For the past forty years (a Lent of Lents) I have spent time meditating on John the Baptist’s words “ He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.” John here names the true way of Christian self-denial. My desire to actively ‘observe’ this Lenten Season means I ought to seek to shrink me and make much of Jesus.
One of the topics I often chat about, with friends at Street Hope, is sports. It is an interest of many of the guys I spend time with each week, and I admit is an interest of mine, though I am much less consumed by it than in years gone by. This week the conversation turned to the topic of referees. My friend began to wax on about his favourite ref. I had never heard of this gentleman and timidly admitted this in the conversation. “That is just the point!” my friend replied. “A great referee is someone you don’t notice. He allows the players to play and does not unnecessarily impose himself on the game.” A game without the referee would easily devolve into chaos. The referee is important to my enjoyment of the game but does his job best by not being noticed.
The Oscars were also a topic. Everyone had an opinion even though few of us had seen any of the movies. I began to think about the award for Best Supporting Actor. Often the actors who win this award have captured notice through their brilliant performance. “Are they really the best supporting actors?” I ask myself. Perhaps the best supporting actors are like the good referee, unnoticed but vital!
Jesus seems to award John the Baptist the award for a supporting role when he names him as the greatest of all prophets. It is his active observance of the principle of becoming less that seems to qualify him for this accolade.
My nearly two year old grandson has the starring role every time he steps onto the stage of my home. He is totally aware of his prominent role and relishes the attention. As we grow up though we become faced with the dawning realization that we are not the stars of our own movie. If we move toward maturity (I admit to a long tortuous journey in this direction) we learn to put away this childish thinking. Christian maturity calls us beyond that. We are called to ever diminishing status.
Lent reminds me of this! Humility is difficult and the moment you think you have attained it you have lost it! Obscurity is painful to that childlike ego that craves stardom! Decreasing though is a choice, or rather a million choices. It involves consciously choosing the way of smallness each opportunity. This is true self-denial. This is following Jesus into and through the wilderness.
When a godly friend passes away I picture the Father saying “Well done …” or “The award for Supporting Role goes to ….”
Lent reminds me to play my part knowing He is the Author.