How many times do I try to prove myself all because I forget to whom I belong.
I am slowly making my way through Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton. I read a passage the other night that highlights the essence of "the human condition," at least my condition.
On June 28, 1778 the Continental Army engaged the British at the Battle of Monmouth. American General Charles Lee performed badly, causing an irate General George Washington to mount a furious counter attack in attempt to "save the day."
The next month Washington had Lee court-martialed. While the sentence was not overly severe, it ignited Lee's smoldering disdain for Washington. Following the court-martial, Lee "and his minions continued to vilify Washington and even Hamilton for having testified in the court-martial. "
Lee's war of words escalated. John Laurens, a key member of Washington's staff, was fed up with the abuse. He challenged Lee to a duel "to avenge the slurs against Washington."
According to Chernow, duels were quite common in the Continental Army. One French visitor commenting, "The rage for dueling here has reached an incredible and scandalous point." The author then provided this insight into the motives that would drive someone to pick up a pistol to settle a dispute:
It was a way that gentleman could defend their sense of honor: instead of resorting to courts if insulted, they repaired to the dueling ground. This anachronistic practice expressed a craving for rank and distinction that lurked beneath the egalitarian rhetoric of the American Revolution. Always insecure about his status in the world, Hamilton was a natural adherent to dueling, with its patrician overtones. Lacking a fortune or family connections, he guarded his reputation jealously throughout his life, and affairs of honor we're often his preferred method for doing so. The man born without honor placed a premium on maintaining his.
The paragraph sounds like an 18th century version of today's disgruntled athlete: "He disrespected me." Reread the paragraph. Chernow captures the attitudes that stir our hearts and make us want to "fight back."
- Defending our honor
- Responding to insults
- Craving rank and distinction
- Wrestling with insecurity over status
- Guarding our reputation
The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I am just like Lee, Laurens, and Hamilton. How often are my efforts driven by my honor, a craving for distinction, the desire to improve my reputation, or the fear of what others might think.
I made a decision earlier in the year that I would not re-post devotionals. Perhaps some time I'll give you the backstory, but with a schedule that seems busier than ever and time increasingly in short supply, writing daily posts has been a challenge. The decision not to re-post means there can be days with no new writing.
I don't like that.
The desire to put something out there drives me. I'll burn the midnight oil (or early morning oil) to make it happen. Why? For starters, I know that anything worthwhile takes hard work. Honoring God and helping people also drives my efforts, but so does a certain craving to maintain a reputation for posting consistently (defending my honor).
Then Paul reminds me that I have nothing to prove.
I have been adopted by God himself. The Creator has lavished his grace upon my life. He has made me accepted in the Beloved -- not on the basis of what I do -- but on the basis of what he has done.
This truth is helping me.
I awoke early yesterday morning to share this anecdote from the life of Hamilton. As I put the idea to words I realized I would not be able to finish this post and the other things on my agenda for that day.
It was time for a duel.
Would I forego other things to continue my writing -- and defend my honor of "faithful posting" -- or would I stop and walk away from the computer where I had been feverishly at work.
Then I remembered, "God has made me accepted." I have nothing to prove. I rested in the love of God. I put down my pistol and walked away.
Here is what I am learning: The more I rest in Christ, the less I duel for my honor.
- "Lee and his minions . . ." from Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. 2004. New York: Penguin Books. 116.
- "The rage for dueling . . ." from Alexander Hamilton, 116-17.