pride, part two . . . or, a sampler of thoughts on arrogance

I’ve written this post no less than six ways. By now it is a chapter for a book, the beginnings of a dissertation.

And since no one wants to read all of that, I’ve settled on a bit of a sampler instead.

* * * * *

Love is not proud.

The word pride in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is also translated puffed up or arrogant. I can readily see how a bloated sense of self leaves no room in a relationship for love. It is entirely consumed by self-image and self-importance and superiority of mind and position.

But arrogance in real-life relationships rarely looks like Gaston stomping around in boots singing his own praises. It’s more subtle, I think . . . and without a chorus. Well, at least not one others can hear.

Consider . . .

I.

There were times when I saw myself as so very superior to my husband: I was not an addict. I was responsible with money. I could get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t tell him lies.

Oh, I knew I had flaws, but they were nothing compared to his.

In earthly terms, I was right. He was wrong.

He didn’t deserve forgiveness, and I was not in need of it.

But that’s the very thing Jesus kept hammering home to the teachers who knew all the things and kept all the rules. None of us is perfect. Not one. And though it was hard, so hard, for me to imagine how it could possibly be, I came to understand that my sin of superiority and pride was every bit as bad as Dave’s addiction. Every bit. And, dare I say this? Even more so. He knew he was wrong. Confessed it regularly to God. I didn’t.

I’ve seen the grace that overflows from someone who has been forgiven much. And the tight-fistedness of one who has been forgiven little. Verses like Luke 15:7 are hard to grasp: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” God loves a repentant sinner, whether we like it or not.

Tight-fisted grace is arrogance, thinly disguised.

II.

Arrogance comes from knowing things. From the top of our column of study, we look down on those who have not yet arrived at our level, or our view.

We fling about superiority of mind, painting opposing viewpoints with broad brush strokes, ceremoniously shaking the dust of a community off our sandals. Claiming to speak the truth in love. Clamoring for seats at a table. Arguing among ourselves over who is the betrayer of grace . . . while Jesus kneels and gently washes our feet asking, Who is greater? The one at the table or the one who serves?*

Knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1), eclipses love and devolves into decisive division. Like bickering brothers in a family. If you like this, then I will hate it. If you call this good, then I will call it bad. If you criticize it, I will praise it.

We are wise in our own eyes. So reactionary.

Our truth-in-love-speak resembles nothing of the gentle, humble kindness of our Lord.

 

III.

Sometimes, arrogance is a cover.

Sometimes, my better than comes from wounds. Maybe yours does, too.

Wounds made by comment, culture, criticism . . . making us self-conscious of appearance, ability, size, personality . . . leaving us with feelings of less than.

Wounds made by trusted friends that were not accompanied by love but rejection. You have done this and therefore we are done.

Wounds made by grown-ups, even now, putting on a face of friendship but gossiping and stirring up trouble behind your back.

Some wounds are so deep they take longer to heal than anyone would dream. Heal to the point of walking again, let alone loving . . .

. . . sometimes, I still cling to the thing that makes me feel better than. I reach for it when I’m hurt or afraid of being hurt. I use it as a weapon.

How is it that we so easily slip into treating others the way we’ve been treated?

IV.

I believe this: there is grace for even the worst offender.

And after years of having the truth ground into my soul, arrogant thoughts of better than quickly dissipate from my mind the moment I recall my own weakness.

But sometimes, knowing my weakness too well is part of the problem . . .

I don’t know when I became such a perfectionist.

Paralyzing perfectionism: the urge to rip it all up and start over and never let it see the light of day: my living room, my writing, my body, my personality, my words, my gifts.

Somewhere, deep in the recesses, my perfectionism becomes a barrier to love.

Can there be an arrogance toward self? Is an arrogance toward self a fear of being seen as less than who we think we are or should be? Is it really, in the end, an insidious sort of pride masquerading as not good enough?

I don’t know.

But I believe God is painting his love over the wounds of my life. The better thans, the less thans, the know-it-alls, and the places where I just can’t yet. Even my procrastinating perfectionism.*

And I believe He does that for you, too.

It’s sort of the point of grace, isn’t it? Arrogance is just another reason we need Jesus.

* * * *

But God is so rich in mercy loved us so much
that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins,
He gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead . . .
And now God can always point to us as examples of how very, very rich his kindness is,
as shown in all he has done for us through Jesus Christ.
Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ.
And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God.
Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it.
It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus . . .
St. Paul, Ephesians 2:4-10

* * * * *

* Luke 22:20-27 and John 13:14

* Procrastinating perfectionist — a term borrowed from Jon Acuff, Quitter

 

 

 

repost: a light between here and there

My Grandma I wrote about in this post last summer passed away today.
She was, and will always be, an example and encouragement to me of a love that endures at a time when I needed it most.

Someday, I will write about that, but tonight, before I tuck myself into bed, I just want to go back to my earliest memories of her and smell those cotton sheets.

* * * * *

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

* * * * *

Thank you, Grandma Barrick.

a light between here and there

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. — Matthew 5:14

When I was a little girl, my parents packed us into their old, red Datsun mini station wagon and traveled north from Denver to Casper.

I don’t know how many times we made that trip to my grandparents’ house, or how many times we drove those hours at night. At eight years old, squished with my brothers in the back seat , the drive (which might be just four hours) seemed an eternity. Even with my dad singing cowboy songs.

Somewhere behind us, the lights of the city disappeared, leaving only black nothing ahead.

Miles and miles of darkness. No highway lights. No inside car lights. No light-up games. We floated through space.

Lone beacons in midnight fields, like bright stars, reached out with comfort  — and questions.

Who would live so far out in the nothing? Wouldn’t they be lonely? Where would they go to school?

Someone chose this solitary place. A rancher, maybe, with a thousand head of cattle. An oilman with a hundred wells. A lineman, quiet and content with the company of tumbleweeds . . .

Finally, we’d reach a rise and see, off in the distance, the white-blue glow of Casper. Almost there. Always, it seems, it was then I would fall asleep.Midland Pennsylvania at night

More than an hour from the first sight of city lights, through town and out again, into the dark countryside once more, was a country school in the middle of nowhere where my grandparents were caretakers.

Noisy vibration of wheels hitting cattle guards jostled me awake. A floodlight on a lonely road marked our destination.

Into the driveway, around the school, we coasted toward light pouring through the windows of my grandparents’ house, inviting us out of the cramped car onto the lawn and into the glow.

I can still smell the cotton sheets of the bed grandma had made up and waiting. Stretching my legs under the covers, I drifted into darkness again — the feel of the road in my limbs as the journey replayed behind closed eyelids.

This quiet home — a light, far from town, a shining dot on a dark landscape — was Grandma and Grandpa’s house. A place of wide open spaces and adventure and cousins and giant sprinklers and stories and jeep rides on scary back roads and arrowhead hunts and a refrigerator full of name-brand soda in cans.

There is a place for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

I wonder how long we will live along this dark highway. . . in the daily-ness of nurturing, guiding, growing, of learning to be faithful in small things.

Because sometimes, I wrestle with the limits of my little light.

Sometimes, I am reduced to flickering – a candle wick bent, weary, drowning in wax. And I begin to envy the power of the luminous city, of the brightness that cannot be hidden. And I become a lamp, out of oil, puffing stinky smoke . . .

Sometimes, I want to pack up and leave the quiet place. To find significance as part of a big thing . . . cars drive past in a hurry from here to there . . . 

But somewhere, in the middle of the night, someone is searching. And a small light will illuminate his steps, even if just one step at a time.

On the journey through darkness, a solitary light marks the way: Keep going, you are almost there.

A solitary light gives comfort:  Traveler, you are not alone.

A solitary light gives courage — It’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere for a very long time.  

Even a solitary light holds back the night. Even a glowing ember can be revived. And a dimly burning wick He will not quench. 

This is the light God gave me.

 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-16

Sometimes a city, set on a hill. Sometimes a lamp, on a stand. Sometimes a flickering candle. But always light. Always and ever dependent on the Father of Lights for filling to fight against consuming darkness.

. . .  there is a purpose for solitary light. A reason to live in the darkness between here and there.

* * * * *

Since through God’s mercy, we have this ministry, we do not lose heart . . . .But we have this treasure, this light, in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:1,6-8) 

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

a dimly burning wick He will not quench. (Isaiah 42:3)

* * * * *

when I fear I have lost my flavor

Sometimes, discouragement knocks hard on your door and it takes everything in you not to invite it in to share a giant piece of chocolate cake.

Sometimes, you let it in. And you eat the cake. And the leftover spaghetti.

Sometimes, discouragement crawls into your bed and keeps it warm while you drag yourself to make breakfast and get kids to school and return to pull the covers over your head and shut out the world.

Sometimes, it sits beside you on the couch and watches brain-sucking cartoons all day while your toddlers run around in their diapers and cowboy boots and stop stinky and goobery in front of your face to wipe away your tears.

Sometimes, discouragement drives you to work, sits uncomfortably in your chair, stares at a blank screen . . .

When you’ve been sick and it’s gone on for a long time and no one has answers.

When you’ve been fighting battles with your child and every conflict throws failure in your face.

When you’ve worked overtime to finally get ahead and come home to a pile of bills that will set you way back.

When you can’t seem to find where you fit and no one invites and no one asks and no one notices.

When you finally take a deep breath only to discover your addict is at it again.

Discouragement knocks hard, relentless.

Discouragement whispers worthlessness and failure in your ear and tells you you can’t.

Discouragement spins a friend’s success or happy post into a jealousy or regret.

Discouragement suffocates in the darkness with questions and tears.

Discouragement chokes out life-giving words and seasons speech with self.

Discouragement tells me I have lost my flavor and am of no good but to be tossed out and trampled.

Can salt be made salty again?

I wonder . . .

When I fear I have lost my flavor, I disappear.

Disappear like Moses — to be alone with God.

Disappear like Jonah — a long shadow of fear, jealousy, envy or discontent has eclipsed joy.

Disappear like a leper — to heal and seek a doctor for a cure.

* * * * *

Sunshine beckons me. 

I lie on the trampoline in the yard, soaking in afternoon light, sifting through sickness, disappointment, hurt, regret. I hear nothing. No words of comfort.

Somewhere below me, the tide is out.

A breeze passes over sun-warmed sand, mud, shells, carrying the sea to me and I breathe deep . . .

One day I will look back on this season. A season of physical breakdown, a season of letting go of a child, a season of wordlessness, a season of discouragement.

But I am not in the looking back.

* * * * *

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16

Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

* * * * *

This morning I remember the thing about discouragement.

How sickness, exhaustion, anger, hurt and loneliness open the door to it.

How it wallows in the past, thrives on lies, heaps on guilt, compares and finds wanting.

How it sucks everything into its mire and drains the world of sunlight and sea-salt air.

How you could drown in it. How you need to be pulled out.

If you are sinking, reach out. If a sinking friend reaches for you, take her hand. Do kindnesses for her. Listen.

And if words are necessary, let them be always with grace, seasoned with salt.

* * * * *

Grace has been shaken over my life.

I am grateful for the one who sits beside me for long hours in a waiting room. For the one who draws me away from my solitude to get some lunch. For the one who shares tears over tea. For the one who brings dinner. For parents who call just to hear my voice. For children who bend down to wrap their arms around me. For a husband who listens in the middle of the night. For a doctor determined to help me get well, starting with removing my gallbladder.

I am grateful for Sarah Young, for Philip Yancey, for Ann VosKamp whose little books have become a permanent fixture on my nightstand, and remind me that a flavorless season is survivable and can become a beautiful and encouraging thing.

I say thanks out loud to God for blessings and ask Him to sift the rocks and dirt from my little bowl of salt.

And then I hear it — the gentle whisper of love I couldn’t hear over the beating on my door.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Are you discouraged? Feel free to comment — anonymously if you wish. And I will pray for you. It will be good to take a little sabbatical from myself.