(This post is a gamble for me. My alternative titles for it are, “False Humility” and “Internal Exclusion and Embrace: The Schizophrenic Within.”)
One of the funniest slams on me in the last few years came from a friend I’ve known since high school. We tease each other mercilessly. She and her husband were talking about me, and she was trying to come up with a compliment. Instead, she came up with a hilarious put down, when she said, “Gregg hides his intelligence really well.”
That’s given me plenty of good, internal chuckles. 🙂
Today, though, I saw into myself in a new way. I’m building a new friendship with a guy I really like. He’s articulate and bright and thoughtful, working on his dissertation to complete his Ph.D. As he was sharing his call in life, his interests and pursuits, I realized something about myself. Don’t you hate it when you believe something, you’ve told other people that same thing…and then you discover that you yourself are behaving contrary to what you believe and to what you have told others?
Inside myself, I’ve placed faith responses in the opposing corner to intellectual pursuits. I’ve separated mind and heart, and subjugated the mind to inferior status. I don’t believe that to be true. I’ve counseled others not to do it. But I’ve done it to myself.
I can see how it developed. We moved to Oregon from California, the truck filled with our furniture arriving at our new home just before I came home on the bus from my first day of a new school. I really struggled that year to find my identity. I talked different, I dressed different, I was plain old different from everybody else. Partly from my choosing, partly from how things evolved, the first attempt at finding identity was in academics. It was a failure that I rejected, because I didn’t like being called the brain, I didn’t like the separation people would place between them and me because I was smart. It took years, of course, to find anything close to an “identity” that I was comfortable with, but the rejection of intellectual pursuit had its foundation laid.
I began attending a fairly conservative evangelical church on my own as a sophomore in high school. The people in that youth group saved me, in just about every sense of that word. I had role models of people who didn’t put on masks or manufacture identities, but were comfortable enough in their own skin, their own skin loved and made by Jesus. I wanted what they had. I wanted the freedom that came from an identity as a loved, unique, created child of God. I’m very grateful that I found just that in community with them.
But a subtle anti-intellectualism crept in the backdoor. I was confident/arrogant enough to only apply to two colleges: George Fox College and Stanford University. My questions and discernings about college and the future of my life boiled down to a fundamental choice, framed, as I look back, mostly by the people I cared about and respected in that church community. Do I choose Stanford, academia, intellectualism, achievement, and performance…or do I choose George Fox, spirituality, calling, pastoral ministry, and service? Do I “think”, or do I “be”? Do I achieve, or do I faithfully respond?
I went to George Fox, and I don’t feel like I was wrong, like I misheard God, like it was a mistake. It was right. It has shaped and defined the course of my life in wonderful ways, bringing me to the community I worship with and serve, and most importantly to the woman I married. But it created a fissure, a divide, a separation within myself that I have held in uneasy tension ever since.
The part of who God has wired me to be, the part that analyzes and thinks and dreams and dissects, has become associated with pride and selfishness and a “me” focus. The quiet, unconscious murmur in the background of my soul is, “Instead of wealth and power and prestige and intellect, you chose to follow Jesus.” When I put that in black and white letters on the screen, I can see the small grain of truth it contains and the large faulty assumption that it rests upon. But when it just rolls around in there, without voice or words, its subtle effects go unseen. Talking with Clint today, it reared its ugly head and took shape, and I’ve been wrestling with it ever since.
I ought to be whole. I ought to be willing to accept who I am and who God has made me to be, just as I’ve said to countless other people. Yet again, something inside me is a either/or instead of a both/and.
In my attempts to hide and downplay my mind, not wanting to stand out, not wanting to appear prideful, not wanting to be perceived as sold out to prestige and selfish pursuits, I’ve done some damage. I’ve missed out. My friend is reaping the fruits now of embracing his mind and his heart as joint followers of Jesus, and I have in some sense let my mind atrophy by falsely raising heart above head.
I’d like to commit to following my friend’s example.