Tuesday, January 25, 2022

I'm An Unworthy, Cringing Worm

Man, am I struggling to write lately. As soon as I removed my self-imposed mandate to blog every day, my writing dried up and blew away. Argh.

On with the show.

At the gym, I've been listening to The Practice And Presence Of God, which is a collection of letters of Nicholas Hermann, a 17th Century Carmelite monk. A lot of it is good, particularly where it deals with his ennui about prayer. Some of it I completely oppose, particularly the parts about being unworthy.

If you're unworthy and you were created in the image of God, in a world created by God for the purpose of finally creating you, aren't you telling Him He screwed up? Do you think He wanted to create unworthy things? As I listened to one particular letter where Brother Hermann was writhing around in self-abasement, I couldn't help but think of this classic tagline from Laurel and Hardy.

All the while the dude is talking about how worthless he is in the eyes of God, he's actually absolving himself of any real responsibility. After all, how can a worthless, cringing worm be expected to do anything worthwhile? It's like, when he screws up, he's telling God, "Well, here's another nice mess You've gotten me in to!"

And what kind of evangelism does that create? "Hi, can I talk to you about Jesus? Ever since I turned my life over to Christ, I've felt like an unworthy, cringing worm. Join us and you can feel like an unworthy, cringing worm, too!"

Bah. The Big Dude created me for a purpose, to be a member of His team and do worthwhile things. He may be the Boss Man, but He doesn't see me as unworthy. Think about what it would be like to be a leader at work and have cringing worms working for you.

"Johnson, I need you to meet with the clients and let them know their muskrat steamer will be a week late due to parts shortages in Burkina Faso."

"Oh, sir, I am but an unworthy, cringing worm before you. Everything I do is worthless offal, steaming in the darkness of my unenlightened mind."

"Pull yourself together, man! Go meet with the clients and renegotiate the contract!"

It would be exhausting to have to do that all the time.

We're not unworthy, cringing worms. We're not the coach, but we're on the team, chosen for a reason.


tim eisele said...

Yes, I'm inclined to agree with you that excessive self-abasement in prayer is a bad practice and has terrible implications about what people really think God is like. And yet, a lot of people do it. I kind of think that they are the kind of people who are always putting themselves down in public, in the secret hope that other people will pity them and try to make them feel better. Maybe they're hoping that if they abase themselves sufficiently before God, then He will tell them "There, there now, I still love you anyway!"

And, as you say, claiming to be weak and contemptible may be a way for people to absolve themselves from responsibility, because "they can't help it".

Then again, for other people it may be kind of a competition. To quote Weird Al,
"Well, I know I'm a million times as humble as thou art!"

IlĂ­on said...

"I'm An Unworthy, Cringing Worm"

The One True Bureaucracy does appear to sotto voce encourage such thinking.

But, it's not limited to Catholics. Here is a Jewish joke about it --

It’s an old Jewish joke: Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, reaches its climactic moment. The Rabbi, in front of the congregation, throws himself down on hands and knees, an ultimate act of self-abnegation. He cries out to his Creator, “Before You, I am nothing!” The Cantor, on cue, jettisons down, sobbing with animation: “Before You, I am nothing!”

Mr. Schwartz in the first row is so moved, so inspired, so galvanized, that he dives down, landing on hands and knees, and yells out, “Before You, I am NOTHING!”

Registering the kerfuffle in the first row, the Rabbi looks over to the Cantor. Dripping with sarcasm, he says (Yiddish intonation, please): “Look who thinks he’s nothing!”