." But instead, he says he's "forgetting." I truly believe he said it that way because pride was a likely struggle for him. He knew that such credentials could gain him a foothold with political and religious leaders, but that wasn't what his identity was built upon. His righteousness, he knew, came not from his own doing, but through faith in Christ (vs. 9). For Paul, that was a humbling thought that he had to adopt daily. Time and time again, perhaps multiple times a day he had to remember to forget how "impressive" he was and remember to consider the "infinite value of knowing Jesus Christ" (vs. 8).

What am I going to remember today? Will it be my own laurels or Christ's power that raised him from the dead. My own self-assurance or the fellowship of His sufferings (v. 10)?

Please God, don't let Paul's words be about me. With tears in his eyes he said "there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction....they brag about shameful things" (vs. 18-19).

1 comment:

Misty said...

I read this post again today. I had just finished reading Philippians out loud on the advice of a mutual friend. What a fool I've been. I fought the tears as I read it and then found this post again. I know I've been crushed under the weight of my own pride.

Lord, please break the chains of my selfish pride.