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People are Strange!

December 14, 2013

People are strange! Well they are!

There are so many things I could say about the strangeness of people. I used to car share to get to work. On the way we would comment some erratic and often downright dangerous driving. We would also put the world to rights. As we did, that phrase, “People are strange”, became our catchphrase. When we got to the point were there was nothing more to be said, then one of us would shake their head and say, “People are strange”, we would both agree, shake our heads and that would be the end of the conversation.

People are strange. I know people brimming over with ability and talents who have absolutely no confidence in themselves. Deep down they believe themselves to be useless. Others, often with a singular lack of talent, believe that the world revolves around them, and believe it absolutely. I have far more sympathy with those who find it hard to believe in themselves, but both are distortions of reality. Both twist and damage the person concerned. Both states of mind are damaging but both are so hard to get out of.

As I said, “People are strange.”

People are strange, and I’m sure that I’m no exception. I think all of us are tempted at some time to either think too little of ourselves or too much. With this in mind one verse from Matthew’s Gospel springs out. It is this, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11.11 (NIV).

I’ll explain what I mean; as human beings we can be full of talent or completely lacking in any real brilliance. I can believe myself to be great or insignificant, without any real reference to my actual abilities. All of this leads me, and all of us, at some time into a fantasy world of greatness or despair. But neither are real.

No matter what our human talents or lack of them. No matter whether we see ourselves as the greatest or the least – these are not what matter. There is another standard – God‘s standard. With God’s standard the “least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than” the greatest here on earth.

If I am over full of myself it is then that the Spirit shows me that it is only what God is doing in me that has any real value. When I get proud of myself, my successes or whatever, then the Spirit bursts my fantasy bubble and brings me back to reality. Or, using an Italian phrase the Spirit is “pleased to remove the cork” (Cf. Umberto Eco’s – Foucault’s Pendulum). When I’m full of myself the Spirit reminds me that everything is a gift and I could do nothing of any worth without him.

Then to the other side of the coin. If I am feeling useless and worthless. Then it is that the Spirit shines a light into my darkness. The Spirit reminds me that God remains in control. The Spirit reminds me that God’s love is constant and I have value to him; eternal value as a citizen of heaven.

But people are strange, and I’m no exception. Sometimes, I insist in holding on to my overblown view of myself and you know what, God often lets me. It’s my experience that God has a powerful sense of humour. Not surprising from the one who invented humour! So God seems to let me stay in my illusion. God sometimes lets me make a complete prat of myself. He must have a great laugh at the stupid things I do and the idiotic messes I get into, all because of my puffed up pride and sense of self importance. Then I see the mess and laugh, or cry, and find that God is laughing or crying with me. I can then repent and the Spirit can love me a little more into the reality that is God. I repent and am healed.

Strange person that I am, sometimes I just cannot see any worth in myself. All is futile, all is useless and pointless. The world isn’t even black, it is grey and formless – and cold like thick mist. Sometimes the Spirit quickly burns away the mist of depression. Sometimes, the Spirit sits with me there. Often the Spirit there with me in the grey is felt, but sometimes I only know of his help and support when the depression is gone. Then the reality of God’s love can come back and I can learn again that as “the least in the kingdom of God” I am indeed great.

So, to end. As I prepare to celebrate Jesus’ first advent at Christmas: As I prepare for Jesus’ second advent as Lord and ruler of the kingdom of heaven – I mustn’t forget that people are strange. I know for a fact that I am? I can so easily delude myself to the reality of true value, God’s value. Whether I think too much of myself or too little, the Spirit is there to love me back into reality where even “the least in the kingdom of heaven” are great in the eyes of their creator.

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