Catalina has written a bit about how God has illuminated various areas of sin in her life through the process of moving out into full time missions. While I would love to sit back and ride on the coattails of her admissions and openness, I think it's important for me to step into the light as well, sharing what God is doing in my heart - behind my stoic facade.
Over the past few weeks, I have begun to assess the forms pride has taken in my life, and have concluded that there are two major bulges in the balloon that is my life. The first one is a longstanding area for me, and lies in my desire to be viewed as self-sufficient. I think that my nuance of the issue is very important. It's not that I really care so much that I am actually self-sufficient, but rather that I want to be viewed as such. If I won the lottery, came into a large inheritance, was given a large sum of money anonymously, or any other number of helps that weren't a result of my work or personal effectiveness, I wouldn't care. What kills me is for others to view me as needy or putting others out. This issue has manifested itself daily in my life for as long as I can remember, and often in extremely silly ways. Whether it was going to a friend's house and turning down food or drink even though I really wanted it or not accepting offers for help at the expense of my own family, I just hate being viewed as needy.
While I have understood this flaw for a number of years, it's new form became apparent to me the other day when Catalina and I were talking about support raising. Catalina made the statement that it is hard to be humble enough to ask others for financial support. I had never put those two concepts together. For me, asking someone for financial support was always hard because I didn't want to put them out. I don't know most family financial situations, and I don't want to make someone feel pressured and awkward bringing up a request for money. And while I do think that is a true aspect of how I feel, I think the big issue is really pride. I am hesitant in sharing this opportunity to give with others because I am filled with pride. It is hard for me to be humble and express my need.
Ironically, not only does this highlight my pride, but it shows the depths of my self-deceit. I rationalize my pride and even turn it into a righteous justification for my actions. I tell myself that I am doing good by not sharing my need, as I am avoiding potential strain it will put on those who may give to or help me in some fashion. Not only is that self-justification, but it also feeds my pride, as I gloat on the inside about how humble and thoughtful I am by not putting others out. In reality, I am erecting an altar to myself while simultaneously cutting off community. By not making others aware of a need, I am taking away an opportunity for the body of Christ to use their God given gifts and blessings of time, prayer, money, love, and service. And in feeding my pride, I am also perpetuating an evil idea in my community and in myself - that we are owners rather than stewards. By me not wanting to "put others out," I am sending a message to myself and my community that I think what we have is ours, not God's. We are not taking from others when we humble ourselves and accept blessings; we are receiving blessings from God through those who are stewarding his resources.
So yah, I'm prideful. But there's more...
Pride is largely about appearances, as I've mentioned above. We prideful people need to look good. Trust me, it's a whole lot easier to maintain surface appearances than it is to foster discipline and righteousness. And while I know we all play this game with our houses and our dress, the ramifications of this pride hit me the other night. As I was putting Elin down to bed, she asked to read her "Jesus book." It's a nice illustrated kid's Bible that a friend got for her when she was born. As Elin went to turn through the pages, I pulled her hand back and told her not to touch the book. I needed to do it for her. I could already see pages that were getting wrinkled and ripped from her roughly flipping through the book before. Then it hit me...
I was keeping my kid back from touching Jesus. My desire for the preservation of a $20 book's appearance was more important to me than letting my child find joy in interacting with Jesus. Ironically, as I pulled back and began letting her flip through the pages, one of the stories that jumped out was the one where Christ reprimanded the disciples and told the little children to come to him. It shot me through the heart.
Now I know that I wasn't really keeping Elin from coming to Christ at this moment. I know she doesn't have a deep concept of who he is yet. Reprimanding her for being rough with the pages was probably, to her, just another thing we told her not to do, and did not deeply affect her. My conviction came more from what that situation represented metaphorically. If I can care so much about the appearance or preservation of a $20 piece of paper that's meant to be used by my kids, and am willing to keep my own children from interacting with it, what else is going on in my life? It seems I care more about property and appearance than about relationships and experiences.
A few days after that incident, we had a family from our church over to share our vision for Romania. We all opened up and talked about how sad it is that we had never gotten together in each others' homes before, and bemoaned our culture that implies you have to have it all together to fellowship. And we bemoaned the fact that we bought into that! Your family's appearance has to be right, your family's behavior has to be right, your house has to be presentable and beautiful, and your meals have to be well thought out and delicious. We live a manicured life, in a manicured house, behind a manicured lawn (well, at least others' lawns are manicured!). But all we've really done is become the embodiment of the American Dream. Unfortunately, dreams are not shared experiences, but rather individual, fleeting fictions.We are the kings of our castles with moats of grass that have signs saying "keep off the lawn." Our pride - my pride - and concern for appearance does so much more than hurt a relationship with God. At best, it keeps community out of our lives, and at worst, it hinders others from getting into the community and body of Christ. If our homes are not for hosting, our tables not for fellowshipping, and our yards not for playing - then what good are they? They are nothing but monuments to ourselves, and will only be enjoyed by ourselves, the most loyal followers of our self-proclaimed deity. But I want to take the red pill, and wake up from this American Nightmare and be comforted in community from the vestiges of materialism and pride. I want others to help me with my bootstraps, and I want to help others with theirs.
In the end, or I guess the beginning, God has been showing me how prideful I am. He's been showing me that my pride is often concealed by self-righteousness and self-deceit, and that I am more prideful than I had ever imagined. Even weightier than that revealed burden, God is showing me that while pride is an utter focusing on self, the ramifications and consequences of pride extend out in all directions. My own community and loved ones experience the brunt of those effects, not me. Pride is essentially the destruction of community, and has been since the very beginning. In fact, pride was the ultimate destroyer of the perfect community, and it is the biggest enemy keeping others out of that perfect community redeemed and restored. My prayer is that God would not take this spotlight of conviction off my heart, and that he would provide the grace and mercy that I need to love others and die to self. And if it doesn't put you out too much, I'd love for you to join me in that prayer as well. :-)
When I was writing my poems for Atticus's compilation, one poem was largely about this issue. Although this post was mainly about pride, my conclusion is that pride is something that builds up walls around oneself, stymieing community. While I was focused largely on immediate family and "home" in this poem, I did intend for the notion of home to extend beyond that into the concept of a close knit community. I think this is a concise way of putting a lot of what I've been trying to say.
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