|Posted on November 18, 2011 at 2:15 PM|
James 4:10 - "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
Like most people living today, I've had my share of struggles for the past few months. Like many others, my struggles are things that can be overcome with hard work and true grit. And like it's so easy to do, I've fallen into the trap (yet again) of self pity. This seems to be a disappointing pattern for me - when life gets hard, I work hard for a time and then find myself sitting alone, crying and wondering "why me?!" However, this time around I've had the nagging suspicion that something's wrong with this picture. After reflecting and trying to figure out what's going wrong, as it turns out there are a lot of things that could stand an overhaul.
Everything that's gone wrong in my life boils down to pride. I had lifted myself up to a point of being proud of every little thing I had. I was proud of stuff. At one time, not long ago, I was able to run for an hour solid. I was earning a lot more money than I ever had, and was enjoying a convenient life. I was in a relationship that was mostly comfortable (even if it wasn't going anywhere in God's eyes). I could afford to spend $200 on a haircut and not feel it. There was never a question of a roof over my head or food on my table, I had everything in its place, and all I wanted was to launch myself even higher than where I was. Life was compartmentalized, life was tidy, and life was "good." And then, just as things started to be "perfect," I started to have a very real sense something was not as it should be.
When I was 15 I surrendered my life to Jesus without fully counting the cost. While Jesus surely did a work in me, I wasn't prepared to make the sacrifices I needed to for Him. I wanted to jump in and get my hands dirty on the mission field and at Bible college, but I didn't know to pray or read the Bible daily. I wanted to sing and write and do so many things that would earn me the spotlight, but I compared myself to everyone around me and gave in to bitterness. I gave in to pride, because I do have a decent singing voice and an ear for music. And yes, I was married before. That wasn't a good idea. My first husband was someone I married on a whim after 3 months because "good Christians don't have premarital sex." In hindsight, something tells me that if this is all I was after, the situation should never have happened to begin with and I should have acted in more maturity.
Then, things didn't go my way and I gave up. Pure and simple - and true to form because I'm a quitter when left to my own devices. I ran as hard as I could away from God for 8 years; after losing a baby, I stopped talking to my ex. As our communication broke down, he began to look elsewhere and from what I understand was quite successful in breaking the marriage vow of fidelity (I do take responsibility though, because I let him down too - and I did it first when I stopped talking). Church, prayer, and worship became too much of a burden so I stopped. I started seeking a life that wasn't ever what I truly wanted, a life of worldly gain no matter the cost to my dignity, my wallet, or my soul. This chase of immorality took me across the North American eastern seaboard and landed me in the city I live in now, nearly homeless on a couple occasions because I was too proud to admit my wrong.
Once here, I lived paycheck to paycheck (and barely able to survive on therapy, charity, and alcohol). I ended up, somehow, in a relationship with a person who had it all together, a person who is a great person (our core beliefs didn't line up but at the time this didn't matter). This person taught me a lot about thinking things through with a more level head, which helped me through my darkest times. He is still one of the most loyal friends imagineable, and I can only hope to be as good a friend to the rest of the people in my life. We went from one extreme of living paycheck-to-paycheck to the other, developing a life of near-excess. We were spending beyond our means on most days until one day, we could manage our spending habits. The spending has always been mostly my doing, as I am admittedly horrible managing finances even though I work in accounting.
It wasn't until we moved and had been settled in for just over a year that things started feeling off balance. Something wasn't right and I knew it. I began to want God in my life again, and my significant other was really uninterested. I was confused and probably needlessly hostile at times, which provoked him to angry/hurt reactions that he never intended. That, paired with the fact that we had both taken each other for granted for a couple years by this point, didn't bode well for us. My only regret in my decision to end that relationship is that I didn't talk more about the moves I made to rectify the situation. By not including him (or my family) in the negative feelings I'd been having, I've opened another can of worms that may be irreparable and I take responsibility for this as well. Only time will tell what happens in the future.
It was around this time that I began to seek God with more of my heart than I ever have. I began praying, reading my Bible, and listening to uplifting music (and singing again, which felt amazing since I had literally not sung in 4 years by this point). Shortly after I rededicated my life to following God, a friend of mine and I started talking and praying together more as well. This was something completely foreign to me in any relationship, platonic or romantic, and I wasn't prepared for how amazing it felt to share this with someone! As my friend and I did these things together, we both noticed a dramatic upswing in our lives. The closer we drew to God, the more we felt God's presence and saw Him move. Our relationship progressed from friendship to dating to engaged/married before we knew it. To hear my now-husband tell it, I've been the answer to prayers he's had since before we knew each other and quite honestly, he's been the same for me. There has never been a question, from March 18th, 2011 onward, that this person is the other (dare I say better) half of me in every way. He is the one person I should have waited for, and I am so happy he's here now.
After all that mouthful, it's time to dive into the part where I realized I need to be humble. This refocus on God has made it necessary to uproot the cause of my tendency to bitterness and quitting. What I've learned is simple - I am FULL to the brim of pride. Still...to this day...I am stuffed with it. However, we are NOT to be this way! God says, in Matthew 23:12 - "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Say what? In essence, for chasing after the world the way I had been, and for doing it with pride in myself and my achievements in my heart - my reward will be failure in the end. None of this "stuff" matters anyway, because we sure don't get to take it with us when we die! In this one moment, it was clear to me just what my wrong thinking has cost, and just why it needs to change now. I had been holding stuff more precious in my life than I'd been holding the One that saved me!
In tears again, it was time to take stock of my life and where it was going. What I learned is that my life's successes boiled down to my job, my abilities, my career and my money becoming the very things I worshipped - all over again. There is a commandment against this too - Deuteronomy 5:7, the second of the Ten Commandments, says "you shall have no other gods before Me." Whoops...did I ever miss the mark! Did God say anything specific about His reaction to this? Yes, in fact, He did - in Leviticus 26:30, as a directive of what God would do to idolators, He said "I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you." Say what? I messed up, and huge.
It's no real surprise, then, why I'd been feeling my life in a tailspin lately. I'd been noticing for the last couple weeks that I'm blue a lot more, and living situations/money situations have been somewhat stressful. It's no coincidence that during this time, I'd been feeling more puffed up (again) in my abilities, and my job, and my money...and neglecting God just a little bit more every day (and yes, selfish prayers for what we can get don't really allow God to move, let alone shine through us). Before I can hope to do anything, I need to be sure that I - and you - get this one point right. God does not honor PRIDE! God does not want us to put anything before Him, and God DOES want our obedience! Therefore, if God wants your obedience, put your pride away now before it's too late, and don't hesitate even for a second to admit when you've been wrong and need God's help.
As for me...Lord, I am so sorry for my actions lately. I know I've done wrong. I know I've been full of pride and it's starting to show. I've been bitter and angry and full of sorrow and tears, and this is not where You need me to be. Please, forgive me. Lord, please let only Your light shine through me. Teach me daily to be a joyful vessel of Your truth on this earth. Every good and perfect gift in our lives come from You, and no one else. I hate the pieces of me that shine through when I don't hold You tightly enough in my heart! Please, take this pride away. Take this selfish spirit away, and fill it instead with You. Please, let there be no doubt who I serve. Father, I love You and will follow You no matter what. Amen.
And as for you, my readers, know that you are loved. May God bless you! Now, let's discuss. Have you had a moment in your life (recently or not) where you've realized that God needed to teach you a lesson in humility? How did you respond?