So as I’ve been in NYC for close to three months, I’ve come to an existential crisis. Haha, okay I only half kid. I’ve met many new, neat, cool folks but there is a dread in meeting new people in NYC because the conversation, without fail, always goes to…
Person A: “Where are you from?”
Me: I’m from Philly (Good conversation starter since “Fresh Prince of Belair” is often brought up. Sometimes people just start singing the song, “in West Philadelphia born and raised…” It stops there b/c they don’t know the rest of the words, haha – it’s okay, neither do I.)
Person A: “What do you do?”
Me: (Here is where my heart dreads the question) – I am an intern at a church.
Person A: “Oh…that’s awesome!” (The last part is to cover up the initial “oh,” haha).
Person A: “Part-time or full-time intern?”
Person A: “Oh.” (No “that’s awesome,” haha)
So I received the seedling of this idea of ‘ladders’ from David Powlison’s short pamphlet on “Stress.” The idea of Ladders is that everyone has a certain set of values they hold dear to them and they put themselves on a rung within their ladder system. Anyone who is below them on their rung they judge themselves to be one-up or ‘better’ and less-threatened by the other. If someone they meet is above them on their own ladder system, they place greater worth on that ‘other’ and respect them more and very well may be intimidated by the ‘other.’
The image above shows two ladders with various “values.” These are a tiny snapshot of the millions of values that exist from person to person. For example, I love sports and I deem myself to be somewhat athletic. Let’s look at Image 1 - suppose I meet a girl who is nice but I see her throw a football with the most hideous spiral and because my ladder is “athleticism” I’ve deemed her lower than me on my ladder (value). In essence, b/c she’s low on my important value of “athleticism,” I’ve subconsciously or consciously judged her and inherently thought myself as better than her. I’ve placed her worth not based on who she is in Christ and just taken her as she is, but I’ve wrongly judged her based on a wobbly toss and her identity and worth to me is lower b/c she ranked low on my ladder.
On the flip side (Image 2), because everyone here in NYC is higher than me on all my important ladders, i.e.,values, I place greater worth in them and give them more respect (and, admittedly, I am sometimes intimidated). I’ve also “judged” them but in my judgment of them, I’ve placed greater value on them based on my own ladder system, rather than judging them based on who they are in Christ.
If you are a Christian, you must affirm that that you’re identity is in Christ, not in the world. But, if we’re honest with ourselves and with the ladders we cherish so dearly, we do not believe our identities are wholly wrapped up in Christ nor do we affirm others identities based on who Christ is and what He’s done for others. We must destroy these ladders in order for true reconciliation to happen in all facets of life.
How will I love the poor and marginalized? I’m not a very loving person to begin with and so there is no way I can unless I destroy and abolish my ladders. How will I affirm the dignity of the poor and marginalized if they rank low on my ladders? I won’t be able to. Only through the HS working in my heart, making me aware of my ladders, repenting of them, being disgusted with them, can I slowly but surely love the poor and marginalized. It’s going to be a lifelong battle, but this one is definitely worth fighting for.