Friday, January 24, 2014

This Ugly Thing Called Pride

"Now I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the king of heaven, for all His works are right and His ways are just; and those who walk in pride
 He is able to humble."
Daniel 4:37
Christmas is over and I am back in the book of Daniel. The chapter I have sat in since the middle of December is the fourth chapter. It is in part Nebuchadnezzar's testimony on how God humbled him. I think anybody who reads the book of Daniel would conclude that the king of Babylon was one proud dude! 
In his pride, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and didn't just plunder the people, He took vessels of honor out of the house of Jehovah took them to the house of his own god which is a way of declaring that his god was more powerful that Jehovah.
In his pride, he captured young men of royal families of Israel who were the cream of the crop, the  future leaders. They were handsome, wise, full of knowledge and understanding. He took them to his palace and educated (brainwashed) them in the ways of Babylon. He was saying he had the right to hold captive the sons of mothers and fathers who had raised their children right, to hold captive the future leaders of another nation, to try to brain wash believers of Jehovah with religions of a foreign land. By his actions he showed that he measured a man's worth, not by the heart, but by appearances, education, and power.   
In his pride he demanded the impossible. Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream and demanded his best men to recount to him the dream and its interpretation or be put to death. He started to execute them, but  when Daniel gave him the both the dream and its interpretation as Jehovah had revealed it. The king was thankful and canceled the death sentence, but he didn't really like the dream. It had been about a statue of a man, whose parts were made of different elements indicating the different nations that would come to power after Babylon.
In his pride, he built a statue like the one in his dream, but it was only of gold representing his belief that his kingdom would never end, indicating his rejection of Jehovah's sovereignty over Babylon. 
In his pride, he ordered the top leaders, including the ones captured from Israel, to bow down to worship the statue or be cast into a blazing fire. Three of Daniel's friends refused and found themselves bound and cast into a furnace hot enough to kill the men tossing them in. In his pride, the king watched as the men were cast in. But what he saw as he gazed into the fire began to chisel away that ugly pride of his. Jehovah removed bindings and stood in the fire with His men until the shocked king had the presence of mind to call them out. 
In his pride, the king declared blessings over Jehovah and prohibited anyone from speaking evil of the God of the Israelites and promoted the men, but he refused Jehovah for himself. Thirty years later and another frightening dream is interpreted by Daniel, allowing Daniel to advise the king to repent of his sin, to practice righteousness, and to show mercy to the oppressed so that Jehovah might lengthen Nebuchadnezzar's rule. A year later he was still full of himself. In pride, he proclaimed that all he had was from his own hand and was for his own glory.
Jehovah had finally had enough of the "great" king who worshipped himself and did what he did only for his own glory. Jehovah stripped him of his kingdom, his authority, his sanity, and then drove him to live among beasts in fields where his hair grew long and his nails looked like bird claws. There he stayed until he came to his senses and was ready to acknowledge the sovereignty of Jehovah God and give Him the honor and praise He was due. The king, humbled by God, was restored.  
As I read this account several things stood out. First, pride is self absorption at its worse. Nebuchadnezzar's self absorption was because he thought he was so great. Mine pride surfaced in a different form, self absorption of a negative kind. I thought I was such a rotten person I shouldn't take up space. Regardless of how it surfaces, self absorption blinds me to what God gives, what God is doing, what God is doing in me, and what God is doing through me. When I am self absorbed, He doesn't get the glory He deserves, because I ether glorify myself or spend my time wallowing in the mire of rottenness. Self absorption tends to blind me to his radical love, His multitude of gifts, His outlandish grace, and His continuous love whispers--you know those things He places in my life to remind us of His continued presence in my know the kind words of a friend, the smile of grandchild, the forgiveness of a wounded spouse, the ample provisions, the newly painted sunrise, the diamonds sparkling on the ocean top at sunset, or the joy from His written Words. 
Second, self absorbing pride is unattractive. As I read the Nebuchadnezzar's story, I did not find my self drawn to him in any way. In watching how he conducted himself, I wasn't even drawn to his riches. I knew in my heart of hearts that there was nothing he had that would satisfy the deep longings of my heart and nothing he had would bring me joy. Why would it? He owned it all and he wasn't satisfied and conquered other nations, taking captive the best of the best and trying to convert them to the worship of idols. Nor would anyone be drawn to me or to Jehovah when I am wallowing in the rottenness of my imperfection; That is because all others can see is misery, not the love, not my redemption story, and not my grace filled life. 
Third, self absorbing pride can cause a lot of unhappiness. Pride turns desires into demands,  demands into expectations, and unmet expectations causes anger either aimed at others or myself in depression and focus of my rottenness. Pride causes me to miss the blessings of the present by causing me to focus on the past, keeping me stuck on what should have been, causing bitterness to take root in my heart and keeps me bound to the past through an unforgiving heart. Pride can also keep me from enjoying the present by trying to control all things leavings me powerless, looking for offenses, and overwhelmed by an anxious heart.
Fourth, as a believer I thought it funny that Nebuchadnezzar thought he could thwart the plans of God by building a statue. But maybe I did that in smaller ways when I was a new believer and a mom of small children, demanding perfection from myself, my husband, my kids, and my friends. It was pride that was at the root of my toxic shame...that shame that caused me to wallow in the rottenness. Pride in me wanted others to see me as a "good Christian," a perfect wife, and a awesome mother. Pride didn't want other's to look too close for fear the chinks in my fa├žade, the unhealed wounds in my heart, and the lacking skills of this wife, mother, and friend would be obvious and expose my shame. 
Lastly, I am thankful God is able to humble the most prideful hearts. He did it for the King of Babylon, and He did it for me. I didn't have to eat grass or grow claw like nail, but the journey was just as long, hard, and sometimes painful. At times I thought I would dissolve into a million pieces, but Jehovah was there delicately stitching old wounds, closing every hole left by His excision of sin and pride, and redirecting my path to a path of blessing. 
It was so freeing to grasp that grace is not just about salvation, it is also about living. It's about setting aside my rights, my desire for justice my way, letting go of the past, of abusers, and trusting Jehovah's work in their lives and His desire to bring beauty out of my rotten places. Humility is about letting go of that part of me that wants to be perfect and learning to live a more transparent life where mercy is visible and having a home where grace gloriously displayed. It is about giving up my demand to be loved and accepting the responsibility of learning to love well and to live loved. Humility is about resting in Jehovah's sovereignty and not worrying or trying to control my tomorrows. It about living fully in the here and now, enjoying life, people, and most of all enjoying Jehovah and His great love. It's about living in such away that my invisibleness isn't a mask, but a conscious decision to let others see Jesus in me.        

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!