“Cold, light, and selfish in the last resort, he had that modicum of prudence, miscalled morality, which keeps a man from inconvenient drunkenness or punishable theft.”
(excerpt from The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson)
What a man is when he is surprised is often the only way to see what he is. Self righteousness is actually self discipline and self control rolled up in a tightly bound package. But there is always a thread hanging out of that package and a time will come when a misstep here or there causes it to snag. Nothing is as awful to see as the rapid unwinding of a man’s righteousness in the midst of a seemingly insignificant moment. Give me a righteousness not my own to create or maintain; one that lasts and cannot come unwound. Give me more than prudence, give me Christ and all that goes with him.
My memories of boot camp are mostly those of being in a great hurry to get somewhere so I could stand in line. Lines came to dominate my life. I stood in line to get my hair cut off. I stood in line to get clothes. I stood in line to get shots in both arms at once. I stood in line to jump in a pool. When I wasn’t standing in line, I walked in line. They called this “marching.” The military REALLY wanted us to stay in line. Most of the places we hurried to had yellow or white stripped lines on the ground showing us exactly where our line was to form. Some new boots couldn’t get this right. They did not understand that the line was the thing. They marched outside the lines or stood half in and half out of line. When they did this enough times, the company commander sent them to Positive Motivation or PosMo, where they received after-hours extra instruction about how to stand in line and run in line and do push ups in a line. PosMo helped. No one wanted to go back there a second time. We all found the line and stayed on it or in it or moving along with it. And it was easier when all of us knew what the line was and how we related to it. Lines are unpopular, but imagine there are no lines. Imagine driving. Imagine checking out of a store. Imagine going to a ball game. Imagine a playing field. No lines. How do you know where to go? How do you know where to stand? How do you know when a goal is reached? Many imagine they are liberated by erasing lines from the past or from religion or culture. Watch them carefully, though, because none of them will live without lines. They will establish new lines. Lines they draw themselves. And when they do you can bet they will tell you and I to get in line with their lines. Question them. Who gave you the authority to draw a new line? Who gave you the authority to erase the old line? What makes your line better? We are going to live with lines. We need them. Beware though. The right lines are freedom and life and order and blessing. The wrong lines will criss cross and move until they become a jail cell.