Recently, someone asked me this question: what is your fundamental truth?
There are a lot of things I could have said, I suppose. I believe in reaching out to the outsider. I believe that striving for perfection has opportunity costs that are of little lasting value. I believe that whatever errors I’ve made as a parent will somehow be remedied by the grace and mercy of the God who, in His great wisdom, gave my children to me and gave me to them. Over all that, I think, my Christian beliefs comprise the very framework of my entire life experience.
But even with these things in my mind, the best answer I could give to my friend is this: “It doesn’t matter what I tell you is my fundamental truth. The best reflection of my fundamental truth is the way I live. I can tell you anything I want, but if it’s not a reflection of what I actually do, then it’s not my fundamental truth at all. Observing me, you would be able to discern my fundamental truth better than I.”
Being confronted this week with the frailty of human life, the fragile nature of our physical bodies, and the unreliability of our own secure stores, there is one truth that I hope that I am living out. It is this, from I Peter 5:5: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
It is the truth I had to accept when my education and career plans became unexpectedly and definitively derailed. It is the truth that I saw in vivid color when I came to the end of my human tolerance of a strong-willed toddler. It is the truth that filled me with compassion and dependence on God as I lay, dehydrated and exhausted in a bleak hospital room.
If pride is the arrogance that makes us think we have done it alone, that our own strength has brought us to wherever we are, and that there is no situation that cannot be conquered by sheer will and personal fortitude, then I say, give me grace. I have been humbled by my circumstances, which were ordained by a God who is working all things to my good, and for them I say, thank you.
And as I reflect on the moment of the Barack Obama’s Inauguration as President of the United States, I realize that this will be my prayer for him—that he will do justly and love mercy, but not only that. I pray that he would walk humbly before our God.
The Inauguration ceremony underscored it for me. Barack Obama is by outward appearance, amid the ceremony and cemented tradition, the grandiose gestures of simple, repeated ritual, the magical reinvention of a man into our President, still just a man. He is a man whose shoes wear out, whose clothes become wrinkled, who has his own temptations, shortcomings, and personal struggles.
I don’t know what those struggles are, but I know this: whatever Barack Obama is, he will always be a creature, a created being, made by the God of the Universe, who created the stars and planets and set them in motion. Whatever may befall him or our nation, he can never say, “I was there when the foundations of the earth were laid.” There is no question that he can pose, no answer that he can give, nothing at all that he can do , that will make him into God.
But he can, in humility, submit to the one who did set the stars in motion, and who, on every day that has been ordained, holds them together in their order. I pray that he would lead our nation out of this humility, recognizing that he is but a man, and that the events of this earth, whether prosperity or calamity, are subject to the pleasure of a sovereign God. I pray that he would receive God’s grace with a grateful heart, and with a broken and contrite spirit. These, I believe, will have more lasting significance than any eloquent oratorical display or political maneuver ever could.
My hope for our new President is this: that he will think of himself first as a man, and understand everything else with that in mind.