Tuesday, February 3, 2009

pride (1) God gets my attention

When God can't get your attention through quiet whispers, sometimes he takes up a hammer. With precisely placed blows - a Bible passage, a friend's words, a magazine picked up and glanced at - he drives the point home. And when that’s not enough, he wields the sledge hammer of painful experience.

It gradually dawned on me late last year that the same word was popping up everywhere, as unmissable as those huge red-on-yellow billboards shouting “SEX!” beside the freeway. Except all my signposts were reading “pride”.

I read Pilgrim's Progress and watched Christian stumble because of his pride. I flicked through The Briefing and discovered a review of CJ Mahaney's Humility: True Greatness. I clicked on Cathy's blog and read words which laid my heart bare: "My bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are shown when other Christian women get a 'ministry opportunity' that I don't."

As if God knew this relentless repetition wouldn't be enough, a series of painful failures showed me the full ugliness of my pride. Like a surgeon who knows exactly where to cut, God relentlessly plunged his scalpel in just as far as it needed to go.

I’ve struggled with pride before. When I was young and confident of my godliness, I prayed a dangerous prayer: “Lord, teach me humility”. What followed was a drawn-out battle with sin which undermined my self-satisfaction. I vowed never to pray for humility again.

But God still hadn’t dealt with my pride in achievement.

It's not surprising that success matters to me. I lapped up the praise of loving parents, I went to a high-achieving private school, and I chose a prestigious uni course. On the first day, our lecturer called us “the cream of society”. (I transferred to Arts soon afterwards, but that’s another story!) No wonder that I expect to succeed. It's pretty ugly when you write it down, isn't it?

The ugliness wasn't apparent to me. When you’re succeeding you can fool even yourself with your assumed humility. You accept praise with just the right measure of self-deprecating gratitude. You feel oh, so humbly grateful for the gifts God has given you.

It took a series of failures, in a ministry I expected to succeed in, to reveal myself to me. Each one felt like a kick in the stomach. Horrified at the strength of my emotions, I prayed the prayer I vowed never to pray again: “Lord, teach me humility”.

One final painful and petty experience of failure, coming just in time for Christmas, and it was as if God prised opened a manhole into my heart, and I could see the pride within, like a festering black pit seething with worms.

God spares us this view of our sin most of the time. But occasionally he shows us the way he sees our hearts. God has made his views on pride very clear: "The LORD detests all the proud at heart" (Prov 16:5).

Thank God that, although my sin is greater than I will ever know, his grace is greater still.

This is the first in a series on what God has been teaching me about pride. Next time, I'd like to talk about the connection between humility and suffering.

images are from stock.xchng


Louisa said...

Thanks Jean. God has been convicting me too of this sin in my life. Since the birth of my little girl I have become aware of how much I struggle with pride. I will look forward to your series in interest. God Bless

Valori said...

I can relate, Jean! I know what you mean when you talk about being a little hesitant to ask God to work humility in your life. There is nothing more humbling than seeing how wretched we really are, is there? But what else can make the gospel so sweet? A glimpse of the amazing grace and forgiveness and love of God in the light or our sinfulness is such a soothing balm and draught of incomparable joy. It's one thing to know we are sinful "in theory;" quite another thing to know it experientially! It is always so encouraging to me to know that the Lord is faithful not to give us more than we can bear. He is the perfect heart surgeon!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel like I'm reading my own diary, reading your blog!! Pride is such an issue for me. My sinful motives muddy the waters of so much of my life. But I was encouraged recently to think of what a blessing it is that God loves us so jealously that he is not content to leave us as we are, but will faithfully point out to us our false gods so we turn from them, to him! As the song Your Love (Awesome God from Sovereign Grace) says 'And when I choose to disobey, you lead me back to your truth. You show the fullness of your love by making me like you.' What an amazing gift that God is changing us to be like him! Shows his power too!!! Thanks for this post. Jo C