When I was training for a marathon, I would fill my pockets with orange slices in Ziploc bags. As weariness snuck up, one or two slices popped in my mouth would push it back and give me strength to press on another few kilometers. God's words and His encouragement sometimes come in bite-sized slices -impressions, experiences, encounters - and are just enough to push weariness back and keep us pressing on a little further...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's Criminal (January 15, 2009)

Apparently, I have a killer personality. Literally. Recently, I was asked to take a personality test. You know the kind - the ones where they ask you if you’d rather be a goat farmer or a hot air balloon maintenance worker and somehow pinpoint precisely how you act at parties and conclude awkward phone conversations. I felt fairly confident as I read through my results – I am primarily self-directed, prefer creative freedom to strict structural guidelines, and am readily adaptable to changing conditions…no real surprises there. Then I met with the consultant.

The purpose of meeting was to discuss how to use my strengths and weaknesses in my every-day life and career. In fact, part of the results indicated which career I was best suited for. With more than a bit of self-satisfaction, I was pleased to note that my strongest score showed I should be preparing for Law School, as it seems I have missed my calling as a lawyer. When I pointed this out to the consultant, he laughed and said, “What they don’t tell you, is that same score indicates your ability to be a career criminal.”

Lawyer jokes aside, that was a bit disheartening. More than a bit, actually. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I was indignant. A criminal personality? Me? No way! At least I was comforted by the fact that my extremely high score showed I would have a fair amount of success at a life of felony – no light criminal hobbies for me. Apparently, I could make a career out of being a villain.

I shrugged it off and other than a few light jokes with friends (“All this time I’ve been quietly raising support when I could have been doing some serious fund-raising!”) forgot about it. Or tried to. Unfortunately, that little fugitive flaw of mine shows itself more frequently than I thought. Being “self-directed” slides easily into being self-centered; having “creative freedom” means I go around people and boundaries to get what I want, and “readily adaptable”? That just means I’m good at it.

On the whole (before this delinquent discovery) I have generally felt pretty good about my surface self – I try to be nice (because it’s nice to be nice), I try to give people what they need, and not to complain when they don’t do the same for me. I do everything I can to act like a good person.

The problem is that I’m not. If you think I am, it just means I’ve fooled you as much as I thought I could fool myself. And God. Except that I haven’t fooled Him, and if I’ve fooled you, then I’m a much better actress than I thought b/c deep down, I’ve always known my shady little secret. I just hoped that hiding it would make it go away. How could I have known that innocuous questions about goat farmers would have brought it out into the open?

Once my “under-the-surface self” stood blinking in the light, I was horrified. Bitterness, anger, malicious motives, and selfish self-centered self-righteousness clung to her like putrid rags – and all of that was just from this week.

I believe that God is preparing a perfect society that will be filled with perfect people. He is the King of this Kingdom, and in it there will be equality; each member will be valued for their true selves and not for their possessions – beauty, wealth, or otherwise. These citizens will make good choices for good reasons. They will esteem each other and their King because they choose to, not because they are afraid or are seeking an advantage over another. I believe that this life is the “interview process” for that life, and at the end of days the citizens of that Kingdom will be clearly known (suspected all along by those around them), shining like diamonds on a dark cloth, like candle flames at midnight. They will be ushered into the land where there will be no more tears or sighing or pain.

And if I hope to make it there on my own, I am in trouble. I make good choices for bad reasons. Many times I am blind to someone’s true self, distracted by what they have or haven’t got – beauty, wealth or otherwise. Even my surface self wouldn’t fit in, b/c now and then the mask slips, and the putrid rags show through.

Do you know how I feel? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you never have those days when you’re just sick of being you, suffocated by all your secret weaknesses and failures. I don’t know. I suspect we each have an “under-the-surface self”, tucked away behind smiles and right answers and “being good”. If we’re honest, we’re all criminals, con artists to the core; defacing the reputation of others with snide comments, stabbing the truth with lies, raping the purity of an unselfish motive. What is to become of us?

The Kingdom waits. If it were obvious, doors open wide to any and all with eyes open wide, it would become only an extension of this world – full of souls that make good choices for bad reasons, a false layer of loveliness stretched over foundations of filth. If it were utterly unknown, the King would be unfair, choosing on a whim those worthy to live there – judging us by ability, value, or performance, on a scale negated by the existence of the Kingdom itself. In either, I would neither qualify, nor would I wish to live there.

I believe there are hints of the existence of this Kingdom, tucked here and there in our psyches and in our galaxies - rumors of hope whispered to a world overrun by criminal hearts. It is through the discovery of one hint that the map to the next is revealed; the strands of hints and hopes braided into the awareness of our lawless selves form the glimmer of a path, down which some find the courage to take faltering steps of faith.

If there is a King, and if He is good, and if He is preparing for us a place that is unlike anything we’ve experienced but more a home than we’ve ever known, then He might have a plan – He must have a plan - for a girl with a criminal personality. He wouldn’t be a good King if He didn’t.

I suspect there might be hope for me (and you) after all...

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