Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Only As God Made Me

There is this great quote in "This is Spinal Tap" I wanted to share with you. If you're not familiar, you can read the synopsis here. And, if you're not familiar, how did you not ever end up seeing this film?

Anyway, the cover of the VHS edition of TIST had a guitar neck tied in a knot. When I visited the video rental store as a kid, I thought that was quite weird, like a movie that might be too dangerous to rent. Such is the mind of a child. I also remember the box for "Walking Tall" and "Slaughterhouse Five", because they were in the same section. This was when most video stores had a hundred titles, if that. That's how old I am.

I rented the film when I was 14. It seemed very real, except that Rob Reiner, in his post-Meathead, directorial glory, was the first guy you saw. You knew if would be fake, but it's a great fake, and has earned its cult status that is entirely warranted. You don't need me to blather on and on about it as so many people do. However, this post is about one of the more brilliant bits in the film, so I will blather about that. And, my commentary about that clip is forthcoming.

In said clip, the band is staying at a hotel (or trying to). It seems their reservations were fouled up, and they are taking it out on the front desk manager, played by "Bentley" of The Jeffersons. You remember Bentley, right? He was the upper crust British foil to George Jefferson's street wise vibrato. Anyway, after the band hurls insults at the man (insults that only washed-up rock stars would hurl), the reserved, nerdy, British front desk guy says, "I'm only as God made me, sir."

If you're like me, and I hope you're not, you've felt like saying this to people, in response to their response to your quirks or your flaws. Here's what I mean:

  • I've always had a bad memory, especially short term. It's been bad ever since I was a kid. I've been called aloof because of it. I've tried to remember names and schedules, even using memory tricks to do so. Most of the time, it just won't stick. I was once punished for not remembering where my Cub Scout troop met, because I had to tell my baby sitter where it was, and I couldn't remember it. I'd made the trip 20 to 30 times. My defense for my brain, with all its foible and folly, it would seem, is that it's only as God made it. After all, I've been this way ever since I can remember (I think).
  • Socially, I've always been clueless about how people interact with each other. Around about junior high school, I started to study how people spoke to each other, because I was tired of being the fat kid with no friends. I had to learn what was natural to other people. From the time I was a toddler, I had my personality before I knew what it was. Therefore, my personality was only as God made it.
  • I haven't liked any seafood since I was five years old. I want to like it, but I just can't stand it. My taste buds are only as God made them, or only as God changed them to be.
So, at this point, you may take issue and umbrage with what I've said. I say it only to say this: that we tend to credit God with doing all kinds of things that He probably didn't do, and forget the stuff that He actually did do. My biggest example of this is death: we talk as though God takes people who He needs to heaven, thereby in effect killing them. God does decide who lives and who dies, to be sure, but it was never His plan for us to die, ever. So, if you're like me (and, again, why would you be?), you wonder just how much of life is God, and how much of it is us messing up what He did.

I really hate to credit (or saddle) God with the responsibility of making me who I am, but He did. No doubt, you see your flaws and shortcomings and have tried to change them, with varied results. But, when people are critical of you, when they ostracize you or are just plain indifferent to you, they are reacting, in part, to who God made you to be. Some people will not agree with this. I am not some people. If God knew me before he formed me in the womb, he at least bears some responsibility for who I am. We might have some debate on just what parts of me He made, and what parts of me I constructed, though. In this case, it's a classic "nuture vs. nature" argument, with a whole lot of Theology thrown in.

Romans 9 tells us that God makes people for noble and ignoble purposes. A lot of people have a tough time with this passage, because it says that God makes people differently. We don't, however, talk about this verse when we talk about gifts and skills that God has blessed us with. We say that God gave someone this gift, or God gave someone that gift, and when we talk about gifts that God gives, it's always in a positive light. What if God also gives you your traits that not everyone else likes. What if God, in accordance with Romans 9, gave me a cruddy memory and a social cluelessness that would eventually make me the person that He wanted? In this scenario, God might make someone to be a lowly servant of someone else. In church world, we might like that. It sounds humble and Christlike. But, in the real world, we don't want to be anyone's lowly servant. We wouldn't want to think that the personality traits that are frustrating would come from God.

I sometimes wonder if the "bad" traits are all a part of the plan to keep us humble, and a part of the whole package of who God made us to be. It makes a lot more sense that way, because it's all very Old Testament, with God decreeing things like "the older one will serve the younger one" (Genesis 25:33). In this passage, He even says that a whole people, a whole group of people, will be stronger than the other. How would you like to be fated to be in a group of people who were weaker than another group? It seems really offensive and wrong until you remember that God knows everything, and so, even if it seems unfair, it really is fair and right. The "flaws" in us that God makes are not sinful, but what we do with them certainly can be.

In this case, making Esau submissive to Jacob was the right thing to do. Jacob was going to be the more sensitive of the two men (again, that's how God made him), wrestling with God and dealing with faith, while Esau was going to be strongheaded and irresponsible. So, as much as we carry blame for our sin and transgressions (and rightly so), some of our quirks, or our thorns in our flesh (2 Cor. 12:7), may just be Godly ones. It may also be that those people around you have "flaws" that God has placed there, maybe to keep you accountable and humble. So, think of "This is Spinal Tap" when the front desk clerk at your hotel is a clueless, bumbling fool. God loves that fool, and maybe made him that way for a reason you'll never know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing on this topic. Yesterday at work I was reflecting upon and discussing with a co-worker the Book of John, how Peter walked all the way to the palace where they were holding Jesus, only to deny him. It must have been a terrible internal struggle for Peter to deny being a disciple of Jesus. Peter was blessed with the courage to make the trip to the palace, but only to waiver and fault. We all have moments of weaknesses, or times of inability. But we can be thankful that the Lord uses our weaknesses and our worries to teach us and draw us closer to him. Lord, thank you for leading me through troubling times.

Kris.