If I remember correctly, it was while watching the old Romper Room TV show that I learned at a young age to “do be a do-bee” and “don’t be a don’t-bee.” The meat on the bones of those little songs and rhymes were character lessons on virtuous behavior.
My kids grew up without Romper Room, but television fed them lots of lessons on character and appropriate/acceptable behavior. As a dad, I quickly learned that it was important to be looking over their shoulders to see how what they were watching was schooling them for life. Sadly, looking over the shoulder has become more and more necessary, as the “do’s” and “don’ts” have become quite muddled since shows like Romper Room went off the air. It’s become harder and harder to find good positive role models whose lives evidence positive character and virtue.
While the only consistent model for our behavior is Christ, we can from time to time point to examples of people who go against the flow of the status quo to model in a breath-of-fresh-air sort of way character that is worth aspiring to. A couple of weeks ago our local paper ran an article about one of those people and the valuable life lessons he learned from his Dad which continue to inform the way he lives today. According to the way most high-profile sports superstars live self-absorbed “look at me” lifestyles today, this guy just goes about his business quietly and without flair. If you’re a sports fan you no doubt know the name Chase Utley. The quiet and unassuming second basemen for the Philadelphia Phillies is such a good player that more fans have sent their all-star votes his way than in the direction of any other player. I’ve watched Utley more closely this year than ever before. Whether winning or losing, homering or striking out, or fielding or missing a ball (rarely!), Utley’s demeanor never changes. There’s never any showboating. When things don’t go his way, there are not tantrums, anger, or excuses. The more I watch him, the more amazed I am by the way he plays the game. The fact that I’m amazed is a sad commentary on the state of our culture. Utley’s behavior and approach to the game should be commonplace. Because it’s not – sadly – it stands out.
Back to Utley and his Dad and the article our paper ran on Father’s Day. . . . it seems that when Utley was a little boy playing ball in his home state of California, he complained to his father about a fellow player who did quite a bit of show-boating on the field, and bragging off the field. Utley’s dad simply shared a lesson he had learned from his high school guidance counselor. The lesson was this: “If you’re really good at something, you don’t have to tell people. They will tell you.” And so, Chase Utley focuses on pursuing excellence at his craft. You know by the way he plays. Not by what he says. What I like about Chase Utley – and what I like to point out to my kids about Chase Utley – is his humility. It’s refreshing because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
The writer of Proverbs says that “humility comes before honor.” Jesus reminds his followers that “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” And Peter reminds Christ-followers to “clothe yourselves with humility.”
We are all sinners saved by grace. Anything good we have or do is a gift of grace. I am reminded this morning that in my home, my church, my community, and my world I am nothing. . . and if I am something, it is only by the grace of God. So with the Puritans we should pray, “Help me to humble myself before Thee by seeing the vanity of honor as a conceit of men’s minds, as standing between me and Thee.”