It has been over ten years since we moved from the old house, but still I remember the exhilaration of sitting on the big wrap-around porch. The house was situated on a corner, where the streets came up from the valley below.
Seated on the porch, one could view traffic along the roads below. Conversations could be heard, both amicable and contentious. Often, one learned more than was desired about neighbors and passersby.
From that perch, it was easy to acquire an inflated opinion of oneself. Well, I suppose I should speak for just myself and not for anyone else.
I could sit on that elevated plane and imagine I was better than most any of the folks I observed. Over time, this is what happens when we find ourselves separated from and elevated above others. It is not our intention; it just happens.
In the brick house down the block, the husband’s work takes him on the road for long periods of time, so his wife is raising their children by herself. When he is at home, they fight, the angry words wafting on the breeze up the hill. When he is gone, the children run wild as their mom tries to balance work and parenting without a father present.
I would never be that irresponsible, either as a husband or a parent.
Late at night, another neighbor drinks to dull the pain of utter failure. Failure to support his family adequately. Failure in the past to protect his child, now dead because of a freak accident for which he blames himself. Failure to understand his wife needs his attention–a failure which results in a trip to the emergency room as she attempts to end her own life.
He drinks and forgets his problems momentarily, singing country songs at the top of his lungs on his own front porch. That porch is much lower down than mine, thank goodness. His drunken voice rings throughout the neighborhood and I smile–a condescending, arrogant expression.
I would never be that pathetic. Never.
Oh, but I have been. More.
I have spent a lifetime in arrogance.
It was never intentional. It never is.
Arrogance grows, like a cancer, as we lose touch with the reality of our humanity–of our own sinful nature. We separate ourselves physically from the world, keeping to ourselves in our palaces.
We sit on our elevated perches, whispering and pointing.
Would you look at that?
Did you see what she just did?
Have you ever. . .?
Choosing our insults carefully, we avoid, with precision, any issue with which we struggle ourselves. The more we practice, the better we get at it.
And, oh how we practice!
The lists we make of things we are not capable of grows and grows. The rules we make for others based on our own strengths and abilities expands with the size of our heads.
Towers of righteousness. Self righteousness, that is.
I don’t live in the house on the hill anymore. Perhaps that is a good thing. Now when I sit on my front porch, the folks walking along the road are level with me. They look over at me and smile (or frown) and I usually wave and speak to them. Somehow, the realization that we walk and live on the same level changes my thinking. Funny how that works.
The change in my attitude is not all as a result of moving into a different house. Over the last few years, I have been shown (in various ways) my sinful nature. I have become reacquainted with the reality of our fallen state. My fallen state.
I have discovered anew the astounding miracle of grace.
Grace. And forgiveness.
Strange. I thought those things were just gifts given to me from a gracious God through His Son. It turns out they are gifts given which are meant to be shared.
It’s hard to share when one lives in a tower.
The Lovely Lady and I took a drive through the beautiful Ozarks on a recent Spring day. As we drove, I noticed a number of imposing houses built along a particular bluff, high above the roadway upon which we traveled.
“How nice that would be,” I exclaimed to her. “What a view! You’d never even notice the noise of the highway way up there.”
And, even as I gazed upward with envy and wished to be able to afford such an abode, I realized the danger of dwelling in a place like that. If one can’t hear the traffic, they forget there are people who have to struggle every day to get to their destinations. When one is separated from others, he forgets we are all called to compassion as a way of life.
Concern for those with whom we rub shoulders requires that we actually rub shoulders with them.
The psalmist speaks of a King living in an ivory lined palace, with all its amenities and luxuries. It is, in truth, the same King who left the comfort and safety of those towers to come down and live among us.
To rub shoulders with us. To eat with us. To work among us. To teach us.
To die for us.
Out of ivory palaces. He came down.
How can we do less?
He was a friend to man, and lived
In a house by the side of the road.
(Homer ~ Ancient Greek Poet ~ ca. 800 BC)
Out of the ivory palaces,
Into a world of woe;
Only His great eternal love
Made my Savior go.
(Ivory Palaces ~ Henry Barraclough ~ 1891-1983)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.