Spiritual Growth

What is Your “Everything”?

When I started writing the book, my wise friend, Jessica, said something unexpected to me.  I had other friends kindly offered to pray for me, for the success of the book, for our family as I wrote.  Jessica offered a unique gift.  She said, “I’m going to pray for you to stay humble.”  Jessica and I met when we were next-door neighbors in a Los Angeles beach town a couple lifetimes ago.  She and I became fast friends and our friendship has spanned the miles as she moved to Tennessee and Texas and our family moved to Central California.  We have spent many mornings for years, praying long-distance by phone for our boys.  We know one another as well as any sisters do.  Her offer of this specific prayer hit home and sent up a warning flag. 

The temptation towards pride will be on the horizon. 

Pride on the Horizon

Pride. 

Self-consuming arrogance sneaks up on us, ensnaring us without warning.  Like the girl with the piece of broccoli in her teeth at a party, we are often the last to know about our pride issues.  

After Jessica offered this prayer commitment to me, I would occasionally notice, “I don’t feel better than others.  I don’t long for their approval.  I’m barely even telling anyone I’m writing a book.  I’m savoring the sweetness of this process in the privacy of my own heart.”  Humility evaporates when noticed.  Without knowing it, I started feeling good about my lack of pride.

Oh dear.  

I wasn’t looking out for THAT kind of haughtiness.   Like a weed, pride crept in and started to choke out dependence upon God.  My lack of need to be noticed or to impress others started to be replaced by subtle thoughts about what you all thought of me.  Because of what God has done in my heart, I tend to live comfortably in my own skin.  I usually don’t want to be someone else, somewhere else.  During this slide into pride I started wanting more than what I had, while simultaneously and subtly creating an image that looked better than my reality.  Again, I was oblivious to this sin as it grew.  My devotional life continued to be satisfying and seemingly productive.  I served and thought of others.  All the while, in the dark recess of my mind, I was leaning on my own ability to provide for my innermost needs and I was hoping you noticed me in the process.  

Ugh.

Vine

Pride gives birth to all other sins.  Lucifer wanted what Jesus had.  He longed for fame, power and glory.  In the garden, Satan lured Eve with pride … “You will be like God.”  Adam’s pride was his downfall as well.  He blamed Eve for his choice to partake in the consumption of sin – the betrayal of God.

Pride takes many forms.  It’s kind of the 31-flavors of sin.  You can be vain or conceited – convinced of your own beauty or achievements and focused on your looks or good things you have done.   Vanity blinds you to other people as you fix on yourself as in a mirror.

Arrogance or superiority makes us believe we are better than others.  We compare our life, our beliefs, our ability to do something to others around us and declare ourselves the winner.  Haughtiness is like arrogance, but with a distaste for anyone who doesn’t appear to be as wonderful as we think we are.  Self-importance causes us to feel irreplaceable.  We think our essential contribution matters more than anyone’s – sometimes even God’s. 

Is your skin crawling yet?  

The thing is, most of us won’t admit to these kinds of thoughts.  That’s the insidious nature of pride.  Consider the Pharisees.  They were religious leaders.  They followed all the rules – and then some.  Jesus said:

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men … They love the place of honor … and respectful greetings …

In The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer talks about how we call ourselves by God’s name and pay some token homage to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among us.  “If we are forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above.” Then Tozer forces our hand by saying, “the proof is in the choice [each person] makes day after day throughout his life.”  

That propensity in our hearts prompts me to ask this question:

What is Your Everything?”

God, in His goodness, will allow our choices to reveal our heart devotions.  I came to the end of myself, trying to fix relationships that were facing difficulty, trying to change circumstances, unknowingly trying to muster my own value through the opinions and “likes” of others.  When we step back to look at what consumes our thought life, occupies squares on our calendar and takes the majority of what’s in our wallet, we will often discover our “everything.”

The answer to my friend Jessica’s prayer may not have been what either of us expected.  For one thing, God breaking my pride was far more uncomfortable than merely avoiding it altogether would have been.  Being seen by God and myself for what I am – capable of self-reliance and self-focus which becomes idolatrous – is no fun outing to the beach.  The truth hurts.  Jesus pulls off the scab, so to speak.  Praise God for that.  In the process, I discovered at a deeper level why we call Him, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.”  When I became crushed by self, He entered in with mercy and love.  I’m not alone – though my pride would like to tell me I am.  

“The heart of the world is breaking under this load of pride and pretense. There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ.”~ A.W. Tozer

What’s the answer to our besetting pride? 

In my opinion, it is love.  You might say, “humility,”  and I agree, however, humility must come from somewhere.  It is fruit.  The root of humility is love.  When I came to the end of myself, I found I was loved.  I no longer felt the need to solve situations beyond my ability to rectify, to make you impressed with me, to shore up my temporarily shaky sense of worth with your equally frail accolades.  At the end of myself I found love – God’s perfect love in the midst of my vast imperfection.  Either I am going to live for Him or I’m going to live for myself.  I’ll choose to trust Him or I’ll end up relying on my own wits.

It came down to this beautiful moment when the serendipitous timing of God had me starting a new Bible Study on the Psalms by Cynthia Heald called “Intimacy with God.”   Psalm after Psalm showed how seeking the world and what it offers is empty and how those who do so are ruined.  In comparison, the Psalms depict God’s faithfulness and incomparable worth.  The reminder of God’s intimate, patient love provided sweet water to this parched, self-driven girl.

Stream

He is my everything. 

I had forgotten, or slipped, or wandered from the deepest truth of my life.  

I tripped across this verse and then was gripped by its powerful simplicity.

ps 73 25

So I’m giving up impressing you {once more} and reaching for the One who matters most.  I’m living for Him alone.  Each morning before I dare let my feet touch the floor, I say, “God I’m under you; I’m small; I’m following you.”  I start my day mindful of my position in Him and ask Him to help me live my life for Him. C.S. Lewis said it best {he always does, don’t you think?}

“I’d rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought and then made by God is the dearest, grandest, most precious thing in all thinking.”


Linking up with Grace & Truth and Weekend Whispers

A Divine EncounterBarbie Swihart

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Christine
    February 29, 2016 at 12:24 PM

    Patty – this post is beautifully written, honest and so convicting. I have moments where I struggle with these thoughts too. It’s so easy to be consumed by how well I will do in all things that were given to me by Him in the first place. Thank you for these reminders and for your honesty to share. It allows us to feel what lies in the truth of our own hearts. I love you dearly.

    • Reply
      Patty
      February 29, 2016 at 3:33 PM

      Christine,
      This post was hard to write because of the very ego that is my downfall! I kept reminding myself that we all struggle with this at different times and to varying degrees. I remember that I want to keep it real here so that the purposes of God can be accomplished. I’m not writing a blog to be known or thought well of, but to share blessing and encouragement. It means the world to me that you were touched by this. I love you dearly too. You are a gift.

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