SCOTT DREYER: “To Bow, To Wonder”

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Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’

    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”   – Job 42:1-6

 

In our culture we hear much about “pride” nowadays. Many portray it as something to celebrate or revel in. However, did you know that pride is one of the so-called “Seven Deadly Sins”? (The other six are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, and envy.) Granted, there is such a thing as “healthy pride,” which can mean self-respect and firm boundaries. However, there is also an “unhealthy pride” which is a synonym for arrogance, conceit, and self-centeredness. 

The opposite of and cure for arrogance is humility. 

Over the years when I have asked my high school students the definition of “humility,” many would answer things like “feeling really embarrassed” or “making a fool of yourself.” 

Incorrect. 

Those students confused “humility” with “humiliation.” 

Dictionary.com defines “humility” as: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.

Some wise person put it this way: “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself – it’s thinking of yourself less.”

It is with great pleasure to share with you a poem written by my dear friend since our college days, Dr. Scott Armistead. 

If anyone had reason to hold a high view of himself, it would be Dr. Armistead. Graduate of William and Mary. Medical School. Medical doctor, with all the prestige, authority, and financial potential that entails. A lifetime of curative service to countless multitudes across the globe, especially the poor and underprivileged. World traveler. He and his family lived for years in two Muslim countries in the Middle East. Accomplished musician. Educator. Leader. Bilingual. Faithful son, husband, and father. Naturalist. Writer. Eager learner. Great listener. And, as I am thankful to attest, great friend.

But despite his manifold gifts and abilities, I know Dr. Armistead to be a man of deep humility. Of course he would never say that about himself. But, I can say it.

He shared this poem he wrote recently with me. It is based on the Book of Job, 42:1-6.

You may know the story. Job, one of the oldest characters in the Bible, was a man of great wealth and prestige. However, due to satan’s attacks, which God allowed, Job quickly lost his family, his empire, and his health. Despite it all, he kept his faith and composure. This is why in English we have the idiomatic expression, “the patience of Job.”

Most of the book revolves around those ancient and vexing questions, “Why does God allow evil? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

At the end of the book, God appears. But instead of answering Job’s questions, God shows Job His power in nature, creation, etc.

Job, considering God’s majesty and power, is overcome with emotion and cries out in humility. Seeing God’s greatness, Job recognizes his own smallness.

That is the scriptural and historical background for this poem, and with his permission, here it is for you. 

Ponder and enjoy. 

For me to bow, to wonder

The world around me wide

My brow upon the naked earth

The heavens me do chide:

“You are but dust and eros,

A flickering flame, then why?

Why raise your voice, O man, and toss

Your questions to the sky?”

‘Tis best to bow in silence

In silence, wonder, weep

O haughty eyes that lick the earth

The knowledge is too deep

If but a glance of You, O God

My eyes could faintly see

Undone, I bow in dust, undone

Before Your majesty.

–Dr. Scott T. Armistead