On Arrogance and Stables
Last night, for scripture study, Justin read me a little pamphlet-book (I’m sure that’s an official term!) by Elder Neil L. Andersen called “Room in the Inn.” (It’s available for free download here, should you be interested.) One particular portion of Elder Andersen’s story struck a chord with me, and also harmonized with another thought that’s been shuttling about in my mind lately.
When discussing Mary and Joseph’s inability to find an inn for lodging the night of Christ’s birth, Elder Andersen remarked how it would have been very easy for God to make sure they found
adequate housing that night. After all, this was His Son who was coming to Earth! And yet, as we know, God had other plans. As Elder Andersen says, the experience and story God planned began in a stable, and so that is where Mary was sent for the birth of Christ.
This idea of God’s “planned problems” reminded me of a book I’d been reading when we traveled to Utah recently. I actually read two books by the same author that week, and so I don’t remember which book I found it in, but both books are full of great insights: Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz,” and also “Father Fiction.” The Donald Miller thought I’m going to connect with now is that each of us human beings can have a habit of being “addicted to self” and that because of this we develop an “arrogance” that convinces us that little bad things shouldn’t happen to us. We know that the big bad things happen to everyone in turn, but we become irritated when the little bad things fall on our plates. Not only this, but we allow this arrogance that such a thing should come our way to fester inside of us.
You know, a “little” bad thing like not being able to find housing when you’re having a baby.
I connected to this idea of self-addiction more than I would have liked, but also found Miller’s term “arrogance” to be really helpful when dealing with it. For instance, also while driving to Utah our family hit some bad weather – in Wyoming, of course. We were almost to the Utah border when the van slid and we spun off the road. We were very blessed in that all was actually well for our family. We ran into no one and nothing. No one was hurt. The car still ran. Our biggest impact included tall prickly weeds. But, oh the inconvenience! Not only did we need to call a tow truck, and wait for it, but we also had to pay said tow truck and eventually get a few things tightened on the car once we made it Salt Lake. Of course, we didn’t want that money anyway! Ha! We also were slowed down on our journey and arrived several hours later than we’d planned. Quite a few “little bad things,” all as a result of typical Wyoming weather.
In the moment, I found myself very irritated. We were less than 30 miles from the border, and I tell you!!! the ice was GONE!! when we crossed into Utah. We had been so close, and yet now we were several hundred dollars down and several hours behind. Why, why, why? Such a “little” bad thing, but I was more than happy to wail about all its results and about how none of it should have happened to me.
But I had just read this essay by Donald Miller about arrogance, and about how it is silly to think that we are above having all those real life experiences happen in our own lives. I realized that I do this all the time. Some tiny thing goes wrong in my day, and I bemoan my existence, I become angry with those around me, I use it as an excuse to give up on further efforts, I even ask God why such a bothersome thing should happen to me – you know, the most important person, ever. (He, by the way, is probably laughing at me the way I lovingly laugh at my own children when certain tragedy STRIKES their existence.)
Like I said before, I am not talking about the true sorrows and uncertainties of life. Those are in an entirely different category of dealing and understanding. I am talking about the teensy things that build up like canker sores on our days. Those things that poison us against happiness in the moment, against enjoying the simplicity and ordinariness of our lives. I don’t want my own arrogance to keep me from taking a breath and moving on for stupid happenstance.
But I also loved the idea that came with Elder Andersen’s thoughts, that not only are these irritants “little,” but that God allows them to happen so we can have miraculous interactions with others, and so that we can learn and grow by small means to learn great things.
And so, with these two thoughts in mind, I am trying now to remember to contain my arrogance, and to also look for the beautiful story God is trying to tell me when he leads me to a stable, instead of an inn.