You know the old proverb, “walk a mile in a man’s shoes before you judge them.” The longer I live, I believe my life is about really experiencing a handful proverbs–in excruciating detail. This season I’m learning something about humility.
I can’t recall faces in detail. The judgments aren’t vivid, but the hubris was real, palpable and now laughable. All I can remember is that a younger, pompous guy that looked a lot like me would say things like, “of course, would you expect anything less?” and smugly, “let me show you how it’s done.” That bristly tenderfoot brushed against worn soles. In my juvenile life, I encountered these people that were seasoned by life that had seemed to enter compact with life: they would temper their passion and desires for their lives in return for something I didn’t understand, something that looked like a plea for mercy.
When I went to law school as a non-traditional student, I remember thinking: I’m gonna show these losers how it’s done. I’m not going to give up until I ring the bell, until I win. In the infamous words of my dad, “no fat boy’s gonna tell me I can’t climb this mountain.” Law school was hard, and honestly there wasn’t a day that I enjoyed being in those walls. I learned that the meticulous, left-brained, detail-warring cog wasn’t me, and I learned this lesson over and over again. I spent three years and thousands of dollars discovering that I didn’t want to lawyer. Despite my hubris and missteps, my path was blessed. I was placed into personal and professional success.
Then 2010 happened. I watched my dad brush death’s doorstep–the single source of power and strength in my life was powerless. The health of everyone around me seemed to be unpredictable and fragile including my children, my wife, and my own. More doors in my life seemed closed than opened. Dear friends lost their children, wives, loves, lives. My beloved brother grappled with a world that seemingly signaled rejection at every turn. Unexpected events around the world that left broken people in the wake. I realized how little I knew of a world I thought I knew so much. I was shaken.
Ultimately, my value system of achievement was shattered. That 18 or 27 year old that had really only been stung in life, was fractured. And finally, it began to crystallize, that plea for mercy was humility, not weakness, born out of brokenness–experienced and never taught. The young-me believed that my will could overcome all circumstances and with a little bit more experience, I realized that my will is the sea and reality is a rocky shore–but for Grace, I don’t beat against that rocky shore all of my days. All of this brought me to one point, I don’t know what has brought each to the place where they stand, so whether in adversity or achievement, I cannot be their judge.
Last week I saw my old self in a young man. Full of ambition and confidence, he smugly uttered his impossible and brazen promises, and I realized despite my immediate reaction, I didn’t know the marks of his soles. More importantly, I couldn’t expect him to know mine. Journey on.
I wrote this post to a dear friend that has had a brutal 2010 and in the depths of his adversity had the calm to remind me of this proverb.