Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Power (and Agony) of Pride

Just last week I read an article about a newborn baby who was found in a cardboard box in a suburban neighborhood outside Philadelphia. Just hours old and with its cord still attached, it was left somewhere that, presumably, the mother hoped it would be found. The journalist writing the story speculated on why this parent wouldn't have taken advantage of the safe haven laws and dropped the child at a fire or police station or the hospital.  Of course, I began to speculate too. And to be frustrated. And, ultimately, to turn to pride.  I, of course, would never do such a thing.  I, of course, cannot even fathom that someone else could do such a thing.  I, who have dealt with three years of infertility, deserve the pregnancy that was clearly so unwanted by this other mother. I, I, I.

These stories usually serve to throw me into a bit of a moil. To ask questions about justice and fair play and God's love. A wise man recently asked me how I was feeling about God's love for me in this struggle and I answered that I wasn't struggling with his love as much as his justice. He pointed out that they were pretty much indistinguishable. Ouch.  So, as my soul has been chewing on that, I stumbled across this story and immediately felt all my justice nerve endings prick up. I began to believe that deserve I something. That I, more than someone else, am good or right or better.  And that I don't have the capacity for neglect or irrationality that that birth parent who left his or her child in a box has.  I began to believe again that I can somehow earn something in this life. Somehow make myself into a person who deserves something good.  And that, my friends, is a dangerous thing.

Many of us have heard something along the lines of the following phrases: "You guys really deserve this. You're good people." Or maybe the similar but opposite sounding, "You don't deserve what you're going through. It's not fair."  And although I would say on the surface that I don't agree with the type of statement that connects my situation to how well I've behaved, my heart often acts like I do and even probably yearns for it to be true because it feels controllable. Wouldn't it be easier if I could just earn my way to having the life I want?  Act a specific way, believe a specific thing and be rewarded?  

The reason this way of thinking ends up being so dangerous is because I begin, again, to rely on myself. I begin to think that I am good, that my default person is unselfish and deserving of all the good in life that I long for.  I begin to pridefully think of myself as better.  And I think of the world as this divided place, where the good people deserve good things and the bad people deserve nothing.  On my worst days of believing this, I even believe the bad people deserve bad things.  And then, when I've been "good" and things don't turn out the way I hoped, I'm thrown once again into disappointment and blame.  Aren't I good enough? Haven't I done enough? What did I do wrong? I, I, I yet again. 

Some people have suggested that I just avoid these kinds of news stories altogether but like most people I tend to be drawn to stories of tragedy in the media and, sadly, they just aren't hard to find.  So, rather than choosing avoidance in this particular case, I think the better strategy would be to let God make this a point of change for my soul.  To help me read articles like that and rather than reacting in judgment and pride, to ask Him to help me see that mother through his eyes. To see the desperation that led her to make that choice, to wonder about whether she would even have known about the safe haven laws and to see the care in her decision to wrap the child in a blanket and leave him somewhere he'd be found quickly so he could survive like he did.  And to see myself in God's eyes, as in just as much need as anyone else of a God who is loving, forgiving and gracious when I don't deserve it and who patiently sticks with me even when I act like I do deserve what I've been given by Him.

Hopefully that view would help me to more faithfully boast in Him and less often resort to the agonizing "I" that so often plagues me.  


  1. "I" statements often plague my thoughts as well. The root of those statements are often my heart telling me I deserve something instead of recognizing my position before God and that I do not deserve any of the good gifts that He has given me.

  2. So true! None of us deserves God's grace. Not one. It was lovely to see you today. :-)