sharp knife, dull mind

When I was ten years old my dad gave me a folding buck knife with a 3 inch blade. I had never used a real knife before. I used a butter knife to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches regularly, but nothing as sharp and magnificent as this piece of steel. I still have this very knife in my adulthood.

One of the first cool things I wanted to do with my new knife was to cut off slices of an apple and eat each slice off the blade like my dad would do. The first attempt did not go so well though. The apple was not slicing. My dad could do it so effortlessly. Why was my knife not working? I figured my dad was so much stronger than I and I only needed to apply more thumb strength on the back of the blade. The apple then did start to open up, but not in a slice, but more in a smash and my thumb was really hurting. I stopped to re-evaluate my technique.  Was this apple extra tough? Was my knife extra dull? I looked at my thumb. No, the knife was not extra dull because it was making cutting into my thumb.

Yes, I was trying to cut my apple with the back side of the knife, pushing on the blade. When I turned the knife around and reapplied the knife, it cut a slice of apple smoothly. The knife was sharp enough, the apple was not a fruit leather, the problem was the incompetence of the operator, me.

I recalled this experience from the deep vaults of my memories this morning as I self-righteously read today's Daily Office reading.
Psalm 123:4-5  Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, for we have had more than enough of contempt, Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,  and of the derision of the proud.
I'm reading this particular passage and joining in with the Psalmist complaining about the rich and the proud who are ruining everything. "Yeah, God, down with those oppressors. I'm sick of them." But just like my prayer the other day, my aspersion boomeranged back on me. In someone else's eyes I am proud and I am richer than them. No matter what other circumstances I can point to, unavoidably I am an american upper middle class straight white man of privilege. I am extremely wealthy compared to most of the world. I am sure some of my consumption of food and clothes and products has involved slave labor or oppressive working conditions of others. Those others may also be crying out to God for mercy and justice. I also know my proud heart. What I may believe as confidence, others consider tone deaf obnoxiousness.

I then responded to this passage a second time. "Lord forgive me."

Back to the knife story. The author of Hebrews says this,
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. Heb. 4:12
As I was bearing down on those verses from the Psalms against my enemies, those same verses were carving into me. Those words cut both ways. They are sharp but this operator is dull. Hopefully, one day I will be more careful in the future.


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