"Pop-frio!" and other Bumblings

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom . . .

1 Corinthians 2:1-4a (NRSV)[1]

Paul’s words to the church in Corinth resonate with me.  So often I feel like a bumbling idiot.  I remind myself of the idiot detective who always accidentally solves the crime.[2]  Allow me to recall a particular instance of my ineptitude:

In the summer I, along with several companions, used to pass out popsicles every Wednesday evening in our Indiana neighborhood.  It was a nice reprieve from the suffocating humidity and a way to get to know our neighbors.  However, it is incredibly awkward to go up to strangers and ask them if they want a popsicle.  Multiply that awkwardness by a thousand if you try to offer one to someone who speaks a different language than you.  Once I went up to a door, knocked, and a man answered.  I could hear several kids in the background—kids always want popsicles.  I said, “Hi, my name is Matt. Would you and your family like some free popsicles?”

Big smile, wide eyes, “No Inglés.”  

“Oh, p-o-p-s-i-c-l-e?”

Big smile, with a hint of, talking slower ain’t gonna help!

“Right.  Hmmm, pop-frío?”  

Smile gone, deeply perplexed face, wondering if he should slam the door and call the police.

“Hold on, let me get them.”  I ran to the side walk, got into our ice-chest, grabbed a handful and showed them to him.

“Ah, sí. Money?”

“No. Free.”

“Gracias!” He took the handful and passed them out to his kids.  Every week we went back to this house, learned the man’s name, and got to know his kids.  This was a hysterical, but typical pattern.  

Once, during our “rounds” we ran into some kids who we knew lived in a pretty tough situation.  They said, “We’re walking across the bridge to meet our babysitter.” 

“Meet your babysitter for what?”

“Just to hang out.”

“Is she supposed to be watching you?”

“No.  She just wants us to meet her on the other side of the river.”

Now these kids were all well under 10.  Crossing the bridge meant crossing a four-lane highway.  So we said, “Can we walk with you?”  They agreed and on we went.  Our little battalion marched across a crosswalk, then through the park, across the bridge and there in a gazebo we saw their babysitter along with her rough-n-tumble boyfriend.  When these two saw us walking with the kids they became visibly uncomfortable.  I have no proof of this, but my suspicion has always been that they had some pretty bad plans for these kids.  It was clear to us that it was a horrible idea to leave the kids alone in this situation.  So we waited with them, chatted, however tensely, with their babysitter and her boyfriend, and then walked the kids peacefully home.[3]  

Too often we Christians see ourselves as Christ-bearing heroes.  But the hero-mentality actual tends to belittle Christ.  It makes him out to be a technique, a means to an end.  It always tends to make our own personality, gifts, foresight, and wisdom the center of attention.  Instead, it’s been my experience that Christian heroism is often “accidental.” On so many occasions, we bumbled into rescue in our neighborhood.  We were flawed people who would be faithfully present with our neighbors.  They got to know our names, our stories, our weaknesses, our awkwardness, and they began to trust us.[4]  But then, when the time for rescue came, they were much less reticent to glorify us.  They were so often aware that the grace that came through us was too powerful to be intrinsic to the guy who says, “pop-frio!” 

Just in case you needed a visual.

As we journey through Isaiah and the themes of rescue, advocacy, and restoration come up, over and over again, we must remember that we too are broken individuals who benefit from Christ’s ministry of rescue, advocacy, and restoration.  We must serve one another, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our globe from a place of humility and authenticity.  We must never presume to consider ourselves heroes.[5]  We are servants living on grace.  We are light stumbling into darkness. 

So there you go, call me a bumbling fool and boast all the more of Christ within me.  

. . . but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:4b-5 (NRSV)

[1] Yes, I know we’re going through Isaiah and that 1 Cor. is not in Isaiah.  Sometimes it helps to look at parallel themes in different texts.
[2] Have you ever seen the old Pink Panther movies? 
[3] I’m not sure I’ve adequately described the tension of the situation.  But I was not alone in my guttural discomfort. Rest assured that we also attempted to have an explanatory conversation with their parents when we returned them home.
[4] We trust people who appear perfect to be president, but not to be a close friend. In my experience, people who project perfection are often held at arm’s length by others.
[5] A great couple verses from Romans that always challenge me on this point: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (12:3).” Also, “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are (12:16).”


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