I set the lady straight via e-mail—no punches pulled. Just the facts, ma’am. Others were gossiping online about her alleged unethical actions, and I thought she should know about it (after all, I would want to know). I didn’t bother with the whole tact thing. Just typed and hit “send”—grim righteousness without love, clouds without rain, surgery without anesthesia.
The false security of my computer screen vanished as the recipient went ballistic, and the e-mail went public. No use to protest, “But she didn’t ask my permission to publish it online.” The feathers have exited the pillow, Elvis has left the building, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men cannot put the nail back onto the horse’s shoe. My kingdom for a horse … or a bird. “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest” (Ps. 55:6).
I had to apologize to an online group of over 200 people, some of whom I have known (online and/or in person) for five years. If only I had prayed first, taken a few beats (and a few drafts), and then given it a go. Maybe my words would have been more like “apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11) rather than like the “piercings of a sword” (Prov. 12:18).
I have been right most of my life. At first, it was the “natural” arrogance of a firstborn; and then with practice (class officer, hall leader, lead counselor, teacher, and parent), it became a habit, a hobby. Eventually I had a full-time unpaid job in looking down at others from my “Us four, no more. Amen” vantage point. Friendships could not stand before my righteousness—why should they? I had a clear view, and I was in the right. So obvious.
The scabs of self-righteousness ran deep—God has been pulling them off, one by one. My recent exposure reminds me that “There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3).
Secure in our private walls, our layers of bubble wrap, we can sin without fear. “Thou God seest me” (Hagar’s words in Genesis 16)—not so bad. He understands me, right? But when our perfidy is public knowledge and when the walls come down, we have the opportunity to lose thickened layers of self and sin like David after Nathan’s careful confrontation.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a priggish schoolboy named Eustace Scrubbs crawls into a dead dragon’s cave, helping himself to a bracelet before falling asleep. He wakes as a dragon, and his greed tortures him because the bracelet is now embedded in his forearm. He spends time atoning for his former arrogance but remains a dragon until Aslan pulls him aside. Eustace is unable to peel away all the layers of dragon skin, so Aslan digs deep into his hide and peels it off, exposing Eustace’s own skin. He then washes him in a well and re-clothes him before sending him back to the others.
As Paul says, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:24-25). God’s chastisement is safer than the serpent’s self-confidence. Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” His are a friend’s faithful wounds.
Once the layers are gone, and I’ve eaten crow (again!), I want to hide, to keep myself safe from sin by avoiding all contact until my wounds heal. The monastic life is a safe life, and hermits don’t get into many fights. But no … we are to engage our neighbors in love, not to hide from them; and I must creep out of my dark hole, raw skin and all, to minister “honestly, as in the day” (Rom. 13:13).
Having thrown myself into the dust, I have to get back on the horse, even if he bucks a bit. Not so that I can get out of Dodge but so that I can get past the fear of failing. “A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” (Prov. 24:16) So, as Shakespeare says in Henry V, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”
|Beth Murschell is married to Mick, a computer programmer, and they live in Bradenton, Florida. Her master’s degree is in music education, but her past work experience includes industrial cleaning, childcare, bumper factory, fast food, camp work (three different camps), music team, telemarketer, media center, music educator, sixth-grade teacher, maid, retail, writer, and now mother of four. She has lived in Panama City, Louisville, Greenville, Miami, Brevard, Quakertown, and Bradenton.|