Psalm 118 (Morning)
Psalm 145 (Evening)
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
All of our readings today speak to that delicate balance between ambition and wisdom. In our Gospel reading, those ever-ambitious Sons of Thunder, James and John, are certain they know what they want in this whole “hanging with Jesus” schtick, and Jesus is saying, “take my word for it; you really DON’T.” The author of Proverbs is saying, “Hey! When wisdom is right under your nose, you don’t listen! Hellooooo!” Our Psalms today, especially Psalm 118, sing that siren song to our ambition that “God’s on our side.” Yet the paradoxical thing about ambition and wisdom is that it seems that when we are filled with ambition, we generally are a little short on wisdom, and once we get the state to where we were wise, we realize how foolish some of that ambition was, and at times wish we would have done some things differently.
I first stepped in front of a classroom full of medical students in 1988, as a post-sophomore fellow in pathology. Because my background was one where I had been trained to teach junior high and high school science…well…I thought I knew plenty about teaching. That ambition continued while I was still a resident physician, when my department chair convinced me that I could be the interim course director of the medical school pathology course, even though in a sense I’d be the supervisor of my attending physicians when it came to teaching, while they would be my supervisors in my residency program. I had just enough of the Sons of Thunder in me to think that would work just fine.
Well…I have one thing to say about that. HA!
Yet, it is precisely those experiences of letting our egos and our ambitions and the realities of the world collide that create that thing called experience…and without experience, mixed with the (hopefully) resulting humility, we will never gain wisdom. Had I never lived through the experience of being the “powerless boss over my bosses,” I would never have made any mistakes. Had I not been put in my place a few times, I would never have considered the third way–(which, non-coincidentally, turns out to be the Gospel way,) servant leadership–leading from a humble attitude of example coupled with action.
As it turned out in my own story, it made becoming the pathology course director of another institution a chance to try it all again, from a different perspective. I look back and some days I realize I’m like a “whole ‘nother person” teaching now–but yet, in some ways, still the same.
Paul hints at this in our Epistle reading today–that notion that all of the reign of God is constantly being made new, every day. Each day is its own dawn of creation and end of time. As part of that creation, it’s happening to us every day, too. Each day of our lives is a little death in some places, and a rebirth in others. Oh, that we can only never lose our ambition, but always see it in a continually new way through the lens of wisdom!
Where are the places in your life where ambition ran wild in your past, but the lack of wisdom really threw a monkey wrench in it? How did wisdom teach you to see the same sort of situation in a new way?
Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid