Apotheosis in Reverse
July 21, 2010
For the Kingdom of God consists of and is based on not talk but power
(moral power and excellence of soul).
1 Cor. 4: 20. Amplified Bible
Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing
Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.---Friedrich Schiller
(ah-poth-e-o-sis): Exaltation to divine rank or stature; elevation to a preeminent or
transcendent position; ideal; model of excellence or perfection of a kind; one
having no equal.
When I was growing
up, there was a big, gangly kid called Frizz who lived in our neighborhood.
He got that name in
my reality when a very smart girl on the bus dubbed him that after he started
up an argument with her.
He was a very
odd-looking creature. I’m not saying
that he was hideously ugly or anything like that, just strange and
disconcerting to the eyes. It was like
his skull never recovered from the pressure of being born. Many babies look gnarly for awhile until
their head bounces back from being partially deflated
by the rigors of passage through the birth canal.
Sort of like a
raisin if it could plump back up to a grape.
But I don’t believe
Frizz’s ever did.
His head stayed
As an act of
youthful charity, I wanted to stick an air hose in his ear to pump that thing
up, but it probably would have just leaked out of the other side.
We sing of God in
church, “Thou art the potter. I am the
clay.” Well, in poor Frizz’s case, I
think God got a phone call right in the middle of shaping his head and somehow
never got back to the thing before it shipped.
malformed. Yes, that’s it,
malformed. He had Marty Feldman eyes
that weren’t level with each other. His
forehead was huge, but it impressed one as being less Einsteinian and more
No, I am afraid Frizz’s
enormous cranial capacity wasn’t Talosian in nature. I must confess; I never considered him a
smart boy. His head might have been
shaped like a light bulb, but at best it was forty watt.
My late brother,
David, told the tale of how Richard Childress kicked Frizz in the butt and told
him not to come around anymore down at Central Automotive, where Childress got
his NASCAR start back in the early days.
Those were the days before he teamed up with Earnhardt, made a gozillion
bucks, and owned RCR and vineyards bearing his name, those halcyon but hungry
days when Richard weighed 150 lbs. and wore STP t-shirts. David said that Richard thought Frizz acted
stupid and just couldn’t tolerate his presence.
A lot of us kids hung out down there where the race car was, but you had
to mind your manners.
I wasn’t there,
though, when Richard put his pedal to the metal foot up Frizz’s tailpipe and
rattled his cage for good. So I can’t
vouch for the veracity of the tale of the kicking of Frizz’s tail. I’m just giving you second-hand information
from what I consider to have been a fairly trustworthy source.
But I do know for a
fact that Frizz never had anything good to say about Richard while the rest of
us idolized him.
I have never ceased
to admire Richard Childress’ amazing success.
Frizz had amazing hair. It was a Napoleon Dynamite afro. Same color, too. He must have used a ‘fro rake, not to fluff it
up but to part it. You don’t part a
‘fro. The result looked like a windswept
sand dune on top of his head.
He was very tall,
but as thin as someone with Marfan’s. Walking
through the neighborhood on those flamingo legs of his made you think you were
watching a Terry Gilliam cartoon.
To complete Frizz’s
package of aesthetic delights, he had Lincolnesque hollows in his gaunt cheeks
that so pinched his lips, he looked like a guppy.
By all appearances,
Frizz was a ‘fro-headed, googly-eyed guppy on stilts.
I told you the boy
I felt sorry for
him, so I tried to hang out with him, even though he was four years older than
me. I’ve always liked odd characters. I feel a certain kinship with them. People thought that I was strange, too, as I
had my own freakish appearance. So my
heart went out to him.
But it didn’t
work. The friendship didn’t last long
because I found him to be a little too shadow-souled for my liking. It probably came from folks treating him
Or it might have
just been the neighborhood. There were
lots of dark souls existing there. I
think the developer built it on some old Indian burial ground or something and
we were all cursed.
I don’t think Frizz
liked me much, either. I was mouthy and
always saying stupid things, like I do now.
For one thing, I
didn’t call him Frizz. I called him
“Fish.” Maybe that’s why our hanging out
went south. Frizz was no great moniker,
but Fish was worse. I’m sure that he didn’t
want to be consistently reminded that it looked to others as if he had one of
those unfortunate childhood accidents that maim, like he got his lips caught in
an elevator door and mommy couldn’t pull him free in time or he messed with his
daddy’s vise against daddy’s advice.
Anyway, long after Frizz
and I parted ways, I heard from David about another of Frizz’s
misadventures. David swore it was true
and hooted about it for weeks. And it
was a fact that Frizz’s car was in the repair shop for awhile after the alleged
Frizz had a
somewhat hopped-up Vega. He liked to
drag race the thing. According to my
brother and his friend, Pinto Bean, Frizz was in the middle of a drag race and
asked his passenger what the “R” stood for on the stick shift. Whoever his companion was, Frizz was told:
“It stands for ‘race,’ Frizz. ‘R’ is for
So, Frizz jammed it
into “R” and the transmission fell out.
I don’t know
whether or not full there were any sobriety issues at the time of the Vega’s
David said that Frizz
was just stupid.
Maybe. Maybe not.
But I do know that
I have done some pretty stupid things like that in my life. How about you?
I’ve spent the
whole of my adult life trying, in spite of my chronic stupidity, to mature as a
Christian, to reach an apotheosis in my faith.
Now that I am very
near fifty and have spent over thirty of those years as a committed
Christian---well, there were a couple of years after my divorce that I wasn’t
anything close to being that---I must confess that wisdom has taught me that I
have been propelled toward that apotheosis less by success and more by failure.
In my Christian
life, I have definitely jammed it into “R” on more than one occasion, thinking
that I could race in a nonexistent gear.
You would think I would have learned after the first time. The rear end always fell out and I fell on my
rear end. There is, of course, no “race”
gear. But there is a reverse gear. And I have jammed my race of faith car into
that gear while moving ahead at top speed, desiring more.
As we all know, that’s
not what the reverse gear is for. Yes, I
am serially stupid.
But I think God’s
intelligence has been back of much of my stupidity. I’m blaming a bunch of it on God and you’re
probably not going to buy my line. But I
really do submit for the court of public opinion’s deliberation my narrative
that He was the one who kept whispering in my ear, “’R’ is for race, Dennis.”
I allege that from
time to time, God wanted to stop me for awhile.
God would cause a disaster to keep me from crashing at top speed into a
bigger one. I basically trusted
God. He knew that. So He told me the right thing to do that was
If your belief in
God goes deeper than a putter’s divot and you are serially stupid to boot, then
you would do what God said no matter what previous experience taught you.
Right? Do you follow?
No? Well, let’s keep trying. We may be stupid, but we’re not dunces here.
God didn’t lie to
me. “R” was for race if I wanted to get
back in God’s race and get out of my own.
Sometimes we get going at top speed and we forget that it’s all about
Jesus and none about ourselves. God told
me exactly what would disable my vehicle until He could repair both it and me
and get me back on track.
God is not obliged
to give me the right information in the interests of my folly. When you are going wrong, God might tell you
the wrong thing in order to set you right.
God did that when
He told Samuel to anoint Saul king over Israel.
God didn’t want a king over His people.
He asserted that in the strongest of terms. But Israel was hot for a monarch---to be like
other nations---and wanted to speed toward that goal. They were completely out of God’s will to want
that. But God loved His people, so He
told Samuel to anoint Saul. God knew
that there would be a train wreck, but Israel was not going to listen to the
full truth and would have wrecked worse if God hadn’t stepped in to guide them
toward a more controlled and contained disaster.
God knew that Saul
was all wrong. And
David after him. And Solomon after him.
Sure, Saul had his war victories, David his heart for God, and Solomon
his wisdom. But Saul also had his
incessant inability to obey the Lord.
David had Bathsheba’s husband murdered at the front in battle so that he
could take her for his wife. And Solomon
had as many foreign wives and gods at court as he had pearls of wisdom.
No man was fit to
be king over Israel until the Messiah came.
But Israel wasn’t hearing that so God had
Saul, David, and Solomon grind the gears of Israel for awhile to teach them the
error of their ways and keep them from falling into complete chaos, sin, and
disobedience, to keep them from fully becoming like the other nations. All of those kings wanted to go fast for God
and nation, but one and all met with disaster of one kind or another.
They were sitting
on a throne reserved for One. And He was none of them.
There was no way
God was going to allow Israel to go at top speed outside of His perfect will.
He gave guidance
the entire time, guidance that was only partial truth in contrast to what He
really wanted to say, which was, “Get out of the business of kings! You’re being stupid!” But all of that half-feigned, somewhat hidden
guidance led them in a roundabout way back to Him because you can’t thwart the
grand designs of God.
God has the right
to mislead if it leads you away from being misled. God can tell you what seems on its face to be
a lie when in reality it illumines the truth.
Bonhoeffer said, I don’t have the right to the truth if I am abusing my
power. To use his example, if a teacher
asks a child in front of the class if his father is still abusing alcohol, the
child is under no obligation to tell the teacher the truth. He should answer in defense of his father,
even if the truth is that his father is, indeed, abusing alcohol. There is a higher principle of family loyalty
and privacy that trumps the teacher’s right to know. The forum wherein the question was posed was
all wrong, all but guaranteeing humiliation of the child which indicates a lack
of caring on the teacher’s part. The
teacher is abusing his authority, being far out of the scope of his duties, and
has no right to that information.
When I am going
like gangbusters on a well-intentioned detour from God’s will, God has the
right to use a seeming lie to get me back to truth.
What God says
always leads you back to the truth.
I have no right to
the full truth until I am fully in the will of God. Until I am in the center of God’s will, I
can’t handle the unvarnished truth, anyway.
If I abuse the truth, I lose the privilege of receiving it.
As the Word
declares, God is as gentle as a dove and as wise as a serpent. And He wants us to be that way, too. Sometimes we have to act stupid in order to
promote wisdom and avoid greater stupidity.
If you doubt that,
think of a husband who is asked by his wife if a dress makes her rear end look
She should never ask such an unfair
question. She is abusing her power and
asking her husband for honesty on something that is frivolous, unnecessary, and
dangerous to the health of the relationship.
If he’s smart, he’d
better act stupid and just say, “No way, baby!”
If he wants more
than his transmission falling out in the road, he should just try saying, “Yeah, that happens after having kids.”
God reserves the
right to grind my gears to lead me back to the truth, to lead me by lesser
stupidity in order to avoid greater stupidity when I am being serially stupid.
To think that God
can’t use failure to promote excellence is the worst form of stupidity.
In my race to
apotheosis, I must realize that the speed is up to God. It is all grace, even the faith by which I
‘fro-headed, googly-eyed guppies on stilts can understand that. No matter how weird you look or act, God’s
grace alone takes you to the very heights of transcendent, excellent living.
Sometimes I just
need God’s accelerator foot in my rearward parts to refresh my recollection of
The great thing
is: I can still come back around God’s
garage the next day.