Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Margaret Wills Guest Post: The Last Will Be First, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Margaret Harrell Wills' amazing bookPressing Into Thin Places. After that post, she graciously agreed to write a guest post for Jacob's Café. The second of the two part guest post is below. Click here for the first part.

There was a purity of spirit and generosity about Jimmy. Even though he planted the apple tree, he knew the apples were there to share. Jimmy was unpretentious and unencumbered by feelings of superiority or the need to make comparisons. It was not in his nature to shut people out, to judge because someone looked or thought a different way. I realized that I was not so generous.

I was different than Jimmy.

I began to think of prideful, self-righteous Ruby Turbin in Flannery O’Connor’s story, Revelation. Ruby had everyone in town categorized according racial, social or economic status. She had a sliding caste scale of sorts which determined, in her mind, how valuable, how important everyone was. Ruby, of course, had a tremendous degree of self-satisfaction regarding her position in the world. One time she broke out into ecstatic praise thanking Jesus as she thought about all the lesser people she could have been instead of herself.

It happened one day when she was out on her farm feeding her pigs. She was conversing with God when she was overcome with a vision, a revelation; a vast parade of souls was marching to heaven. In the front of the line singing and leaping and clapping were all the people Ruby looked down on. There were the poor, the poor in spirit, the unenlightened, the uneducated, the downtrodden, the misfits, and the mentally impaired. Yes, ahead of everyone else were all the poor souls who were last in Ruby Turbin’s caste classification. She stood transfixed, staring at the procession of people until she spotted herself and her husband Claud…trailing far behind.

Flannery O’Conner describes the scene:

“And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right…They were behind the others with great dignity accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.”

Flannery O’Connor

Sometimes our virtues are burned away in the light of a revelation. I thought about Jimmy. I remembered the words of Jesus who said, “The last will be first and the first will be last.” And then I thought how we often breeze through life looking down on others; Looking down, without thought, on people whom we have categorized as less spiritual, less bright, less sophisticated, less prosperous, less educated, less clever that we. We shut them out before we ever sit across the table from them… God, forgive me. Let me move at least a little way up in the line. See in me,You, and not Ruby Turbin.

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