Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Hot Rod Shirt

1 Peter 5:5-6 (New Living Translation)

5 “You younger men, accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for
"God sets himself against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble."[
6So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you.”

Yesterday morning Nancy and I had breakfast at the Commercial Street Diner. It’s one of the most interesting places in this small city. Each time we go there’s a surprise of one kind or another. In past posts I’ve described seeing everything there from the ranchers, rednecks, and rowdies around these parts to the Lebo (pronounced leebow) Choralettes.

Well, yesterday was every bit as entertaining and instructive as any morning we’ve ever spent at this little café. After spending a few minutes with some friends who were just getting ready to leave, Nancy and I sat and discussed the state of things around town. The big news is the permanent closing of one of Emporia’s largest grocery stores that was announced on Friday. Dillon’s (same name, no family relationship) is closing in about a week. It was quite a shock. As we were discussing that, another shock wave, much more benign, caught Nancy’s eye. There was a man about my age who was approaching the register to pay for his meal, and boy was he ever a sight. He was a bit round in the middle like most of us men at this age (fifties to sixties), short, moon-faced, with a dark mustache. If it weren’t for what he was wearing he would have seemed quite normal. But he was a walking advertisement for clothes not making the man. He was wearing black work shoes, black shorts, and a black golf cap, and in between all of this he was decked out in a black shirt with garish orange, yellow, and red flames emanating from the bottom of the shirt to about the top of his pot-belly. He reminded me of an old, souped-up hot rod.

We laughed for a bit and then Nancy made the following observation: “He couldn’t possibly be married.”

I knew what she meant. I’ve been guilty of wearing odd color combinations in my day and I’ve even worn corduroy in August a time or two. But I’ve never, ever dressed myself like this guy.

Nancy’s observation piqued my interest and I took a look at his wedding ring finger as he was turning away from the register to leave. I chuckled a bit and waved my left hand in front of her, rubbing my wedding ring. “Third finger, left hand, Coach. He’s as married as I am,” I proudly announced. “ Don’t know how he got out of the house, but there it is.”

It’s now Sunday morning and I’m thinking of a larger point here. Holy Writ tells us that we should clothe ourselves with humility. That’s an interesting way to put it – “clothe yourselves.”

I wonder how often I clothe myself with a hot rod shirt, spiritually speaking, instead of humility. I wonder how often in manner my “inner’ clothing says, “Look at me, look at me, I’m hot, souped-up,” rather than saying that I’m ready to humbly serve God. I wonder how often I leave home clothed with the inappropriate attire for the “season.”

I believe we Christians need to be clothed for the common, ordinary business of living life and serving others. Oswald Chambers, in his “Devotions for Morning and Evening,” put it this way:

The Sphere of Humiliation

“If Thu canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” (
Mark 9:22)

“After every time of exaltation we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they are where it is neither beautiful nor poetic nor thrilling. The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mount, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our true worth to God, that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at the heroic pitch because of the natural selfishness of our hearts, but God wants us at the drab commonplace pitch, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship with Him.
Peter thought it would be a fine thing for them to remain on the mount, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the mount into the valley, the place where the meaning of the vision is explained.”

If you’re a Christian and you’re wearing, so to speak, that hot-rod shirt, it’s time to put it in the closet. There may be a time for it some day, but right now, at this time, it is out of season, and will be for some time. Put it back in the closet, then, where it belongs and clothe yourself with humility.

Have a great Sunday!


James Fletcher Baxter said...

I agree with the intent of the message; we are to manifest humility to God and our fellows. The problem is: Is humility an act of the will?
Can we be 'humble' on purpose or is there something prior which makes humility genuinely possible? Again, sequence is critical. 'Decently and in order.'

If we can be humble on purpose then try being humble to that chair. Not!

True humility is the natural result of recognizing Superiority. Lacking that element true humility is not possible. Perceiving that value will result in unrestrained admiration, submission, or humbleness.

Too often we humans practice a purposeful religion of ritual and adoptive 'humility' without true recognition of high/superior value. "Having a form of religion but denying the power thereof." All of God's creation is worthy of recognition, especially our fellow-creatures -- made in God's image. It is a minor chore to recognize their high value (and sometimes/ways superior)and respect.

Such is God's method of preserving us from 'religion' and for a genuine value-perception and relationship.

Reject "voluntary humility." Col. 2:18,23 Make His Worthiness known...

semper fidelis

carrie said...

good article and interesting comment

Allan said...

Humility is a hard lesson for anyone to learn and a harder burden to carry. In frequenting many blogs and often leaving comments, I really try to be careful not to let the focus be me, but my thoughts.

If you believe you have discovered a truth you have an obligation to share it. However, words are often misconstrued and the focus becomes the speaker rather than the words. It's the if-you-don't-like-the-message-attack-the-messenger syndrome.

I get this constantly from colleagues (I teach and am a conservative awash in a sea of liberals). "Who are you to set yourself up as judge, jury, and executioner?" "Who died and made you king?" Coupled with occasional name-calling (bigot, racist, homophobe, xenophobe, etc.) it effectively ends rational discussion.

What does humility call for in such instances? Recognizing the superiority of inferior ideas? Or recognizing the futility of trying to teach a pig to sing?

My humility tells me to walk away, not in anger and frustration, but with hope that it will go better next time. Doing otherwise will only cause me frustration and will annoy the pig.