Where Our Security Lies Part 1: Pride and Identity
If you have been reading this column, you may recall my article in November about my mission trip. And, last month, something really interesting happened! I got invited back by that church to a winter retreat! Now, my reaction was completely different from last time. Instead of feeling confident and excited, I felt dread and worry. I asked my parents if I could please, please, please not go. Although they were very much for the trip and all I could learn during it, they left the decision to me. And, I prayed about it, thought about it, and basically pleaded God to give me a legitimate reason not to go. I couldn’t find one. All I found was fear. So, I crossed my fingers and regretfully told my parents that I wanted to go. Or rather, that I would go anyway. Not much had changed. I still did not connect with the majority of the people there. They still had their cliques and culture. However, the retreat taught me so much about my relationship with God. And, I was exalted.
We all fear things. Currently, as a senior in high school, I fear the results of my school years. I am afraid of not getting into a good college. I am afraid of not being remembered. I am afraid of not getting good results in my speech and debate competitions. And, I fear that I will regret my high school years. This fear has caused me to place my identity in what college I get in to, in what people think of me, and in what results I get. Why though? Why did I define myself in that way? Because of my pride. I prided myself with my “good” grades, with my “friendly” behavior, and with my “amazing” accomplishments. That is who I was. Smart, kind, and talented. Until I wasn’t. As I was looking through my Bible, however, I was convicted by a simple yet profound parable.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
Most of you have probably heard of this parable. When we think about Pharisees, we remember the haughty prayers that they prayed. Here, those prayers are compared with the prayer of a tax collector. Growing up, I didn’t think much of this parable. It was one of the “weaker” parables in my mind. But, when looking at it again, I saw relevant to my life it is.
In those times, Pharisees were the “good guys”. You know, they were deacons and elders at their churches. They tithed the ten percent and followed the law. The tax collectors were the definite “bad guys”. They rode around hurting people by stealing and lying and being looked down upon as the people no one wanted to be around. With this mindset, the Pharisee’s prayer even begins to make sense to me. In fact, it is a prayer that I have been praying for a while.
“God, I am basically a good girl (because of You). I don’t cuss or hurt people. I read my Bible and go to church. Unlike — and —. (This is all because of Your grace in my life). But, I am really a good girl.”
There is nothing wrong with that prayer, right? I didn’t think so until stuff started going wrong. Until I started to see myself as a girl who also did something terrible. Who cheated. No, I didn’t break any rules or go against any codes. I just used a situation just to help me win. I sold out. And, when I ended up not winning, I thought about it. I couldn’t look at myself as that good girl anymore. I hurt the people around me with that situation. I basically cheated! I felt like a tax collector. And then, I saw the tax collector’s prayer. And, I prayed it. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I was a terrible person. And the more I looked into my life, the more I saw my failures and weaknesses. I was horrified.
Jesus’ words about the tax collector in Luke 18:14 soothed my soul. “This man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [ESV]
Whaaaaaat? The “good guy” was the good guy no longer. The “bad guy” was being looked at as good. I had exalted myself. I sure got humbled. Now, I had to humble myself and so I was exalted through Christ.
That was what happened on the trip. The first time around, I was humbled. The second time around, I felt exalted. I went into the trip feeling uncertain and unimportant. I came out learning so much and growing and feeling exalted in so many ways. Not because people had noticed me. Not because I had achieved something great. But because God had noticed me and had helped me be part of a beautiful youth retreat!
So, where does your security lie? In your pride? Or, in this God who can truly give you an unshakable identity? I hope to find myself placing my security in Him and Him only.