Proverbs 13:18 (the message)
Refuse discipline and end up homeless; embrace correction and live an honored life.
This past weekend I had a really great conversation with my friend Courtney. She is a blessing to me and her words are so often encouraging and soothing to my heart. Thank God for friends, true friends, who will speak the truth and remind us about God’s Word and who God is in our lives and circumstances! I have been blessed with a few friends like this and I would choose to hear their words of truth that may sting a little over candy-sweet words from someone who believes friendship is always agreeing with my point of view. But you know what? I have to be a person who gives those close to me permission to speak the truth. I have to want to hear the truth. Be someone willing to embrace correction.
I have battled an issue of pride lately. God has found ways to show me this! As He has shown me I have asked Him for forgiveness (as well as from my husband). Here is what I know, because I have lived it: Doing things God’s way can feel like chewing glass. At first. Obeying God’s Word and the leading of His Spirit in my life will eventually require the death of my pride. A surrender–and not just the kind we sing about–but the kind that hurts. A surrender of my right to be right. My right to have my needs met the way I think they should be and the way I feel I deserve. Personally, I’ve grown battle weary. It’s a lot of work fighting for your rights.
The thing about all of this is that God truly wants to meet my needs. And He has given me needs that only He can meet! In the end there is a choice to be made. In the end every one of us has to choose our pain.
I don’t remember where I heard this idea. It was from a guest speaker at the church I grew up in, I think. But as Courtney and I talked on Saturday, the idea came flooding back. Goodness. See, either I can choose the pain of putting my pride to death, letting go of my rights (which seriously feels like chewing glass) or I can choose the pain of the consequences that come with my refusal to do things God’s way. And make no mistake, when you long for, yearn and hunger for wholeness in your own life as well as your marriage and family, you will eventually come to this crossroads. Peace and joy and wisdom in a family cannot be conjured up or contrived by human efforts. It only comes from God.
Now, you might be easy to get along with. You may be married to someone who is easy to get along with and if so, wow. Congrats and I mean that. Smile. As for me and full disclosure, I am not always easy to get along with and neither is my husband. Even as I sat rocking on my deck this morning I told the Lord, You know my default is to be kind of spoiled and want things to be easy. The only way I will be any different is through You.
I’ve been here before. This place of rock hard surrender. It’s painful, but not just painful because I want Kumbaya, but painful because I’ve been around this mountain before and I know the freedom that is possible. And I know the way there is painful. A hard breaking of my pride. A place, a moment, when God asks something of me that will truly be humbling. I don’t mean just repentance or saying the right words to my husband or sharing honestly on this blog. At a different time those things may have been a way to truly humble myself and let the pride break, but He knows my heart. And He knows all about my particular stronghold of pride and how to truly break its vice grip on my life. What that will take each time. How it will look for me in that moment.
You know how we can know we are having one of those moments with God? A thought will come, a whisper across our heart asking something of us, and we instantly cringe. Our heart rate picks up. Palms grow sweaty and most importantly, we try to reason our way out of it. Telling ourselves, this is not God asking this of me. It’s probably just me. We refuse Him and then the moment passes. Oh, He’s a gentleman. Holy Spirit is not a manipulator. He does not force us. As the moment passes, we sense deep within that we just passed up an opportunity for God to set us free had we taken a deep breath and surrendered. Chosen the pain of crucifying our pride.
Alas, we can take heart because God will revisit our hearts with another moment, another chance to obey and humble ourselves. Hopefully this time our hunger for peace and freedom will move us to pick up nail and hammer. To really put our weight into it and swing hard.
Pride is a vice grip around our hearts and minds. It kills marriages, friendships and families. Sucks the life from our God-inspired dreams. Pride, our right to our rights, is a cold companion. The pain of loneliness, of loss, the pain of what we want to give our children but can’t seem to deliver, the pain of a withering future is suffocating. Often we feel stuck. Like we cannot get around the screaming voice of what we do and don’t deserve. And you know what? We are stuck. We will never break loose of that vice grip until we are so desperate we surrender our rights to God. The next time God asks something of us, often so small in reality but massive to the prideful heart, we breathlessly and with trembling heart say yes and move. Choose our pain and begin to feel the pride break off of our minds and hearts. The screaming voice is turned down long enough to hear God’s voice…long enough to take a second swing…deliver another blow…nail down the arch-enemy of the ages: human pride. Chew the glass that in turn cleans out our hearts, scrapes away the filth and grime that accumulates every single day we choose our rights over God’s way. Oh I know, even as I write, this goes against the grain. It bristles. But there is no other way. If we want the blessings of Creator God in our marriages and families and futures, we must grow willing to do life His way. Choose in those heart-racing, sweaty palm moments to trust that He can do in us, wants to do in us, what we will never do ourselves if we only choose His way. And His way so often starts out painful to our flesh, or selfish and sinful nature. Oh yes, this is it. Choosing our pain. We must realize there will be some pain but we have the opportunity before us to determine what kind and what will come of it.
The good news is that in these glass chewing moments of humbling ourselves in obedience, we find a weight lifted. Our lungs can fully expand and breathe in freedom. It hurts for just a moment but then comes sweet relief and peace and this becomes our medicine. If I want peace and relief from the battle of maintaining my pride and my rights, I will take my medicine. Humility and trusting in a God who truly loves me is the prescription. Doing life His way, even when it feels like chewing glass, is the only way to live in the promise of His blessing on my life, my marriage, my family and my future.
My moment came again yesterday. The first time, a couple of weeks ago, I let it pass. And I almost did again yesterday, but I sensed what was happening…God was nudging me and the choice was again set before me: hold onto your pride or humble yourself before Me. Choosing my pain. The pain of killing off the pride holding me back or the pain of walking away from my moment with it still squeezing the life out of me. As my moment passed, a bulk of weight was lifted from my heart and mind. Enough to spur me on to further obedience in this area of my life. I knew that only God could do that. And He can only do that as I choose to obey and surrender my rights to Him. My rights are safe with Him, you know. He will take care of me and in learning to let Him do so, I can care for others more deeply and freely, with less and less of those prideful, I better get what I need out of this, strings attached.
It’s a journey. Like I said, I’ve been around this mountain before and no doubt will visit again. But when we let our pride shatter, we begin to live in the weightless freedom of obedience. In obedience and surrender we are afforded an amazing and glistening glimpse of Who He is. This is the beauty of experiencing God so personally, we are drawn back to Him again and again. We have the opportunity to grow and change as we trust Him and embrace His correction.
We choose our pain. What lives and what dies in our lives.
Psalm 51:16-17 (the message)
Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.