Proud as Lucifer

I had a glorious swim today. I checked out a whiteboard that had a workout for a swim team on it, and I figured I’d try to do as much of it as I could in 20 minutes.

It felt great, slicing through the water, feeling my limbs extend and pull as I tried strokes I don’t often use, doing the intervals and just having a deliciously wonderful time getting all hot and out of breath.

After he workout, I bounded out of the pool, and pulled off my cap, feeling the hot slap of my wet hair hit my back.1. I went to get my towel, ID and my workout record sheet.2. One of the lifeguards caught my eye and went over to a table to sign off on the sheet.

“Good job,” he said as he took the sheet, and signed it, then said Very Seriously again, “Good job.”

I had been flying up until then. While my mouth smiled, I thanked and I left the pool area normally, I cringed into a little ball inside.

Why?

It embarrassed me that a boy young enough to be my son said such a thing. Now, I have accepted similar compliments from boys that much younger than I am before and wiggled with satisfaction and accomplishment. Granted, they usually wore white pajamas and had black belts around their waists, but they were still that young.

I got to thinking about it as I showered the chlorine out of my hair and tried to pull jeans onto my slightly damp body.

That boy, a lifeguard and I suspect at least a junior swimming coach, did not mean the slightest harm or condescension in what he said. Far from it. For the last eight weeks, he’s seen me several times a week go to the pool. He’s watched my improvements in speed and form in the pool, and while I doubt he’s paid that much attention, my general shape change as well. I would bet a fair amount of money he thinks seeing improvement in anyone jumping in that pool is cool.

I’ve been called “as proud as Lucifer” more than once. I always kinda liked it. Damn’ right I’m proud! I’d think to myself. I did not get that this is not a compliment.

The classic story of Lucifer goes something like this:

Lucifer was the most beautiful of the angels and the closest Being to God, whom he loved with all his heart, soul and angelic might.

He watched with interest and excitement when God made the earth, separated the heavens from the earth, filled the sea with fish, and the land with animals. Then He made a Being in His own image — a being he loved and wanted His angels to love as well.

But then He asked for one thing more.

“I want you angels to bow down to this new Being.”

Lucifer was shocked. He was crushed. He was horrified. “But Lord, you cannot ask me to bow to any but you. I won’t do it!”

God, who could hardly believe anyone, much less His beloved Lucifer would defy Him, cast Lucifer from His sight.

Now…. That’s usually where the story ends.

But there’s more to it.

You see, God repented of His anger3 and reached out his hand to Lucifer, who by this time had decided he needed neither love nor kindness any more, he’d been too hurt and no longer trusted kindness or love. The angel turned his face from from his former Beloved to live in solitude with is own thoughts.4

You can draw many conclusions from the story and take many lessons5. For me, in this moment, the lesson of the story is not to close myself off from kindness, or be so proud that I’m embarrassed rather than pleased at it.

1 You can imagine how hard I was going for my hair to be hot in a pool!

2My insurance company will reimburse an amount that actually covers a basic gym membership at the college for employees if you get it documented that you worked out 2 times a week for 12 weeks out of 20. A sweet and easy deal.

3Don’t get shocked at the idea of God repenting of anger or judgment. God repents of many things in the Bible. Look it up!

4YOU HAVE PERHAPS HEARD THE PHRASE THAT HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE?
“Yes. Yes, of course.”
Death nodded. IN TIME, he said, YOU WILL LEARN THAT IT IS WRONG.
— (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)

5You could actually make a pretty good case for the fact that the One True Love idea is a serious sin.

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