The Pride Is High

Yard work is not my thing. Some people I know find it relaxing to dig around in the dirt, pulling weeks, mowing the lawn. For me, it just reminds me of the curse that God put on the ground at the fall. Thanks Adam, I have to pull weeks AGAIN! It just brings me no joy, every time I start to do yard work I feel like “I just did this, and nothing looks any better.”

Yet, I am determined to win the battle of the weeds and so I found myself outside on three consecutive days off, working myself until dehydration to try to make things look presentable. At least I got the chance to catch up on my podcasts. It was while pulling a dead palm tree out of the ground by the roots that I listened to a guy named Donal Miller. He is an author and is trying to enlighten the church as to the impact fathers have on the family.

His own story is one of fatherlessness, and he was briefly describing the hurdles in his own life growing up without a dad. During the conversation, he stated that “if you are going to become strong, it is necessary that you first face your own crap.” Since journeying to a place of relational strength (I say relational because I am, after all, pulling palm tree out of the ground), sorry, since journeying to a place of relational strength is my present direction, Miller’s statement got me thinking about my own situation.

Why is it that I wasn’t able to begin the process of returning to biblical strength earlier? Looking back, I see that my core issue was pride. One of the ways that my pride manifested itself is that I didn’t think that I had any issues to look into. I had a dad and mom who loved me. I’m a pretty nice guy. What problems? So, when I experienced relational stress in my marriage I naturally attributed it to my wife. I wanted what I wanted out of marriage. Yet I was not receiving fulfillment. My pride created the opening and the more distance that my wife and I put between us caused that opening to get wider and wider.

Another way pride showed itself was that as things were not going the way they should, I didn’t want anyone to know. I wore a mask of got-it-togetherness for all to see. Sad story, about a week before I could bear it no longer there was a night of prayer at the church. A time for people to come and receive prayer or pray for others. At the end of the evening, in my anguish, I approached a friend and colleague and asked him to pray for me. I was very nebulous about my request, just that I felt like everything was falling apart. My friend responded, before praying, by saying “you don’t need prayer, you should be praying for me.” Sadly, even in my anguish, there was a significant part of me that was satisfied by the effectiveness of my mask. I was fooling those closest to me even as I was flushing the toilet of my life. Remarkable and sick. Yet I thought I was the one without the problems.

Yet another way pride got the best of me was with my attitude of “I can handle this.” Not only was I not letting anyone into my world, the boundaries and lines that I had clearly defined for myself I was stepping up to and dancing on top of. Without people close to me that could see the real me, who could understand my real pain and guide me, I had no accountability. Boundaries are good. But, boundaries without accountability are just suggestions. Without accountability and in a hurting state, stepping up to the boundaries had no pain or consequence. It was easy to blur the lines. Rather than boundaries that were clearly defined, my mind began to reason that “I can handle this, it won’t get too far.” I could have told anyone else that this was a stupid way to live, but pride led to entitlement which let to justification which let to the fall.

Never did I set out to become a pastoral cliche. It was never my original intent to mock God, destroy my ministry, and cause widespread pain. At some level, I was trying to address my pain. While God was seeking to enlarge my soul, mature my walk with Him, and bring me to a place of utter dependence, I was seeking a remedy for my pain. In my pride, that was all I could see. Mix in a little bit of the view that my circumstance was a reflection of God’s love for me and that my performance was all that mattered to Him and once the door was open or once the boundary was crossed, it was easier and easier to stay on the other side.

All along, God was trying to break me, yet I resisted and resisted and would not let him. Pride. The trap of performance. Looking for approval. Wanting to be significant. This was my way of resisting the love of God and his desire to discipline me as a son. Like so many characters in the Bible I was going my own way and God was trying to set me squarely on the narrow path. An old Tom & Jerry that I watched as a kid (and that my daughter loves) has one of the characters saying to another that there are two ways to do something “my way or the hard way.” I can attest that I definitely chose the hard way. Now I feel broken. Now I understand God’s love and am coming to understand more and more dependence.

I am thankful for second chances and for God’s perseverance. He was not going to give up on me. Even when I was giving up on myself, He was banging on the door loudly. I could run, but I couldn’t hide. My pride causes me to wrestle with God, quite literally, for several months. But, as is always the case, God was the victor. Jacob had his limp as a result of his bout with God. My limp is emotional. I hope that, as I get healthy and make the journey to biblical, masculine strength, God is able to use my story and my forgiveness to change lives.

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