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TRUST IN GOD. SUSPECT YOURSELF
September 23, 2003
 
Measure day is coming up at Curves. Mine is the 31st -- it's the 31st every month. I don't know what we will do in September, which has only thirty days. Will I measure on the 30th, thereby depriving myself of the benefit of one extra day of exercise? Or will I measure on the 1st of October? Not that it matters -- except there is a special "Loser of the Month" category, an honor accorded the person who has lost the most inches and pounds in a month. You get your name on the bulletin board, and a tee shirt, I think. Which month I am in could decide whether or not I will be this distinguished loser. Every competitive instinct I possess -- and there are many -- wants to be the Loser of the Month.

We shall see. Ordinarily, I do not ascend to the honors I hotly pursue -- only to the ones that come upon me without my expecting them. This is an example of the grace of God, who knows me too well to leave me alone in a room full of accolades. It would be much too easy for me to conclude that success arose from my own excellence, and it would be a short step from there to a perennial and most unlovely hubris.

So instead, God sprinkles my life with failed tasks and lets me see, in unwavering and embarrassing detail, just why they have failed. Things don't work for me when I don't cooperate with others, when I gallop off on my own and try to do it all myself. Things don't work for me when I try to push beyond the limits of my physical strength. Things don't work for me when I have not been honest with myself about my motivations.

Aggrieved innocence is my first reaction when something doesn't work. How unfair, I say to myself, how terribly unfair that such a fine human being could be so completely misunderstood and unsupported when she was only trying to help. This is before I remember that we are never only trying to help. We're also trying to score points in a game nobody else is playing.

But isn't that a terribly cynical viewpoint? To view my stated goals with such suspicion? How can it possibly be ennobling to ferret out all the little pockets of egotism and covetousness within even my best actions?

A lively trust in God and a lively suspicion of the self. And old Christian viewpoint, as far back as Jesus: "You have heard it said, 'Thou shalt not kill....' But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgment...'" Now there's a high standard. But it shouldn't daunt us: we can afford to examine our inner frailties with ruthless clarity, because we are not left to deal with their tawdriness alone. We don't have to be afraid to name them. Only when they are exposed to the light can God help us set about dealing with them. It is when they are not named that they grow fangs. Few people are more dangerous than those with an unshakable belief in their own virtue.


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