My pastor’s message this week was about pride: the first of the seven deadly sins; it goes before a fall.
God opposes the proud, tears down the houses of the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
The pastor said pride is the one sin we can easily (and with great gusto) see in others but we can’t see it in ourselves.
As the pastor talked and I scribbled down notes so I could write a column about pride, I remembered an incident from more than 25 years ago when I tried to uproot a tree in our yard.
Aha! I said to myself. That would be a great story to go along with the pastor’s point that one aspect of pride is self-dependence: “I can do it all by myself.”
But then I felt God “opposing the proud,” who, in this case would be me, and I remembered another incident in which I am not the misguided hero of the story, trying to uproot a tree and getting dirty and sweaty and then learning that I, alone, cannot do it.
Instead, God reminded me of a time when my pride was just plain obnoxious.
I’ve told the story before, and each time I do I want to crawl inside a hole.
It was the year I turned 50, which was 18 years ago, and I had lost a lot of weight. I had also discovered the incredible pleasure of looking at myself in mirrors, admiring my weight loss.
That’s bad enough, but it didn’t stop there.
I started writing about it in my Grace Notes column. I was a woman in love — in love with myself.
One day I got an email from an editor in Indiana who passed along a reader’s criticism: “She certainly is stuck on herself.”
That stung, but not enough to register that the reader had spoken the truth.
Instead, it made me angry, and to soothe myself I went shopping and bought a twirly white skirt. When I got home, I wrote about it, weaving in a parable Jesus told about proper wedding attire — and thinking that it was probably the single most clever column I had ever written.
The day the column was in the paper, I followed my husband around the house reading it to him — he kept walking away!
Finally, he told me I was (a) in love with myself and (b) he was tired of hearing about it.
That stung — and he was right.
One time Jesus spit in dirt to make mud, which he rubbed on a blind man’s eyes to make him see.
Jesus didn’t put mud on my eyes, but he opened them nonetheless. In his mercy and grace I saw my arrogance and inflated ego, and when I saw them, I was ashamed.
I still cringe when I remember it.
And yet, I’m grateful. Because God loves me, he shows me my pride, the No. 1 deadly sin.
We can’t see it in ourselves, we often refuse to see it, my pastor said, so God opens our eyes.
He makes those who are blind to their pride see it and welcomes an arrogant sinner’s repentance.
Those who won’t see — well, pride and arrogance have destroyed relationships and even nations.
My pastor said deliverance from pride comes from the gospel.
“You are way worse than you can ever imagine, BUT more loved than you can dream,” he said.
I wish I could say that the twirly white skirt cured me of my pride, but it did not.
Pride is deceitful and cunning and I am easily blinded.
That’s why I need Jesus to help me see.
Nancy Kennedy can be reached at 352-564-2927 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.