Here’s part of a response to my last post from a young man I know…
I hear this idea that the only thing we can claim is our sins or failures time and time again, and I guess I just don’t like the way it is told or perceived (or maybe its just the way I perceive it). I could walk out my door right now and harm someone. Whether I do it or not is my choice; hopefully I don’t do it. Yes, I would not have this choice without God. And yes, it is because of God that I was able to choose the good. But the same is true for the other side of the coin. I would not be able to sin if God didn’t create me, because he created me with free will. And I thank him for that. So why can we only claim our failures? There is a certain amount of pride that must be had in order to reach our full potential. Whether it’s 1) being proud of success because “I was able to use the gifts that God gave me to their full potential,” or 2) taking pride in being the good man that God created me to be, knowing that it is MY actions that determine good or evil, also knowing that I can do this only through Him. I guess, psychologically, this is the perspective that motivates me. Because when its yours, it means more (even though its not yours, its God’s).
A good, thoughtful response.
I’d like to tell a story now.
There was a young boy who asked his father if he could build a treehouse in his backyard. The father said yes and gave the boy everything he needed to accomplish the project: wood, nails, caulk, a ladder, tape measure, a sack lunch, etc. He also gave the boy a blueprint of what the best possible treehouse would look like, complete with step-by-step instructions, cautionary tales of how other people messed up their treehouses, and lots of anecdotes of people throughout history who did a good job making their own (even if they weren’t exactly like the perfect one in the blueprint).
The boy is ready to get started when the back door to the house opens and the boy’s brother comes out. The brother already built his treehouse years ago but wanted to help out anyway. They get going, bit by bit, slowly at first: the boy has never done this before, so he is a bit clumsy with the tools and unsure about the process. Luckily, he has his brother there waiting patiently, watching to make sure he’s okay, answering any questions the boy happens to ask without offering his opinion uninvitedly, laughing a little bit at the amusing fumbling of his partner. The little brother is grateful for the second set of hands as he realizes certain parts of the building process are really impossible to do by oneself.
As the two brothers work together, the little boy is feeling more and more tired. But as he watches his brother work, as they talk and joke with each other, the young boy feels an energy inside of him, a life and inspiration that keeps him motivated as the project lasts long into the afternoon. He feels excited about it right at that moment when it seemed most likely he would want to quit, stays focused despite his limited abilities and youthful impatience. It’s almost as if something is moving within him, keeping his own impetuousness from getting in the way of accomplishing the goal.
But despite the father’s plan, the brother’s example and assistance, and the curious motivation keeping the little guy going, he makes mistakes. Each time he does, it’s because he thought he remembered what the blueprint said and decided not to double check, or he couldn’t make sense of a certain step but didn’t ask his brother for help deciphering it, or he wondered if there might be an easier way to do something than what was outlined for him. And each time he messed up, it always seemed to hurt his brother: he dropped a two by four on his toes, forced him to hold the center beam of the roof much longer than he should have had to while he tried an alternate plan, even put a nail into his brother’s hand while he held a wooden stud in place.
One would think that the brother would get mad or leave the foolish young boy to his own devices, but all the younger brother had to do was turn to his mother (who of course was worried about her boys and watched the whole time), and a gentle smile at her eldest son relieved the justified anger and frustration that rose up in his chest. And the brother would be reminded of his love, reminded of his younger sibling’s smallness and weakness, and then would get back to work.
As the afternoon turned to evening and the evening to night, the boys finished the project. The young boy beamed, happy with how his treehouse turned out, excited to sleep in it that night and eat the meal that his brother brought out for him. His friends came over and looked at it, and the boy said, “Look what I built!”
Sure the boy can be proud that he didn’t sink a hammer into someone’s head. True, he didn’t burn the treehouse to the ground and then pee on the ashes. And he managed to avoid sitting on his butt altogether, just waiting for death to greet him. But to be proud of that is a sad, shallow thing.
Better to have the pride of a son who can’t stop telling everyone what he did with his father this weekend, how there isn’t anything his dad can’t do or any person his dad can’t beat up, how he built his life with the man who gave him his.
That is a humility that is not only honest and simple, but one that avoids the ridiculousness of personal pride. Perhaps a little boy is a fool for thinking his dad is the best; but what a joy to be a fool for Christ.