Thursday, February 19, 2015
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” ― C.S. Lewis
When I was in high school, I was very active in drama and had been since I played the part of an illegitimate child in “The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker” at the tender age of six. It was community theater in Victoria, Texas, but I was hooked. I did community theater almost every year until I got to junior high school (7th-9th grade in Texas at that time) and joined a drama class and got to act in several plays. I still remember the name of the teacher and director of the plays, Mr. Harrel Peacock—I guess the name Peacock would be a memorable one as I recall almost no other names of teachers. When I got to high school in Midland, Texas, I abandoned drama for football. In West Texas in the early sixties, football players were the coolest guys on campus and got the most dates and special privileges. We also filled a 20,000 seat stadium every Friday night, so it was a big deal to the town as well. My first game was against Odessa Permian (the team in the movie and the series “Friday Night Lights”) and for the first three plays, I got beat almost to death by the big defensive lineman across from me (I was a right guard). The fourth play was noticeable for my absence, as I had handed my helmet to the coach and went back to drama. I limped for two weeks and the swelling in my hands and face took days to disappear. My father had always wanted a football player in the family and never got one. My older brother played first chair alto sax in the band (later also in the University of Texas marching band), and my younger brother was kicked out of high school for refusing to cut his hair, went to visit my older brother who was working for IBM in Poughkeepsie, New York, at the time, visited Vassar which had just turned coed and what would have been his junior year in high school was his freshman year at Vassar where he graduated with a double degree in computer science and drama (Meryl Streep was one of his classmates)—but no football. Drama worked out well for me as I always got to play the lead (no small thing as Tommy Lee Jones was also in drama at Midland Lee High School but a year behind me). For every performance of “Our Town” where I played the Stage Manager (the lead role), I got a standing ovation at the end from about 2,000 people (we sold out every performance). I thought I was on top of the world and, quite frankly, loved the applause and the limelight. It only took me about another 25 years to discover that applause and limelight were not the things that God had planned for me. For the last ten years, I have tried to keep a very low profile (unfortunately while low it is also a fat profile, sigh). It took a long time to realize that it was not being in the light that was so wonderful; it was bringing others into the light from the darkness of their world that was truly important. When the spotlight is shining on you, the rest of the world is in darkness. It is only when you voluntarily step out of the light that you can see the misery and loneliness of those around you. The most difficult verse for me in the New Testament is the one about not hiding your light under a bushel because that seems right to me. Still, I have learned humility (still learning) and have shifted my happiness to the success of others and not my own. I am now happiest when I see others shining in the light of Christ and smiling because they know they are loved and that heaven awaits. I do not regret not finishing that football game against Odessa Permian, but I have learned that spotlights and applause are fleeting and not why Christ has called me. One of the hardest things to do in this world is to be happy for someone else’s success, but I think I finally have a handle on that. There is no “me” in Christ, but there is “Christ” in me, and for that I thank God every day.