Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Proud of What?

Not long after our first child was born, my mother told me just how much fun being a grandparent is and that one of the reasons she was enjoying that new role was that, unlike parents, grandparents are “allowed” to gush to their friends about how great their grandchildren are. I suppose that’s true, but, given that I dislike gushy grandparents about as much as gushy parents, I think my mother’s experience shows that it’s her perspective that has changed—not that the rest of us are any more willing to listen to stories or look at pictures when they’re coming from a grandparent.

For some reason, however, I delight in today’s gospel lesson (Luke 10:17-24), in which Jesus dotes on his disciples, gushing as much as any proud father or grandfather might. After they return from the mission on which he sent them, he says to them, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” In other words, Jesus says, “You, my disciples, are God’s chosen servants—smart enough and wise enough to understand what no one else has. You’re the best and the brightest God has to offer!” Yet I don’t cringe when I read that, and I think it’s because I enjoy imagining Jesus as a proud parent, hoping that he, too, could be proud of me.

So often we read about a Jesus who is frustrated with his disciples’ lack of understanding; for example, from a few Sundays ago, “Have I been with you so long, Philip, and yet you still do not know me?” And, whenever I encounter a Lord and savior who is exasperated with his followers, I feel a blush of shame as if, like them, I’m also incapable of grasping what the teacher is trying to get across. So this once, when Jesus is proud of his flock, I’m eager to receive that praise as well. “Really, Jesus?” I ask. “You mean I’ve made you proud?”
As Christians, we all want to “get it.” We all want to see what it is that Jesus is trying to show us. The problem is that too often I think I’ve seen and comprehended what “many prophets and kings desired [but failed] to see.” In other words, Jesus’ moment of pride is, for the most part and certainly in my experience, passing. I don’t stay in that place of special knowledge for more than a fleeting second even though I’d like to think that I reside there permanently.

And maybe that’s why doting parents and grandparents rub us the wrong way—because even though there are legitimate reasons to be proud of one’s progeny there are also far more reasons to acknowledge that they are just about the same as everyone else’s kids. I don’t have any special understanding of who God is or how God works—at least not any understanding that makes me better than anyone else. And the only thing that goads me more than an overly proud parents is a self-righteous Christian. Especially when either is me.

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