Humility, Contribution

Have you ever had a situation in which you hear all sorts of things about a particular topic in a short period of time, and you wonder if God is trying to get your attention? That has happened to me this week with respect to two topics:

1. Humility. I read about it yesterday in my AA Daily Reflection. It was the topic of my I Clement quiet time. The Waltons also touched on this issue. Yet, after all of this, I still don’t know what to say about humility.

The AA Daily Reflection was about regretting our past mistakes while maintaining a healthy self-esteem. “When I ask for the power to carry out God’s will for me, I am made aware of my powerlessness,” it says. I Clement 8 concerned being humble before God because he’s more powerful than us and we’re all sinners. And the Waltons episode was about a young pastor (played by John Ritter) who vehemently preached against sin and tried to avoid the “wiles of the devil”–through cold baths, exercise, and chores. Then, he inadvertently got drunk off of the Baldwin sisters’ “recipe.” As a consequence, he got booted off the church’s speakers’ roster, and he learned that he too made mistakes.

I’m not sure what to do with all of this. I can understand my need for God, but I don’t often have the faith that he will help me out. Moreover, grovelling before God because he’s more powerful to me and I am a flawed human being does not appeal to me in the least–in neither inspires me nor feeds my hungry soul. And I don’t really feel John Ritter was a deliberate sinner in that Waltons episode, since he wasn’t aware that the recipe was moonshine (or, as the Baldwin sisters call it, “sunshine”).

I guess what I walk away with is this: my thoughts sometimes scare me, and, in those times, I feel a need to draw closer to God–for comfort, for love, for nourishment at the well of goodness, and for protection from evil. We are all prone to mistakes, whether they be deliberate or inadvertent, and that’s why I feel that I need God.

2. There’s a woman at one of my AA meetings who always felt useless, in the sense that she didn’t think she was all that helpful to others. Recently, she went to a religious retreat, and the priest told her that what she’s said or written may have helped somebody else.

That coincided with a few other things in my life. On a Joan of Arcadia episode, “Secret Service,” Joan doesn’t understand how she’s helping other people, since she doesn’t always see the results of her actions. And Joan’s mother, Helen, feels that she (Helen) hasn’t reached any of her students as an art teacher. But both learn to have faith that their actions are touching other people, whether they realize it or not.

I thought more about this issue as I reflected on my stormy conversation with Stephen aka Q this past week, which occurred under his son Nebcanuck’s post, On Abortion. Stephen argued that, in determining whether to preserve the life of the mother or the baby when a mother’s life is in danger (through childbirth), we should look at the effects of our decision on both the individual and the community. After all, the biblical religions are strongly communitarian. He opted to save the life of the mother, since she has a concrete effect on an actual human network.

I asked, “But what if abortion gets rid of the next Einstein?” Stephen responded that it may also get rid of the next Manson, so such scenarios cancel themselves out. I asked, “Then what if the mother doesn’t contribute much to society?” I had in mind a welfare mom who uses drugs and has babies to make more money. Stephen responded that this kind of welfare mom may still matter to people, such as her friends, her family, her children, etc. In short, we can’t really say that any particular person doesn’t contribute to society.

Of course, a lot of the storm was about my statement on welfare mothers, and I’m not going to try to defend that here, except to say that I wasn’t intending to stereotype an entire group of people. But what I want to look at is the issue of societal contribution. When you think about it, we all contribute good and bad to the world around us. Am I personally a benefit to society? Yes, but I’m a detriment to it as well.

Let’s take my blog, which is where I write things that can have an impact on others. Some of my writings are inspiring and full of faith, hope, and love. Others are cranky, complaining, and doubting in the area of faith. A person can visit my site and walk away thinking she should believe in God, while another may read a different post of mine and reach the opposite conclusion. So am I a net benefit to society? I have no idea.

But I guess that was the risk God took when he created human beings. He made us with free will, and that entails the possibility that we will make mistakes. Maybe that helps us to minister to one another as we try to walk the righteous path.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Humility, Contribution

  1. Anonymous says:

    That is why It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie of all time–we are all important, most of the time we just don’t realize how much. (-:


  2. James Pate says:

    Yep, good movie! I’ll be watching it this Christmas.


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