I have a hard time giving grace. I’m very quick to give my opinion, share some insight into how I’ve dealt with things in my own life, and then get discouraged or frustrated when you don’t automatically see that I am right, and must change your ways immediately.
Sometimes I have an issue with pride. (Okay, all the time.)
Pride, for me, bears its ugly head in the must subtle of ways. It’ll come in the form of the example above, when I give advice or counsel. Or when I start to feel sorry for myself because I don’t receive as much as I give. Or when I avoid spiritual topics with people because I don’t think they are quite “on my level.” All of it is pride. My deepest insecurities root in pride.
I became overly aware (and convicted) a few months ago while I was reading “Knowing God” by J.I Packer. He opens his book saying,
“What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have it? For the fact that we have to face is this: If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them a very poor specimen. For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians, ‘Knowledge puffs up…The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know’ (1 Cor 8:1-2).”
Now, I will give myself more credit by saying I had not fully leaned over to only pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but I felt myself going that direction. I had read this at just the right time! And I have been able to work with God on my heart, renewing it to study scripture and theological works for only one purpose; a purpose that Packer explains very well.
“Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are. As he is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so he must himself be the end of it. We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God. It was for this purpose that revelation was given, and it is to this use that we must put it.”
As soon as my intentions behind my study turn to personal gain, I have already lost everything. And that, in itself, is a humbling thought. It also helps to remember that I am merely reading a book, whereas the great scholars and theologians, have completed years of rigorous study in their field and written great works on it. I…have a blog. And everyone. has. a. blog.
Sometimes I like to think that there is something about me that is different, something special, that my struggles and experiences are unique to me. Sometimes that thought puffs me up, makes me feel good, and even better than others.
But, we as humans are not as unique or special as we think we are. At the base, we are all the same.
I am starting to realize that more and more. We all deal with the same things, manifested in different situations or emotions. I know in my own personal life and my own personal circle of influence, we all battle with insecurities rooted in a need to be known, a need to be needed, a need to be appreciated and loved. These things manifest itself through anger, unmet expectation, bad life decisions, depression, anxiety, and the list goes on and on. But at the very core, we are all the same. I tend to forget that. I tend to forget that everyone is on a journey, and we are all just at different parts. Lessons that I have already learned are being presently taught in the lives of others. So, my new prayer has been “Lord, give me your eyes and your heart for your people.” I want to see you as God sees you. I want to love you as best as I can how God loves you. I want to see that God is just drawing you closer to Him through the hardship. I should have a posture of humility, recognizing that I am no different than you.
“We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly…Perhaps his purpose is simply to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest.”
When I read this, I immediately think back into my situation a little over a year ago. That season of life opened my eyes to this beautifully painful truth. Because of the abuse I have suffered, I have been able to experience God more abundantly, more deeply, more intimately than I think I would have had I not endured it. When I think about that lesson, I can’t help but well up with emotion and thankfulness that God carried me through and tuned my heart to exude with joy in just simply knowing Him.
And then I think about you. And maybe you have not experienced this yet. Maybe your rough season isn’t anywhere near over. And that breaks my heart, because I WANT you to experience it, too. Maybe I need to change my position of pride to a position of sorrow as I desperately try to explain to you that this can be your reality, this can be your story, and your truth. And maybe this is God answering my prayer.
That does not put me in a different category, that does not make my struggle unique in any way.
That actually puts me in a position to pray. I HAVE experienced fullness of joy in God, and if YOU have not yet than I MUST pray on your behalf that God allows you to experience this through whatever you are going through. It’s now a burden on me. If I do not tell you about this, or fight for you in prayer, I have failed as a disciple of Christ. We make up the body, collectively, and if I do not care on this level for you, my brothers and sisters, than I should be humiliated as I stand before God.
I am constantly fighting this spirit of pride in my life. I found a passage (also from the same book) that describes the way to best combat pride, a way that requires continual effort:
“The rule for doing this [beating pride] is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God…Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God…Its purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace. It’s effect is to humble us, as we contemplate God’s greatness and glory and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us-“comfort” us, in the old, strong Bible sense of the word-as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Every day, I try to do this. It is humbling when we realize what an amazingly infinite God we serve. I am so finite, weak, and tiny compared to the majesty of God. What do I have to boast in other than my weakness?
And in this way, too, are all humans the same.