A few years ago I met up with a very good friend for a coffee. ‘How are you doing?’ he asks, genuinely interested in the answer. I ramble on for next 20 minutes – plans, uncertainties, worries, weariness. He looks at me. “Smile”, he says with a twinkle in his eye.
It was just what I needed. It pricked the bubble of my pompous self-absorption and restored my perspective.
Michael Ramsey, a past archbishop of Canterbury, told a group of new pastors to be serious about the gospel but not take themselves too seriously: ‘laugh at the absurdities of life, laugh about yourself, and about your own absurdity. We are all of us infinitesimally small and ludicrous creatures within God’s universe.” (quoted in Stott, The Radical Disciple)
15 years ago or more I worked as a security guard for a huge all-night garden party. Unlike some of the security staff who had the exciting job of manning the gates or marching out uninvited or unruly guests, I had the particularly dull job of watching a wall in a quiet part of the grounds to make sure no-one attempted to come over it. Sadly no attempts were made. It got to 3 or 4am in the morning and I was desperately trying to stay awake. Eventually I stumbled, half-asleep over a stone and fell into a flower bed.
There in the flower bed, my suit covered in mud and bits of flower. That is what I am and no more. I am not only a sinner but an absurd, ridiculous sinner. I need friends to remind me of that next time I’m tempted to take myself too seriously.
Two similar bits of wisdom I’ve been given over the years:
- Death to intensity – we want to be ultra-serious about the gospel but not to be over-intense in our dealings with people – we need to have a ‘light touch’ in discipling others.
- For one look within take ten looks at Him – it’s good to examine ourselves, and confess and journal but before we sink into despair we need to turn to Jesus our righteousness and spend much more time bathing in his grace.