I’m not sure if this is a Christian thing, a communication thing, or just a Kyle thing, but I’m starting to notice a trend, where I will either point something out, or ask a question, and the person hearing me will respond by attempting to reassure me. Except I wasn’t looking for reassurances.
For instance, Sunday was the first time in over three years that I was given the opportunity to play guitar as a part of the normal worship service. About half the way through the set, I looked down and saw that the little light was out that says my guitar is plugged into the sound system. I’m up here strumming and it’s not doing anything. Fortunately our music leader is perfectly capable of carrying the whole thing by himself, so there was no real loss. But after the service, I was asking people, “could you hear me play?” Every one of them gave me the same response: “Don’t worry. It sounded fine.” But I wasn’t worried about how it sounded. I just wanted to know if my guitar was broken!
Last week was field training for the class I’m taking. Four days camping, with guns. My job was to coordinate with some brand-new soldiers in their first combat scenario with a real lieutenant. They’re in school; I’m in school. So I get to practice leading, and they get to practice following. Much fun is had all around. But as I started to prepare, I realized we had 4-5 different scenarios listed in our packet and I couldn’t tell which one were were going to do. A lot of good it would do to brief my soldiers on one mission and something completely different happens. So I’m frantically asking people, “wait, which one is it?” and everyone’s telling me, “don’t worry; you’ll do fine.” Not if I’ve got the wrong mission, I won’t!
So now today. I’ve been struck several times today noticing various people who have really excelled in the last few years and made significant strides toward achieving some pretty big dreams. An old girlfriend seems to have set up a performing arts studio. My friend Josh is leading a church meeting at his house (that means he has a house, and he’s taking on leadership roles at church). And of course there are always scads of people who were much better educated or further along in their careers by the time they were my age.
I haven’t quite gotten to the place where I can freely rejoice with those who rejoice. If you’re doing great, I’m glad for you, but if you’re doing great in an area where I’m noticeably not… ugh. That’s tough. I’m not up to rejoicing yet. But I have gotten to the point that I’m grateful for everything that reminds me that I’m not half as wonderful as I like to think I am. (It’s one of the best reasons for having kids.) So I see somebody excelling in an area where I feel like I’m falling behind, and I get to tell myself, “there, that’s just proof that they’re better than me. I guess I’m not so great after all.” Ha! Another blow ‘gainst wicked pride.
But if I repeat the thought (as I tend to say what I’m thinking), I can already see the conversation playing out in my head:
Me: “There’s proof that they’re better than me. I guess I’m not so great after all.”
Innocent Bystander: “Oh, don’t say that! You’re a great guy…”
Me: “Oh, I know. I’m amazing. But in this one area at least, I’m not so much. So-and-so is better than me.”
There’s no way the conversation can ever go well from here.
Maybe it has to do with how uncomfortable modern people are with negative emotions. Just the slightest malaise ruffles everyone’s feathers. But I always feel more like Mr. Bennet when confronted with his failings, “Let me once in my life feel how much I have been to blame. I am not afraid of being overpowered by the impression. It will pass away soon enough.”