Monday, November 29, 2010

A Clearer Focus offers its readers breaking news on a variety of topics from Local News to Sports and Entertainment. Headlines today in the Business section? How to avoid losing money during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Entertainment? “Winter’s Bone” receives the top prize in Gotham Film Awards. In the Living section, readers can post pictures and compete for who has reached the most impressive travel destination in 2010. And this is only a taste. Our culture has focused in on one objective: being the best. Having the most money. Winning the most prestigious awards. Even being recognized as the most well-traveled LA Times reader.

Even the virtues we teach our kids is saturated with this message: You can do anything you set your mind to; Nothing is impossible; Reach for the stars; You are a winner, never forget that. These messages may seem harmless and even necessary to building a self-confident young American. I believe they are necessary for that goal. But is that—a self-confident American—really what I want to be?

I’m wrapping up my semester of focusing on 1 Peter and have to recite it for my final project in just a few days. The temptation is to memorize it well, get every word perfect, so that I can say that I did it. I memorized an entire book of the Bible. What a great achievement!—Or, is it? The very words I’m memorizing challenge this inclination. In Peter's final words, the last several sentences that I’m still struggling to get down, Peter gives specific instructions to the elders, then to the younger Christians and, finally, to all the believers. “Clothe yourselves, all of you,” Peter exhorts, “with humility towards one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). With this understanding of God’s stance towards the proud versus the humble, Peter continues with another imperative: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). That he may exalt me. Those are attractive, easy words for an American like myself. But I can’t forget (I literally cannot forget) the beginning of that verse. Humble myself? Try to find that on your newspaper’s website: Staying Humble while you Await Future Exaltation. But that’s exactly the point: God’s ways are not the world’s ways. This difference is a theme in 1 Peter and it is emphasized countless times throughout the Bible.

As I finish off the semester and prepare for my final few months as a student, this verse needs to stick with me. I'm living in the world and I am constantly under pressure to present myself as: the top student who has earned the “A”, the most hardworking student employee who deserves a raise, the most qualified individual for that high-paying dream job. How am I supposed to “humble myself” as I construct my last essays, work my last hours, and carefully craft my resume and cover letters that are all supposed to reflect a high and exalted “me”? 

It has to be a constant, daily surrender. It has to be a heart-realization of my identity. Not as perfect student, best worker, or most employable college graduate, but as part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own possession.” My purpose, then? Not to be the best and reach the top, but to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [me] out of darkness and into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). 

God has me in this stage of life where, yes, I do have to try to present myself well and reach some high goals. But that doesn’t change my identity and consequential purpose; rather, it gives me all the more opportunity to move into that purpose. Through school, through work, and definitely through my future career, God can (and will) use me to proclaim his excellencies—to make Him known to a world that is out of focus.


Beauty in a Barn and a Blanket of Snow

Beauty in a Barn and a Blanket of Snow