I Trouble

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Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. –Romans 12:3 NIV

“I can see!” I emailed several friends after I got new eyeglasses. “No more lugging around a magnifying glass from room to room.”

I hadn’t realized how bad my eyes had gotten since my eye doctor appointment a year earlier. I should have recognized the symptoms—at 58, I’d been down that road before. First I complain the letters on everything from ibuprofen 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 them. 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 lunchmeat. 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 opens my eyes to see.

“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 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 national pride during the Olympics. It’s OK to break out the pictures of your kids and grandkids, 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, filled with clean thoughts and right desires. Amen. (from Psalms 139:23–24; 51:10 LB)

 Read and reflect on Matthew 7:1–5.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons, © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

A Childlike Faith

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And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 18:2–3 ESV

After a great start to the season, my favorite MLB baseball team went from first place to struggling to stay out of last place.

“No wonder they lose,” I grumbled as I listened to a game on the radio. “They keep putting in Vasquez as a closer.”

In a previous game he took the mound in the bottom of the ninth with a 3-run lead, walked three of the eight batters he faced, and gave up two earned runs, all with a grand total of 36 pitches. Yet he eked out the save. I was so upset I posted on Facebook “#notacloser.”

So when they put him in again I firmly believed he’d blow the save.

“Here goes the game,” I muttered.

Felipe came through. Then and in subsequent games. All he needed was someone to believe in him and give him another chance.

When did I become so cynical?

I thought of a recent Little League game I attended. Rain earlier in the day had filled the potholes with water, and there was a big one near where we set up our chairs – just outside the center field fence. You’d think drivers would see the big puddle, the people sitting nearby, and either go around it or through it slowly. But no, several drivers hit it dead center at a good speed, spraying muddy rainwater five feet away.

So I yelled at every driver that splashed through the puddle and gave the “dare stare” to everyone who approached it. I thought DH was going to find someplace else to watch the game. But I just didn’t feel like being nice.

So not like me – being cynical and critical. I’m usually accused of being too nice, too gullible, too patient.

Which got me thinking about cynicism.

Why are adults so cynical?

Life has made them that way. Disappointment, unmet expectations, unfulfilled dreams, squashed hopes, disillusionment – all breed doubt.

We think we’re being wise by being cautious, but, really, are we? Aren’t we just being cynical? Does it have to be that way?

Don’t you miss being a kid? Not bridling your enthusiasm, not restraining your joy. Children readily believe, trust and forgive. They aren’t afraid to hope. They dream big and believe their dreams will come true. They aren’t cynical or critical. They’ll give you a second chance. They’ll laugh at being splashed. After all, it’s only water with a little bit of dirt.

“Unless you turn and become like children,” Jesus said, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Nor will you truly enjoy life. While I can give myself good marks in the faith department, I can’t in life.

Yes, we have bad days, times when we simply don’t feel like putting up and shutting up. But I don’t need to act out my frustration and momentary unhappiness.

I have some work to do.

Renew my childlike faith, Lord – in You and in life. Squash the cynic and critic in me. Give me the courage to unbridle my joy, set my enthusiasm free, and fling my hopes and dreams to the stars that they may soar. Amen.

Read and meditate on Mark 10:13–16.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.