Grace and Peace to you from the mystery in whom we live and move, and have our being.
The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”Matthew 23:1-12
I’m a little skeptical when I hear the words new and improved. Was something wrong with it before? I don’t like it when something I’ve used for years becomes old and subpar. It devalues my original choice. I think they should change the term new and improved to, ‘You think that was good?’ I would gladly jump on the bandwagon if I were made to feel like I was the first one on. Although that sounds odd because there would not be a bandwagon unless there were others on it already.
It’s about feeling good about oneself. I can’t tell you how many times I see new inventions or life hacks on infomercials and scream, “I thought of that first!”
I hate it when people take cuts
Since I’m ranting, I might as well tell you I hate it when people take cuts. I only speak up when people take cuts in front of myself or others. It seems silly to yell, ‘They took cuts!’ to someone behind me. But when it happens to any of the people in front of me it becomes a “for the people” thing. It’s a cause for justice. It also satisfies the morality cop inside me.
In reality it sounds like this, “Hey, um… excuse me” (adult self-righteousness voice), “We’ve all been waiting here quite a while and I don’t appreciate you taking cuts.” In truth I should just start yelling, “I wanna be first!,” but that wouldn’t go over well in a crowd. We really need to be more civilized when our own narcissism brews.
I don’t like it when people are on the cell phone, and it is their turn to order. “Talk to the cashier please, they are people too, you know!” Sometimes, however, I get an important call that comes right when I’m getting a coffee. The lady behind me sighs so loud I can’t concentrate. My words stumble. “I’ll have aaaa double… double… no a tall… just a minute… double tall… non-fat… did I say double?… hold on …. Hazelnut… double fat, non-tall, hazelnut … Oh I’ll have a drip!”
The other day I was crossing the crosswalk in a busy intersection and a lady turning right couldn’t wait for me to fully cross. She practically clipped my baggy shorts with her fender as she was turning. Luckily, I was wearing boxers. I wonder how she explained the shorts hanging from her fender. ‘Honey, I found a great sale at the new drive-thru Target.’ Why do people have to cut it so close when driving? Seriously, is my death worth shaving a millionth off your trip?
The human condition
This is a small glimpse of the human condition. My condition. Anybody could write the same monologue with different random acts of narcissism.
On this All Saints remembrance, do you think the saints who have gone before us were without their pet peeves? Did they ever perform random acts of narcissism? What makes a saint a saint is not their perfection but what has been declared about them, what people choose to remember about them.
What God knows about them is a different story. Perhaps God does not put a positive spin on their lives. God is not ignoring their human condition rife with unregulated emotional reactions. It just might be that God experiences us without the impairment of our human condition.
God is intimate with us even when we are not. The question is, will we give ourselves, with awareness, to this intimacy? This is the awakening – a momentous spiritual experience where intimacy moves from a one-way street from God to a free-flowing, multi-directional thoroughfare. It reaches from within and without and extends to the world.
All who exalt themselves will be humbled
Jesus singles out those whose ambitions are to sit in the best seat at the potluck (I miss potlucks) or in the worship show. They like to be recognized in public and given sports names like Prime, King and Doctor. From a psychological perspective, this behavior doesn’t just appear out of the blue. It is nurtured through years of pettiness and efforts at upward mobility. The eventual result of a life of unchecked narcissism is neuroticism.
One can’t be intimate with God if they act as a god. They are only intimate with themselves. It happens in the moments of a life without surrender to spiritual intimacy. A life with practices, mentors, and community. Many of these saints, both modern and those who have passed, can be our mentors.
Sainthood is not perfection. It is an intimate life in Christ that spills. It is the life that means, I am seated with Christ in the heavenly home of my heart. A welcoming place for God and others to reside.
Who are the saints in your life?
Who are the saints in your life, both past and present? Those who have testified to God’s intimacy in their lives? Those who have learned to institute the divine pause before narcissistic acts randomly insert themselves? We all have this capacity to be intimate with God and occasionally make good choices. It takes, as Dr. David Daniels says, a “non-judgmental mind and an unconditional open-heartedness.”
- May we embrace the human condition in ourselves and others.
- May we become more and more aware of God’s invitation to intimacy.
- May it produce the humility that is a world-changer.
I have encountered many in recovery who believe their addiction prevents them from intimacy with God. They say their goal is to get closer to God again. My answer to sinners is the same as to addicts, as they are both the same: “You can’t get any closer to God then you are. To be separate is an illusion.” Our practices of awareness open us to experience what always was and is. God is always inviting us to the experience of holy mingling. What better earthly seat is there, what title, what place in line? We are seated in heavenly places!
The best seat in the house
We may not want the best seat in this competitive world, but we certainly do not want the last seat. Perhaps intimacy in Christ saved the second to the last seat for us.
Wednesday Respite is a 30-min contemplative service of scripture, prayer, music and a Spirited Touchpoint by Henry Rojas, spiritual director at Spirit in the Desert.
Touchpoint is a reflection on where God’s story touches our life story. It is a short homily based on a biblical story of people in the Old and New Testaments and their relationship with God. Our spiritual ancestors’ experience of God’s grace connects with our lives in the present and our relationship with the Divine. Previous Touchpoints are available as PDFs or on SoundCloud.