“I can see!” I emailed several friends this week. “No more lugging around a magnifying glass from room to room.”
I hadn’t realized how bad my eyesight had gotten since my eye doctor appointment a year ago. I should have recognized the symptoms—at 58, I’ve been down this road before. First I complain that the letters on everything from medicine bottles to coupons to nutrition labels are too small. “How do they expect people to read such tiny letters?” I grumble. Over time, I gradually realize the problem is not with “them,” but with me.
But still I was amazed, when I got my new eyeglasses, how clearer the letters were in my daily devotional booklet, on my computer screen, and even my own handwriting. Ever try to write with a pen in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other? I don’t know how many emails I sent with misspellings and typos because I couldn’t see. I honestly hadn’t realized how bad my eyes really were.
Now I know.
I’m the same way with sin. First I deny I have a problem. I haven’t murdered anyone or cheated on my income taxes. One time I even went back into the grocery store when I realized the checkout person didn’t charge me for a package of lunch meat. I was pretty proud of myself that day. Almost broke my arm patting myself on the back.
But sin is subtle, sneaky. Like the envy I thought I didn’t have until God revealed it to me. Like the pride He’s shown me this week.
“I can’t be proud, Lord,” I protest.
I remind Him of how I’ve stopped fishing for compliments and how well I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut or add “Lord willing” or “praise God” to anything that sounds like I might be boasting. I jog His memory (like it needs jogging) about how I do things for others more and expect them to do things for me less.
“Look how far I’ve come, Lord,” I say once I’ve bored Him with my goody two-shoes list.
But look how far you have to go.
And then it’s His turn to remind me—of the times I say, “Don’t those idiots know they’re supposed to turn on their headlights when it’s snowing/raining/foggy?” Or when I complain about drivers who don’t use turn signals, abuse the right-turn-on-red law, run red lights, don’t come to a complete stop at stop signs, don’t stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the street (especially if I’m the pedestrian), or blast me with their high beams. It’s like I’m a good Christian everywhere but behind the wheel.
Lurking in me is a critical spirit that shows itself when I judge others. They might be wrong, but, like the Good Book says, I’ve got to take the log out of my own eye first.
There’s a fine line, I’ve learned, between pride and humility. Not a gulf, not a chasm, as we so often think. But a sneaky, subtle, sometimes invisible line that only the magnifying glass of God’s Word and the updated eyeglasses of His Holy Spirit can reveal.
Not all pride is sinful. It’s OK to have pride of country, of accomplishment, or family—note the national pride the past two weeks during the Olympics. It’s OK to whip out Grandma's Brag Book and to plaster a cling-on to your vehicle displaying the name of your little All-Star.
My mother never bragged about me. Maybe that’s why I have such a problem with pride. With being tempted to think of myself more highly than I ought. With denying that I have a problem with pride.
Where does pride cross the line from being honorable to sinful?
When pride focuses on self and becomes self-serving and blossoms into conceit, egotism, judgmentalism and selfish ambition. It’s eye-opening to look up the synonyms of these words.
But, when we’re ready, God works in and with us to pluck out the root of pride so we won’t have so much “I” trouble.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires. Amen. (Psalms 139:23–24; 51:10 LB)
Special-Tea: Read Matthew 7:1–5