Last week a friend involved with intercity ministry posted a tribute to his wife on Facebook that pierced my heart with its beauty. As I read Jason's following words of admiration, I was struck with the power that resides within the spirit of humility. His tribute included a photo of Jen with her arm around a young boy, smiling at him with a look of genuine love that exposes the priceless riches of her gentleness and grace:
Pride is skillful enough at masquerading itself as the curator of all things strong that we can easily be deceived into believing that humility is weak. But pride only offers an illusion of power and a facade of control. The very nature of pride is bound by fear and uncertainty. Pride is a sham that makes us insecure addicts of protection, willing to feed on the crumbs of petty relational hurts just to get a fix.
It takes power to lovingly look into the eyes of a bully who has pained the heart of a child we cherish. It takes control to restrain a response of retaliation to the one who has inflicted a wound at the deepest level of our affection. And it takes love to energize that power and control for the benefit of the perpetrator of that pain. This power. This control. This love. It's the priceless gift of humility that is only found in the death of self and in the life of a Suffering Savior.
I'm thankful for the privilege of helping to bear the heartache of many who find themselves in unresolved relational conflict, but it always grieves me when I know it's conflict that could enjoy restitution through the power of humility. The stories I've listened to in response to this article alone would be enough to prove that pride leaves us faltering out of control in our grasp for security. It's a grasp that sets us on a path of destruction, one that has us pilfering peace in our hunger for power and protection. It's a grasp for security that's obtained at the expense of others, an expense that in return costs us the freedom of our soul.
We are all prone to trouble our minds with the sin that resides without us to the point that we overlook the sin that resides within us. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" has always been a favorite story of mine. I love the irony of Prince Prospero's foiled attempt to avoid the plague by hiding with his wealthy nobles in his abbey of safe and superior splendor. Consumed with smug assurance of immunity to threat beyond the walls of his fortress, he remains oblivious to the threat that resides behind its walls. Duped by the disguised disease, he and his subjects dance themselves to death at a masquerade ball saturated with the stench of pretense.
Pride is one of sin's favored deceptions, masquerading as life when it's actually death. It destroys relational health in marriages, families, friendships, and ministries. It kills the spirit of the Body, leaving us momentarily feeling powerful and in control. But it's not real power and it's not real control. Swaggering bravado, a flattering tongue, braggadocio, self-promotion: These are only masks of power. Cold shoulders, aloof silence, refusals to apologize, failures to forgive: These are only masks of control, masks of false expression that hide weakness and fear.
I don't like being duped by pride's masquerade. I don't like how it preys on my selfishness and insecurity. I don't like that it leaves me grasping for protection instead of freely loving and fully forgiving. I don't like how it has me closing my heart instead of opening my arms. And I hate how it has me cruelly saying things that I know will be hurtful and callously not saying things that I know will be healing. I despise the fact that my selfish pride is so stinkin' prone to rear its ugly head on the throne of my heart. It's an imposter of power and it loves chaining me to my stubborn self that rebels against its own death.
I despise it enough to praise God for his painful purification of grace. I can't help but to marvel at His love that keeps patiently purging me of myself. I am a believer in the power of humility enough to praise Him for every sorrow and relational hurt that He has so mercifully used to bend my arrogant knee. I can give testimony to the fact that there's nothing that compares to the freedom that's experienced when we're brought to the end of ourselves. It's a place of sweet control ruled by a love that isn't our own. If you are facing relational pain that is bringing you to your knees, in your brokenness praise God for His gift of immeasurable grace and love to you! Even if He seems oh so far away and uncaring, He is there and He loves you.
I yearn for a humble spirit that has me dwelling in the power of nothingness all the days of my life. But unfortunately, more of me keeps bouncing back like a bad cat with nine lives. How I long for that day when I will finally be done with myself. Done with my pride, done with my sin, done with me.
And by the way, just keep it to yourself if you muttered amen after reading that "done with me" comment. My husband is notorious for ruining my most sincere moments of repentance with spontaneous amens of joy. It only makes this cat want to spring back to life and claw at him. But I know he just can't help himself. My expressions of humility make him that happy. In fact, now that I think about it... I've been looking for the perfect Christmas gift for him. Hmmm. If I can shed my pride enough, maybe I can wrap myself in humility and just sit under the tree in nothingness. Oh nah. I forgot. This is about refusing to give humility a bad wrap.