Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dumb and Dumber

I am hitting one of my great realizations these days. I know that epiphanies seem like a lightbulb kind of deal, but this one seems to be growing and growing and I think that my brain will explode at the very end, transpiring in a huge understanding that took me this long to come to.

That would be 20 years, people. (Maybe more like 16 if we want to go with memorable years, but that's still a pretty long time.)

I take great pride in my brain. It's one of the few things about me that I unequivocally point to and have confidence in. People have known me as the "brainy" one since early elementary school -- I was the turd that asked my teacher how to spell wildebeest and ignoramus in 1st grade, and that's a true story -- and once I got over feeling like that was a curse word, I finally found comfort in my intellect. I didn't have to worry about passing a class, or even getting a mediocre grade. I just got A's. I've always been a little academic machine.

Because I put so much of my identity into how smart I am, threats at my intellectual integrity hit me a lot harder than they might for someone who was never very sure of his/her own intelligence. When people disagree with me, I tend to assume that they're insulting my smarts, and that just doesn't fly. I'm not stupid. Don't you dare insinuate otherwise. I try to brush off those kinds of moments and choose to hide from anything that might poke holes in the little genius bubble that I created around myself.

That's a lingering issue for me. The newsflash that my identity is found in Christ alone, and nothing else, made it to my doorstep, but I turn to the security blanket of being perceived as this enigmatic mind at the first sign of trouble so often. This isn't just some little problem; it's a huge issue. Now that I truly get excited about my relationship with Jesus and want to live it out, the attacks on how stupid I probably look and sound are only bound to multiply. That might've been easy to hide from before emotionally because I would keep telling myself, "They don't know what you're talking about. You're brilliant. You've got the creds to prove it. Just ignore them."

Except that's a lie. I'm no genius! I don't know a darned thing!

I mean, I am getting into some really good conversations these days, with believers who have been walking with the Lord for a long time, and who have acquired a great deal of maturity in my eyes. And hearing what they have to say often stuns me. I thought I knew plenty, and I can certainly spout off a lot of those "Sunday School" kinds of stock answers to things without a second thought. But this is totally different. They aren't just smart, but wise. Their perceptions of the things I'm doing in my own life are so different from mine. They see things I struggle with that I haven't even thought about yet. So much for knowing my own mind, right?

Furthermore, some people close to me have the nuts to point out these flaws to me outright. My points of pride, especially. And you remember just a few paragraphs ago where I mentioned that I like to get defensive about knowing stuff? That little monster wants to rear its ugly head at these kinds of things. I have never gotten into friendships that are quite this open before and my selfish, flesh-obsessed person wants to defend that I'm not an idiot, I know what I'm doing, and how could they say such a thing about me?

Yet behind all those little angry remarks floating around my head is a serene thought that pierces through: you can become a better person through this. It's not easy hearing criticism or differing points of view about what's on my mind, because I'm so used to depending on my own assessment of myself -- my awareness, my knowledge, my braininess, my wisdom -- to make me valuable. When that's called into question, what do I even have left?

Just Christ. That's the way it should be. And, frankly, that's the way I want it to be, despite how hard it is getting there.

If I finally gave up on caring what people thought of me anymore and taking any comfort in any of the little things that I thought were great about me, the possibilities of who I could become would dwarf whatever image of greatness I had of my sinful self. I could be a person who rejoices to hear someone point out a sin in my life because it means that I can be that much more prepared to fight it, banish it, and become just a little more like my Savior. I could be a person who faces blows at my pride, be it about my looks, my brains, my talents, and not let it cripple me, but stand up another day to do what I am called to do. I could be a person who could stick with what she believes in in the face of anything hurled at me, and not flip-flop or cave in and let the world win in changing my mind.

Frankly, I shouldn't care how dumb I sound at all anymore.

"The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Corinthians 2:14

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