Things Too Wonderful for Me

What do you see when you gaze into the rotting carcass of an animal? Something deeply revolting? Or do you see an ecosystem being sustained? Most people know those nasty necessities—worms, maggots, feces, viruses, roadkill—play essential and exquisite roles in sustaining our environment. But we still look or run away.

Of course, our recoil is instinctive. But it also reveals that the typical person’s view of life on earth may be absurdly immaculate and pitifully immature.

I think that may also describe our view of leadership. Having worked with many leaders, across several decades and a wide spectrum of fields, I’ve seen it over and over. Leaders just tend to be odd; inconsistent, irrational, unsettling. They often seem to dance to music no one else can hear.

But, history has a way of managing leadership eccentricity, a way that is often long, messy, and completely unacceptable to the pious, the impatient, and those who need to control things beyond their own jurisdiction or influence.

That’s probably why our “absurdly immaculate and pitifully immature” culture encourages the mocking or wrecking of what it doesn’t understand. Let’s face it; we created a monster when we invited pop culture to define fitness or candidates for leadership. The more we do that, the more we damage it…and our society.

Higher Ground

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. But, whether I voted for him, like him, respect him—or not—I walk in a mission that leaves no room for speculation about him (or anyone else). Aside from praying for “all who are in authority,” (1 Timothy 2:2), I rarely think about the man. My life purpose demands my full attention. I have to keep my eye on the ball, regardless of who occupies leadership positions.

That’s why the hysterical fixation (positive and negative) with Trump is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. Look; we have elections; they produce change, incremental or cataclysmic. That’s called “process.” It works. So, to spend my time contemplating Trump’s fitness for (or the possibilities of removing him from) the presidency would indulge the most boring depths of silliness. Worse, it would admit that I have no purpose, no self-respect, no job, and no lawn to mow.

Many biblical passages proclaim the very high-altitude view that God reigns over all and that He chooses earthly rulers according to His will. One of those scriptures seems aimed at this age of Trump, telling us that God “…rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses—even to the lowliest of people.”[1]

Just as the Creator loves the ecological wonders of the putrid carcass and the magic of maggots, maybe He also chooses leaders according to His criteria, not ours. Do you think His ways really might surpass ours? Could be; that may be why there’s no biblical record of Him ever seeking human opinions of His processes, ecological or governmental.

Good grief, He’s the One Who appointed David as king. You know, David, one of history’s greatest leaders. And, the same guy that killed 200 Philistines, then circumcised them and presented the bloody remains to King Saul as part of his application to be Saul’s son-in-law. And some think Trump is creepy.

Could This Be the Time for Humility?

Robert Farrar Capon reminds his pure-minded readers that when the Bible speaks of seed falling into the soil, it does not mean religious or sanctified soil; it is foul and disgusting. Dirt is, well…dirty. In fact, Capon notes, some seeds first pass through birds and are then defecated onto the soil.[2]

The Psalmist wrote, “My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.”[3] Have you ever heard someone try to command a conversation with no knowledge of the topic? Do you think that may also describe human comprehension of the micro world’s pathogens and parasites? Or, the majestic sweep of galaxies and light years?

If so, maybe the world of leadership is also too inscrutably wonderful for us. Maybe we should just walk away from the mob and return to our families, farms, businesses, and villages to take on the jobs that do fit our capacities.

[1] Daniel 4:17 taken from Tyndale House Publishers. 2004. Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers.

[2] Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of the Kingdom. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985

[3] Psalm 131:1 taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan House, 1984.


16 thoughts on “Things Too Wonderful for Me”

  1. You said it so clearly Ed. The mob has found no purpose for life greater than personal convenience. Those of us who have found the mercy of God saving us from my own self centered delusions can submit to his purpose without believing we are maggots.

    The minority identity of being salt and light is the The Wonderful gift. Thank you for reminding us again of the discomfort of our redemption.

    1. Thanks, Joe. I appreciate your comments. I do think some folks in the “mob” are trying to respond to a high calling. And I have to respect that. I love your phrase, “the discomfort of our redemption.”

  2. That’s a great read Ed! Very thought filled and provoking on so many levels. I have to confess I get caught up in the daily things of America and Trump and all the detractors. For me, you could insert Obama, Bush, Clinton, Carter and others in the place of Trump and many would agree with the premise.
    It’s nice to be shaken back to reality of things that matter and don’t matter and your words provide an awesome wakeup call as they always do.
    I did vote for Trump. The alternative wasn’t a choice for me, but then, the choices were pretty dismal generally. I can’t vote for a platform that gleefully takes the lives of our future children and while I realize that’s a narrow way to vote it’s the one I’ve chosen as my standard. If life is meaningless to a candidate I have to oppose that person. Yes, I know there’s a million reasons not to vote for any candidate and very few reasons to support them but I trust that God gave me this mind to use to put Him first, family second and politics way down the list knowing that He’s set up a system that we participate in believing that He rules over all and graciously gives us the ability to be a part of. The best I can tell is that you and I have survived every President so far Ed and will likely survive the next one if we’re not standing in His presence with all of this daily mess given the lack of prominence it truly deserves.
    Great read, my friend. Thanks for including me as a reader!

    1. Oh, Dwight, I agree about not voting for platforms that sacrifice children. In all candor, I had the safety net of living in Tennessee–definitely not a swing state. Trump was going to win whether I joined in or not. I did not vote for Hillary. I just didn’t vote. Thanks so much for taking the time to write.

  3. A wonderful article on leadership and how not to allow its ongoing dynamic to result in our despair.

    I do think in America that the focus on the President can be expanded to incorporate on the national level both the legislative and judicial processes. So, we have a three-fold National leadership as our Founding Father’s created a separation of powers resisting each other’s excesses. And we can add to this tension the opinions of all Americans who regard or disregard at varying degrees the administration of our national leadership.

    Tension and fragmentation in this age we live in is to be expected. As you say it is “dirty” soil for seeds to be planted in. You do a good job encouraging us not to follow the way of cynicism resulting in us seeing nothing but dangers, impure motives and hidden schemes. Instead, you ask us to see from above with a fresh set of eyes. Above the fray where joy can permeate our hearts. Henri Nouwen (1932-1996), a Catholic theologian encourages us like you do with these words from his book “The Return of the Prodigal Son”:

    “People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness.”

    Thank you Ed for your words that encourage us to see light.

    1. Chris, that Nouwen quote is just great. So illuminating. Love it. You make a similar point what Paul Oxley wrote, about needing a triad view of government. That’s valid. Thanks so much for joining the conversation.

  4. Ed,
    I appreciate your drawing attention once again to an underlying question in this article and in much of your writings: Can we ALL get along? Especially, for me as a Christian, how can I love those and pray for those who disagree with me or are my enemies? How can I work together with those of a different political or religious persuasion? What can we do together to improve things now with a future orientation? Why get side-lined and fixated on past non-starter John-Fink-like questions, “Why did evangelicals vote for Trump?” Haven’t my fellow academics heard that some votes (as indicated by a previous post to your article) represent votes concerned with governmental policies? GOOD GRIEF! (your words). Let’s move on. Excepting prayer, since you rarely think about POTUS Trump, you may agree with CA Governor Jerry Brown who has said that Americans make far too much of the POTUS position. I, too, give Trump-news and media squabble over him minimal attention. But I do take political comfort in knowing that the caliber and character of persons like VP Pence, Ben Carson, Trey Gowdy (SC),Tim Scott (SC) , et al. are at work politically during the Trump presidency.
    BTW: Have you reviewed Caron’s book THE BIG PICTURE? I would be interested in your take on it? My wife is positively impressed with it.

    1. Thanks, Paul. No, I’ve not read Carson’s book. But I’ll sure take a look at it. My respect for you makes me consider any book recommendation…or car, microwave, music download, etc. 🙂

      I don’t know what “John Fink” means. And I do agree with Jerry Brown about too much attention on the Presidency. The conservative leader, Paul Weyrich, told me about 30 years ago that Americans are frustrated monarchists; we love the idea of a king and we keep insisting that our president act like one.

      And I certainly agree with you, as I do with Chip Watkins, about the caliber of people brought into leadership in the current administration. Thanks, Paul

  5. For someone who would more or less ignore President Trump, you certainly nailed him: “Have you ever heard someone try to command a conversation with no knowledge of the topic?”

    “Worse, it would admit that I have no purpose, no self-respect, no job, and no lawn to mow.” And no coffee or beer to drink! (Or in my case, as I write this, no Merlot to drink.)

    Not only does the seed fall into “dirty” soil, it is often fertilized by cow manure. How many times when I was in college in Lancaster County did I smell the manure being slung by Amish farmers across their fields!

    Amen and amen. I agree with you. We should be diligent in ascertaining the character and policy prescriptions of candidates, but once they’ve been elected, short of impeachment or in some states, recall, they’re “in,” and machinations to remove them are futile. I rarely read (beyond the headlines) the stories about collusion, Paul Manafort et al., etc.

    What’s more, despite his “low” character and poor policies on trade and immigration, many of us (including evangelicals) who did vote for President Trump (though my vote didn’t help him because Hillary Clinton won Virginia’s electoral votes) did so because Ms. Clinton had equally significant ethical issues, not to mention proposed policies with which I disagreed. I am satisfied that I have been richly repaid with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh (and perhaps another), and a host of judges who have been confirmed to seats on courts of appeals and district courts. God may use them to protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution long after President Trump is no longer in office.

    1. Yes, Chip, you make some excellent points. And I agree about the Supreme Court justices. I just had to face the fact that the freedom to vote is also the freedom to not vote. I could not, in good conscience or faith, pull the lever for anyone. Now, if I lived in a swing state, I would have voted. Thanks for engaging on this.

  6. Your words sang sweet strains of wisdom to my heart. I am glad you referenced Psalm 131, composed by King David. It begins with “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty,” then referenced “someone (trying) to command a conversation with no knowledge of the topic.” Yet, here we are with so many presuming to command such a conversation.

    One of my nephews, Dave Roachelle (another David), passed on to be with the Lord a couple of years ago. When he was a baby, the first night he was to begin his weaning process, my parents and I happened to be guests in my brother’s home as he and his wife started this dreadful process. The whole night was spent with little Dave’s weaping and screaming filling the whole house. My dad and mom joined me in crying, weeping and pleading for the crying to cease.

    Since President Trump was elected, our “national residence” has been filled with the cries of unweaned children, trying to command conversations with no knowledge of God’s choice of a rough-spirited man of vanity and coarseness. Verse 3 of Psalm 131, has King David singing: “I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

    Oh for so many to stop crying for what they don’t like! I only wish our country could read your wise meditations here. Well done! I will pass this along to my FB friends. Perhaps many will read it.

  7. Wise, timely words, Ed. Refreshing.

    I think of how the apostles of our Lord in addressing the church said nothing about the emperor (a real sketch of a man named Nero), except this: “Honor the emperor.” Wow. There is incredible grace and constraint in that command. They knew WHO was really in charge.

    We so easily forget: “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.”

    It’s more than enough for us to stare into the chaos and sweetly sing: “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.”

    No doubt God has His servants involved in the political process, getting their hands dirty, and surely we the average citizens should seek to be as informed as necessary for discharging our civic responsibility (if not duty) but most of us would better spend our time praying for our leaders and getting on with the sacred mundane to the glory of God. As you put it so well:

    “Maybe the world of leadership is also too inscrutably wonderful for us. Maybe we should just walk away from the mob and return to our families, farms, businesses, and villages to take on the jobs that do fit our capacities.”

  8. So refreshing. This read was a bit like surfing a wave. I had to paddle a couple times but when caught, your words elevated me above the churn and chop and I could see both the sea and the beach. Thanks for the ride. I’m gonna reread a few times and enjoy the freshness.

  9. So refreshing. This read was a bit like surfing a wave. I had to paddle a couple times but when caught, your words elevated me above the churn and chop and I could see both the sea and the beach. Thanks for the ride. I’m gonna reread a few times and enjoy the freshness. . Thank you, Ed

  10. Thank you Ed for this thought provoking read. I agree with those who found the 2116 candidates for President less than outstanding choices. Our current President may cause many of us to look closer at the next election. Our country is very strong and it will endure almost any person in the White House as long as the institutions of our government remain committed to a system of checks and balances. Our founders were brilliant in the way they constructed our country even if they were prejudiced in favor of the white rich male voters. Like a tree standing after a storm we will be stronger after the political winds blow. To your point our prayers should be for our President and all those we have chosen to govern for the people.

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