I Want to Be The Greater Fool

This morning in church, I started thinking about a phrase I was introduced to on the tv show The Newsroom. My family can tell you that I (and then my mom and I) binge-watched The Newsroom this last fall. It is written by Aaron Sorkin, who writes incredibly intelligent dialogue meant to be delivered at high velocity by incredibly intelligent characters.

The phrase I had in my head at church this morning was "The Greater Fool". Over the course of the first season of the show, Will McAvoy, the anchor for News Night, a fictional news program, has been on a trajectory to stop trying to please people and to start living by his principles, whether that is good for the show's ratings or not.

In Season 1, Episode 10 of the show, New York Magazine has just printed an article about Will's new style, calling him "the greater fool", saying things like, "One CNN producer remarked, 'It's almost as though McAvoy is unaware of how ridiculous he looks..." Will is deeply offended by the write-up and has started to question whether he should even stay in his job.

At the end of the episode, a wicked smart economist and fellow anchor for the network, Sloan Sabbith, comes to Will as a friend. She knows how much his attempts to do the right thing are costing him, and she uses her knowledge of economics to speak into his feeling that he should maybe just hold back and play it safe:

“The greater fool is actually an economic term. It’s a patsy. For the rest of us to profit, we need a greater fool—someone who will buy long and sell short. Most people spend their life trying not to be the greater fool; we toss him the hot potato, we dive for his seat when the music stops. The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.”

Why was I thinking of a quote from The Newsroom during church this morning? Because I think God is transforming me more and more into his greater fool. The kind that is not full of "self-delusion and ego" like Sloan Sabbith described it, but rather a fool who knows for a fact that I am small and God is the biggest thing ever, and he has saved me and given me his power to do good and truthful things. God's kingdom, it seems, is made by greater fools.

My sophomore year of college, I shared a room with my good friend Leslie in Hart Hall, the last non-air conditioned dorm on Texas A&M's campus. We thought that it would be an adventure. I covered our door and the mirror over our sink in quotes that would assault me with truth every time I walked into our room or stared at my reflection. One of the quotes on our door was from 2 Samuel 6:14: 

"...David danced before the Lord with all his might..."

In 2 Samuel, David is bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem, and as it comes into the city, David is "leaping and whirling before the Lord" to the point that his wife, Michal, "despise[s] him in her heart". When Michal confronts David about how he has been acting, he defiantly tells her, among other things, 

"...I will celebrate before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight."

In John 4, when Jesus meets a woman at a well in Samaria, he reveals to her not only that he knows her history with men and that he is the promised deliverer that she and her people have been waiting for, but also that God is looking for a certain kind of worship:

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

In my training as an actor, I learned a lot about being open and vulnerable to your onstage acting partners and to the audience. Not only that, but also that good acting requires a full body, totally focused, completely present-in-the-moment way of being that is powerful for both the actor and the audience. In acting class, I found myself wondering why the way we are in our "normal lives" often feels so much less human than the way we were learning to be on stage. 

In "normal life", we seem so guarded, so small, so closed off and tentative and unavailable to others, in comparison to the way we were with each other in acting class. And that was both frustrating and inspiring. 

There is something about throwing your voice out there--speaking like you mean it, or singing like you are shouting, like you are really trying to communicate your inner soul--that is both terrifying and absolutely freeing. How many situations do you find yourself in in which you feel like you can really express everything that is inside you?

I think there are harmful places to fully express yourself. Depending on what we are expressing, and to whom, we can form bonds that shouldn't exist or hurt people unnecessarily. That is a different blog post.

But there is one place I know that I can fully express every facet of my being, every doubt or complex, indescribable emotion, every deep, deep joy, every thing inside me. That place is with Jesus. I can shout out my innards to Jesus. 

But I forget that fact--my sin makes me look around the congregation on Sunday in jealousy or pride, my self-consciousness takes over and my throat gets tight and I can't sing my heart because I am afraid of other people thinking I'm showing off, or that I don't sound good, or that I'm being distracting.

But somehow, for awhile at church this morning, I went into "open" mode, the way I was taught in acting class. I sang along with the songs, fiercer than my fears. I believed that God has not "given me a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). I shouted out the lyrics of truth to my God with a forward sound and crisp diction, not hiding, but exposing my soul to my maker. I might have even sounded kind of bad. And it was amazing. 

And I sensed that for a while, I got to experience his presence in an astonishing way. After the opening song time, a video played and displayed the words of the Apostles' Creed, a statement of belief that I have probably said 1,000 times in my life. But this time, as I sat with my spirit and my palms open, every line held power and new insight and a sense that I was touching the divine and the everlasting that are found only in my God.

I think that maybe God is making me his greater fool, more willing to be ridiculous for him, to embarrass myself because of who he is. He seems to be using my acting training, and a Beth Moore Bible study, and little nudges from his Holy Spirit, and my word of the year, and so many other things, to say, "Wake up, Elizabeth. Who knows what I can do with you if you are willing to look foolish and feel stupid for me?"

I want to worship in spirit and in truth. I want to go no holds barred with this life because it really doesn't come down to my reputation. My reputation doesn't tell me who I am; Jesus's death and resurrection did that.

I'll let God's word close this post out. 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 seems apropos:

"Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."


  1. I love your comments, Elizabeth. It reminds me of John 12 when Mary anointed Jesus feet with costly perfume and Judas criticized her. Probably others did as well, and even I was thinking of the overpowering smell of pure nard being poured on Jesus's feet with the "house filled with the fragrance" and wiped off by her hair. (I couldn't quite suppress an inner "ewww" either.) However, we focused in Bible study of the extravagance of her gift and love for Jesus, who totally understood and appreciated what she was doing for Him. He alone knew the trials that He was about to undergo and appreciated someone giving to Him instead of the usual demands by others upon Him. The question was asked of us, "When you were last extravagant in your love for your Savior?" Good question...

    1. I love that, Karen. I had not thought of that story when writing this, but it puts such a beautiful Biblical picture to what I was experiencing. Thank you so much for sharing that! There is a also song I love by Jennifer Knapp called "Hold Me Now" about that woman at Jesus's feet, and I will now sort that Bible story and that song into the mental file I have that contains this blog post.


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