In which there is Chutzpah

by Craig on August 30, 2011

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I was poster child for Mark 9:24…
“Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”
I was a doubter from the beginning…
and would remain so for most of my Christian life.

I asked for salvation…
but…with…conditions.

It was my “if” salvation prayer (part one of the “if” prayer was yesterday).

It was a bold and risky maneuver before the God of the Universe – my first but not my last.

Defiance always enters stage right…
missing its cue…
add-libbing like crazy…
then lingers, center stage, too long.

I remember…

…English Comp 101. It was my first year in college and the teacher’s name was Kaminsky – not Orthodox, but definitely Jewish. He made clear at the beginning of the class that the composition we would write for the term paper was not to be about abortion, or about religion.

I wasn’t a committed Christian then…
still, the topic I presented him was…

the Crucifixion of Jesus.

He dismissed it outright.
I defended my position, saying it was history, not religion.

He sat in his office…
walls just slabs of cold green concrete…
a desk full of scattered papers…
leaning back precariously with his considerable weight in his office chair.
He slid his glasses up his nose, squinted his eyes…
looked at me a little more intensely than was comfortable.

He would not, by the way

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…never allow my abuse of elipses…

but he’s … not … here … now (◠‿◠)

I’m sure he’d never allow that emoticon either…

but he’s … not … here … now (◠‿◠)

Anyway…

“Do you know what chutzpah is?” he asked.

I had heard the word before. My mom, a single mom in the 60s, worked in the clothing district of New York. Her bosses were all Jewish. I had heard that phrase – and a few other choice ones as well. But I couldn’t precisely pin down the meaning well enough for him. He directed me to his dictionary on the shelf.

“Unmitigated gall and brass.”

“You’ve got Chutzpah – I’ll let you have this one.  But be careful.”

I considered it a compliment. I’m not sure it was. And years later, there I sat, behind the steering wheel of my car, asking God to “save” me – if he really was God.

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What does God do with someone like that? Does he withdraw his offer of grace? Does he scoot on to the next, and no doubt, much less brazen applicant for citizenship in his kingdom? Does he send the obligatory lightning bolt?

Or does he lean back with his considerable weight on his office chair…
slide his glasses up his nose…
squint his eyes…
look at me a little more intensely than comfortable…
think to himself, unmitigated gall and brass…
And say, “You’ve got Chutzpah – I’ll let you have this one.  But be careful.”

Obviously there were no lightning bolts.

Now, how in the world am I going to tie this in with the fullness of time?

I’ll have that figured that out by tomorrow.

Please come back.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

A. August 30, 2011 at 10:41 am

That was a quick and terrific defense of your topic! I bet what he really wanted to do was laugh out loud, but knew he couldn’t. At least, that is how I would be feeling, I think. So funny. Craig the quick-on-his feet rascal of a student. Smiling hugely at that one.

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Craig August 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm

A. It was quick – it was terrific – but it was rebellious, and smug, and arrogant. One of the things I learned from my childhood was that charm could get me out of a lot. There was a time in my life when I used that charm – a lot – and wrongly. So it’s funny – but given the wisdom that I have received since – kinda not so funny. Glad you had a smile though. ツGod bless and keep you A.

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Dawn August 30, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Dear Craig,

My son is 39 years old today. He is a charmer who has learned how to use that charm in a Godly way, but this has been a long time coming. I think fullness of time has a lot to do with development and experience. Some have fullness very young; but for average man-on-the-street from a dysfunctional family, it takes much longer. I can remember my son being in 10th grade and the teacher hand each student a paper with a square grid of 16 blocks with an activity listed in each box. The first day of class she used it as a mixer. Students were to mill around the room and get people to sign their names in a box that contained an activity they did. The first one to get all 16 blocks filled in won. My son just sat in his seat. The teacher was not happy. “Well, Mr Blanchard, why do you believe you do not have to participate?” He just turned to the students in the class (whose eyes were all on him by this time), gave them his paper and told them to pass it around and return it to him when it was all filled in. In about 5 minutes it was done and he hadn’t moved. He handed the paper to the teacher! I think he was the first to finish. He was rude, arrogant, disrespectful and overconfident. My dad’s friends at the local bar called him “Old Silver Tongue” when he became a cracker-jack audio sales person. Yes, he had charm with a capital “C”.

Two years ago the anxiety attacks began. He could not function. People rallied around and helped him till he got back on his feet. This may have been the first time in his life that he was able to realize he couldn’t charm his way out of everything. That whole experience changed him. He is now a Spirit-filled charmer…and that makes all the difference.

This was a flashback read for me. I look forward to the redemptive end.
Following Jesus,
Dawn

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Craig August 30, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Dawn, thank you for sharing that with me. Your son and I both apparently shared that trait and had to learn not to abuse it. This is not a political statement – NOT AT ALL – but I remember not voting for Bill Clinton – not necessarily for the politics – but because the minute he used that “I did not inhale” line – he lost me. My mom used to say it takes a con artist to know a con artist – and I knew one when I looked at him. All charm and no substance needs to be grown out of – it took way too long for me. My mom used to say I could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Anyway – thank you Dawn, and happy birthday to your baby, and God bless.

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Cora August 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I’m so glad I finally got here today. The post would just not come up for me. Now the post is here, but the pictures are not. Isn’t the internet a wonderful thing — when it works????!!!!

Craig, I think somewhere, sometime, somehow, we all pray a prayer like that. Whether it be like you at a time of salvation, or a time when we are in the pits of failure, or the depths of grief, we cry something like this. The “Where ARE You, anyways?” The “Do you REALLY care at all?” You raised some thought-provoking questions here as to how He answers these, if at all. I can’t help but think of Job and the questions and observations he threw at God. God waited until he was done, didn’t He, before He answered. At least Job stuck around to listen to the answer. Some of us run. Somehow, because I’m reading this blog and getting to know you a little, Craig, I do think you got to hear answers! Looking forward to hearing the rest of it.

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Craig August 31, 2011 at 11:19 am

Ugggg – so late responding to comments – discovered a new – kind of negative voice – but not really a voice at all – that plus a little bit of sick – plus a little bit of NOT sleep –grrrrrr. Anyway, sorry Cora.

And you know, with me, it’s never been “do you really care” or “where are you” – it was always “do you exist”. it’s still that way for me. If God exists and he is the God of the Bible in whom I believe – then everything else falls in place. I guess I’m back to the if… Then thing. But as I was talking to him the other day, together we ran through almost 27 years of pretty incontrovertible proof that he exists – the rest – he’s always there – just not always inserting himself in the situation – and of course he cares – if he is God – and I know his reasons are good. For me it all comes down to whether or not he is God. And apparently – HE. IS. GOD.ツ God bless you Cora.

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Cora August 31, 2011 at 11:32 am

I’ve often been so afraid that I’m just a “brainwashed Christian” because I’ve never had this question. My simple, childhood, Sunday School teachings were believable back then, and just stayed that way for me. I always, always believed that He was. At least that kept the lines of communication there, whether I used them or not. And there were times when He was the last person I wanted to talk to. The only trouble with a life long, simple, brainwashed faith like that is that I never question it enough to go on the deep searches like you have, and I don’t have the answers to give others that are on those searches in their lives. All I have is a “I know that I know!” Is that what it boils down to for everyone eventually? Life experiences, encounters with Him, meeting at the cross, salvation experience, etc., etc. all strengthen faith that He is all He says He is. And if He isn’t, who is He?

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Craig August 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm

we all have different roads – having answers to all the questions makes me no worse or better than a “born in the pew” – I once thought it did. But you have answers I haven’t even found questions to. You know things I don’t even know I don’t know. Somehow – that’s important – and we leave it to God to find whom to use for whom – when the need arises. God Bless you Cora!!

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Debbie August 31, 2011 at 1:50 am

Okay . . .everyone has such wonderful deep comments to match your deep into scripture post and you know what? I couldn’t stop giggling over the elipses and emoticon part! So much so that my daughter began asking me what was wrong. I kind of like writing however I want to now . . .
God bless you and your chutzpah and your Big God who knows what to do with it!

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Craig August 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Debbie, remember when I went to Blissdom last year? To make the big conference a little smaller – they had what they called “tribes”. One of the speakers, one that I heart a lot – said she used emoticons so much – maybe next year they should have an emoticon tribes. If I go to Blissdom this year – I think I’ll join up with that tribe ツ anyway… We blog now… We can write whatever way we want to… And we can… Even… Abuse …elipises. God bless you Debbie.

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Martha Orlando August 31, 2011 at 6:09 am

You took me back to my own college days where I had a professor of English (expert in Faulkner) for whom I would have given my right arm, if need be, to get an A; he was tough, but he was always fair. I took three different classes with him and finally wrote a paper that he placed in competition with graduate students; I got an honorable mention in that, but finally got the A from him. I worked so hard for that.

I wonder, if we all worked that hard to follow God’s will for our lives and live out the Christian commitment, what would this world look like then? Thank the Lord, He takes us in and shelters us under His wings even when we are not ready to fly.

Blessings, Craig!

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Cora August 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

Martha, I’m butting in here, but I had to thank you for that last statement! I’ve NEVER felt ready to fly! I watched those live video feeds of the eagle’s nest from the laying of the eggs and on through until the last of the three had left the nest. If I were an eaglet, I’d still be squawking on the side of the nest! My all time favorite hymn, “Under His Wings I am Safely Abiding.” I’ll stay right there, thank you!

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Craig August 31, 2011 at 2:29 pm

oh, a college professor for whom you’d give your right arm to get in A. I never had one of those. I’m glad you got your A! ツ thankfully God grades on the “grace” curve ツ which makes me think – and this is just an off-the-cuff – kind of flip question – and only to be taken half to seriously – because the answers could take a years worth of posts. Does God grade pass/fail – and if he does, then we could potentially earn A’s through D’s and be covered? on second thought – nevermind I even brought that up – that is an awfully tricky topic. It’s just that the comments have been so deeply lately – my head is spinny – and I’m not responsible for what I say in my own comment section ツ I just know that our hearts have to be toward God – we can’t be comfortable in sin – and we are on a quest for perfection – with grace for the quest. My final answer – and I’m sticking to it ツ thank you Martha, and God bless you!

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Martha Orlando August 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Talk about “spinny”, I just read your latest entry which was marvelous, but could do nothing to improve upon the deep comments already there. I will say, that I wish I had watched more of Davey and Goliath.

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Craig September 1, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Martha, the comments here have been so deep – they’re exhausting me – I can barely keep up – because such deep comments deserve deep responses. And a Davey and Goliath – what an awesome show!!! God bless and keep you Martha – and thank you.

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