On: Foolishness

Something I have always been afraid of is being called an idiot or doing something stupid. I was so caught up in my pride that I couldn’t do the actions in children’s church and I hated the song “Undignified.” Why would I want to dance around and act crazy? I’m not stupid, I’m not foolish, I’m smart and composed. Right?

Nope. Wrong. Try again.

It was all a lie. I tried to justify my unwillingness by saying I was just more reserved of a person, or that I didn’t feel good, or that I didn’t know what the actions were. In reality, I was being prideful, and that temptation and habit of self-centered, egocentrism has followed me to today.

I am slowly coming to an understanding of what it means to “leave my comfort zone.” For me, that was rejecting my pride.It was saying, “alright, fine, I’ll step out of my bubble.” Unfortunately, the raging, prideful beast inside of me always added “just this one time” to the end. Oops.

In my heart, there has always been a desire to step out boldly, but I have come to realize I’ve been trying to do it in the wrong way. I’ve been trying to be bold in a way that makes me look normal and feel good. That’s not boldness. In a sense, it is just me trying, despite my sharp insistence against it, to be given attention. It is only recently that I have learned what boldness is for me (thanks to deep-thinking sessions in the shower).

I took a class last semester that I was unsure of, but now I see why I did. While reading “Deep River” by Shusaku Endo, a Japanese and Christian author, I was introduced to the tradition of “fools for Christ.” Much of the imagery for Christianity used in the book is that of a clown. This imagery and this ancient tradition were taken from two different passages of scripture:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” -1 Corinthians 1:27-29

“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.” -1 Corinthians 4:10

The ancient church fathers that practiced this form of asceticism may have taken these verses out of context, perhaps even a little too far, but they believed in what they were doing and the idea was there.

The originator of this ancient practice is St. Simeon Salos of Emress who lived during the 6th century. He went into the wilderness for at least ten years, and when he came back he was what we would without hesitation call a madman. He had eaten nothing but lentils while in the Syrian Desert, threw nuts during service at the priests, and tied a dead dog to a rope around his waist and walked around the city dragging it.

But here’s the thing: no one doubted that he was a righteous man. He did things for the poor, he aided the people in the city, but did not do it for praise and acceptance. He served with a willing heart, not for the acceptance of man but to serve God.

St. Francis of Assisi. Isadora Barankis of Egypt. St. Procopius of Ustyug. Saint Juniper. Basil the Blessed.

They could not be touched by tsars. They acted like madmen, and some of them were. They were shameless. They were genuine. They were not afraid to give away even the clothes on their back. They were ridiculed by the people around them, but also admired. Their own peers tried on occasion to hold them back, but they refused to stop. They are called saints and blessed, and they are an example of not living for the acceptance of the world.

Why were they looked at as crazy and foolish? Because they we self-sacrificing? Because they did not hold onto the worldly idea of dignity? Because they were not afraid to do what we have all been commanded to without hesitation?

If you claim Christ as your Savior, if you claim Christ as your Lord, if you claim to be blessed by God, then start living like it. No more hesitation, no more taking baby steps. Jump in all at once, or don’t jump at all.

The idea of being “foolish” for Christ means setting aside our pride, self-importance, and false sense of dignity. It means that we step out of the way and let the world look at the wisdom, strength, and honor of Christ, not the artificial pretense of our greatness.

This idea scares me. I like being my old self, because I am familiar with the old me, the one who is cynical, thinks through every single aspect of my day before doing anything, and thinks that telling God I’ll do what he says eventually is good enough.

The things I must do are the things that in my past have sometimes caused ridicule. As I have grown spiritually these last few months, I have realized that they opinion of fallen man doesn’t matter. And so, I opened the gate of the castle I had hidden myself in. I’m letting people in at the same time that I am stepping out. For me, it looks like using words that I used to use for personal gain to lift others up. It is asking hard questions of my friends. It’s being unashamed to speak out about the things that I am passionate about.

Most importantly, it’s rooted in my being unafraid to boldly, not pridefully, step out of what I have become complacent with. It’s praying loudly, speaking the name of Jesus without fear, and showing others what a completely undignified fool I am becoming.

Be humble. Be unashamed. Be foolish. Be obedient.


More on Foolishness for Christ and Holy Fools:

National Catholic Reporter

Svitlana Kobets

First Things

The American Conservative

Shusaku Endo:

The CS Lewis Review

“Deep River”

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