I am a leg man…always have been. The way the leg reaches up to the thigh, succulent and firm and is, all at once, gone. Man, I love legs–especially when they’re fried. I know they’re bad for me…dark meat…fried. But they are delicious.
Wait. When I said I was a “leg man,” where did your mind go? We both know–and you should confess.
Anyway…I had stopped by the grocery store where they make the best fried chicken. I asked the guy behind the counter for six legs and four wings (if you can’t have a leg, a couple of wings will do). And there was the onset of tragedy. He couldn’t find six legs. With tear-drenched cheeks, I said, “That’s OK, I’ll just take a couple more wings.” As he wrapped up the box, he said, “There’s four legs and six wings.” I know his grammar wasn’t perfect, but I had chicken!
I made my way to the cashier–my heart was heavy, but at least there were four legs.
Now, the chicken packer, in an efficiency exercise, had put the legs and wings in the same box, with a price sticker for each of the two different chicken cuts on top of the one box.
As the cashier rang up my chicken, she scanned just one of the price stickers. When I realized this, I said, “I think you missed one of the stickers.” After she confirmed the miss, she scanned the other sticker and I paid full price for my meal. As I was swiping my debit card, I waited for the words…but they never came.
I had expected her to say, “Thanks for being honest,” or, “I appreciate you being honest.” But…nothing. I had done the right thing and naturally expected some affirmation for my $5.31, chicken-based honesty (the $5.31 sticker is the one she had missed). But, no…there was no praise for me. No commendation of my sterling character. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.
Trudging to my car, I tried to put my finger on what irked me. Sure, the cashier hadn’t acknowledged my honesty but it was, in fact, only $5.31. Then I realized that the cashier’s failure to take notice of my exemplary behavior had swatted my most sensitive spot: my pride. I had done something I thought worthy of praise and glory (or at least a little gratitude) and there had been none. My ego had been poised for a little stroking but stroked it was not. Pride had waylaid me once more.
God’s ongoing project with me is this matter of pride. C.S. Lewis called pride “The Great Sin.” In Mere Christianity, he said, “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind,” and Lewis was right. At least in my case, it is indeed pride that does me in.
I can find so many ways to feel slighted because people don’t know me or recognize my gifts or use me or listen to me or agree with me or marvel at my wisdom. I marvel at my wisdom. Why doesn’t anyone else seem to see it? The world I inhabit is so “me” intensive–so selfie centric. In everything, it seems, I am prone to ask why there is no spotlight on me, rather than directing the spotlight toward God.
I am in what feels like an extended period of uselessness…waiting to see what (if anything) God has next in store on the teaching/pastoring front. And, because I am sidelined, I am getting an intensive in pride awareness. Every time I see or hear or read about someone else’s ministry efforts, pride tells me to envy. Each issue of every Christian publication I read is pride’s sucker punch–raising my awareness that I am not as wonderful as I think I am–that I am (apparently) completely unnecessary in the Kingdom. While I have written elsewhere that “we are all just penciled in,” it is a comeuppance to realize that the “we” includes “me.”
Because even though my “awareness quotient” is way up, my ability to hold my pride in check is still flat lined on the spiritual heart monitor. Pride paralyzes my desire to see God at work in others and then pulverizes my capacity to celebrate His wonderful work in them. From the sidelines, it is oh so easy for prideful me to say, “I could do that better.” Pride excludes the idea that celebration of God’s work (through whomever He chooses), is part of the joy of Christian living. Pride crowds out my very consciousness of God.
“In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4).
Pride is the seedbed of so many other sins. Once pride takes hold, other sins are poised to go viral in my soul. Holding pride in check is such a slippery proposition. Once I think I’ve put it in its place, I then pride myself on having put it in its place.
It has occurred to me that this awareness exercise may be a purposeful part of the reason for this ministry “timeout”–that perhaps God is intentionally using this period to wring the pride from my soul. It does not seem to be working. I know, for example, that some kindhearted soul will likely commend me for this blog post. I will say (to them), “Aw shucks; thanks,” I will say (to myself), “It was quite good, wasn’t it.” Sigh…back under pride’s sway once more.
“Lord, lead me to the place of genuine humility…not self-noticing false humility…but other-celebrating and Christ-glorifying genuine humility. Lead me to the place where the only opinion that matters to me is that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Oh…and by the way, the chicken packer had missed packing one of the four promised chicken legs–there were only three legs. So I actually paid for more chicken than I got. Does God have a sense of humor or what?
© 2015, All rights reserved. Scriptures from the New International Version (Zondervan).