Don’t reach for your halo too soon

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local columnist

You can be too shiny.

Those words may not be profound, but they are true.

The good news of the gospel, someone once wisely said, is that God loves ordinary people. We don’t have to shine ourselves up, or fool ourselves about how shiny we are, or wax on a little shiny veneer for God to love us. He already does. Nothing good we could do would make God love us more. Nothing bad we could do would make God love us less.

Through Christ’s cross we are pardoned. Through the empty tomb we are empowered. That sacrifice was made by one perfect Man. Once. For all. And it was made for imperfect people, ordinary people. That’s why grace is so amazing. Grace given to people who deserve it is not amazing at all. Nor is it grace.

Our job is to trust God and to live thanking him for what he has done and is doing. And if we’re wasting a lot of time pretending to be shinier than we are, well, it’s time taken away from the job we should be doing.

I love the words one of my favorite writers puts into the mouth of one of her characters. An older and much wiser priest says to a much younger one who is wasting a lot of time worrying that he is human: “Don’t reach for your halo too soon.”

You see, if God really wants to give us haloes, we can be sure he’ll do it at exactly the right time. In the meantime, most of us just look silly trying to hang our own.

I remember a time in my own family when one of our kids was having a hard time at school. Oh, he was making fine grades — in fact, grades that were almost too good to be healthy! He was worrying too much and enjoying being a kid too little. And that’s when we sought some wise counsel and were told, “Most families have a barometer. It may not always be the same family member, but someone will start to show it first when the family is under too much stress. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the ‘barometer’ is the problem. He’s just showing the stress.”

Guess who got homework after we visited the counselor? Me. My homework? “Don’t comb your hair this Saturday. Not at all.”

Huh? You mean . . . You mean you think a dad too worried about being too shiny might be stressing out his family? You mean “hair” (of all things!) might be just the tip of the iceberg?

Yeah, that’s what he meant! He meant that dad had too much starch in his shorts and needed to lighten up. And he was right.

Dad has learned a lot since then. I’ve learned that God loves ordinary people and that we all are ordinary and that’s not a bad thing.

I’ve learned that, though God himself will one day make us “shine like stars,” self-shining and hanging our own haloes just makes us look silly.

I’ve learned that one of the most important reasons for anyone in authority to know the rules is so they’ll know when the rules need to be bent or broken so that people can be loved. I’ve learned that if we don’t know where to bend, we will surely eventually break, and, worse, we’ll break others along the way.

You can be too shiny.