Monday, February 2, 2009

Whosoever shall fall

by John D Ramsey

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A popular adage says, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” There is a parallel truism, which might read, “If it isn’t broke, you can’t fix it.” On Saturday afternoon, Lisa and I went to see Tennessee William’s “The Glass Menagerie” at the Kansas City Repertory Theater. While Williams tells the story from the perspective Tom, who tries to forget his family including his sister Laura, Williams holds out hope for a better outcome for Laura.

Tennessee Williams’ writing is poignant because he portrays human nature truthfully. Amanda is overbearing and destructive; yet she has been deeply wounded by her husband, “a telephone man who fell in love with long distances.” Amanda's devotion to her children, if colored by her neediness, is still sincere. Laura is sweet and fragile; but she is also egocentric in her obsessive self-pity. Tom is perhaps the most hypocritical of the three because his selfishness exceeds that of both his mother and sister yet he faults them both for his distress.

At the end of the play, When Tom says to her, “Blow out your candles, Laura – and so goodbye,” Laura’s story has turned a new page. Her heart is broken, but she is more self-aware. The unicorn, which symbolized Laura in the menagerie, has lost its horn and is now a rather normal looking horse. Likewise, Laura’s wounding leaves open the possibility that her healing will erase the self-loathing she learned from her mother. Tom, on the other hand will never be whole; he will always be haunted by his memories as his arrogance sweeps him about with other dead leaves – “leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches.”

The wound unintentionally inflicted upon Laura by Jim, the “gentleman caller” provides her the opportunity to redefine herself. Because she was broken, there is hope she will be made whole. We are no different. If we continue in a prideful spirit, it will eventually destroy us regardless of whether our pride is pensive or pompous.Yet the humility of a broken spirit enables healing.

Jesus spoke of himself metaphorically saying, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner.” Luke 20:17 (NASB) The Pharisees and the Sadducees rejected Jesus. They understood that Jesus was referring to himself when he quoted this prophecy from Psalm 118:22.

Jesus addressed the problem of their pride, saying, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” Luke 20:18 (NASB) Either way the pride of the Pharisees would be shattered in the coming judgment. Likewise, we must address our own pride. Have we experienced the brokenness of repentance? Or will we incur the wrath of God which will reduce us to dust?

How do we overcome our pride? We follow the example of the one who came to save us? Ironically, God solved the problem of human pride by demonstrating supreme humility. Jesus Christ, who was God, and the Creator of all things, humbled himself and became a man. As a man, he humbled himself to become the servant of all men by carrying their sin into death upon the cross. God accepted his sacrifice and raised him from the dead. Now we can enjoy his eternal life. Yet our pride will hold us in the bondage of our own fears and imaginations. To obtain life we must die to self. Jesus said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:38 (NASB)

Dying to self is the essence of repentance before God. Dying to self and drawing life from Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Christian experience. Responding to God's gift of grace is the essence of faith because we believe that he will raise us up and we live for the day when our transformation is complete.

What is the nature of your pride? Has it been broken, or will it eventually break you?

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