Shedding Self-Importance

Bryan & Lynn, Still learning to be servants

“I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man.”  D.L. Moody


April, 2000

Shortly after Lynn and I were accepted by Kachemak Bay Christian Center to be their pastor, we traveled to California to be with family for a few weeks.  On our return to Alaska we drove from Anchorage to our home in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula.  I could hardly wait to jump in and be a real pastor. It was my dream, and God had “groomed” me for this moment!

As we drove into Homer I noticed the marquee on the movie theater.  It read, “Congrats to Bryan and Abi”.  I immediately stopped the car to gawk in amazement.  I was flabbergasted.  I suddenly felt a warm flush of self importance.  Homer was recognizing me as a pastor, as well as ABI, the Bible school in town that I had been teaching at, also in Homer.

I was delighted and duly impressed with how enlightened my town had become in recognizing me since my trip ‘outside.’.  I actually drove around the block to take in this wonder and took another look.  I was completely taken in by this marquee.  My pride took over and I felt invincible.  Words would pour off my lips and my little town would be guided by my spiritual brilliance.  I felt a warm surge of “heavenly” authority.

About two weeks later I picked up the local newspaper.  As I paged through I came across an announcement for a wedding for someone named Bryan and Abby.  I suddenly pieced it together.  Abby had been an employee at that movie theater before she got married!  The management had put this message on their behalf.

Immediately the Lord jolted me back into reality.  My arrogance and pride drained from me.  I felt like a pompous ass.  I had so inflated myself, thinking I was so impressive and important that the crash devastated me.  I was not as awesome as I thought I was.  I was embarrassed by how easily I was led into this spiritual trap of self-importance.

The Bible has a great deal to say about pride and arrogance.  “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”   I would like to say that I have overcome this arrogance, but I catch it growing in the corners.  I can say that even though I was so self-absorbed and self-important that I am now immune from this sin.  But that would be a lie.

Jesus loves the humble.  He favors those who are poor in spirit.  But he resists people who are proud and self-sufficient.  He stands against the arrogant.  The Father hates my pride and my arrogance.

I want to encourage you to come to Jesus now.  Come as you are and He shall meet you.  Dispense with your pride and “humble yourself before the Lord”We do all right if we see ourself as ordinary and average.  Satan will look for any handle you give him.  Pride is one of his favorite ways to control you.  When the disciples tried to figure this out they ended up fighting (Mark 9:33-34).

 “But it should not be that way among you. Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant. Whoever wants to become first among you must serve the rest of you like a slave.  In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”

Matthew 20:26-28, NCV

The ”marquee incident” was 15 years ago, but I am determined to remember how the Lord revealed to me my pride.  It has become humorous to me now, but at the time it was brutal.  I have had to learn through weakness.  When I am weak, He is strong.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  Tim Keller

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When You Can’t Find an Exit: Psalm 88

No exit, today!

A  Simple Psalm of David

    1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
      I cry out to you by day.
      I come to you at night.
 2 Now hear my prayer;
      listen to my cry.
 3 For my life is full of troubles,
      and death draws near.
 4 I am as good as dead,
      like a strong man with no strength left.
 5 They have left me among the dead,
      and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
   I am forgotten,
      cut off from your care.
 6 You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
      into the darkest depths.
 7 Your anger weighs me down;
      with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
                         Interlude

Psalm 88:1-7, New Living Translation

I definitely needed this Psalm today. Yesterday I went to the doctor and was blindsided by news that really isn’t good, at all.  Of course, I also have this ongoing struggle with depression.  Today I feel like I’m running a marathon with ‘leg weights’ on.  I thank God for David’s depression.  “Thank you God for letting this happen to David!”

This particular Psalm is radically different than the others.  This Psalm has no kind words, and no praise to God for deliverance.  It is a singularly sad song.  Imagine if you will, a huge stone fortress in the mountains.  Every room has a door, and every room a window.  All except one.  No light enters this room.  There is no entrance or exit, no way to get free.  Psalm 88, would describe living that torturous experience.

I like my Psalms to be strengthening or encouraging.  But then comes this one!  his Life unravels and frays.  Everything scrambles and gets confusing. Life comes apart on me.  The thought of being one who is irretrievably lost and damned, tunnels into my thinking, like a strange kind of worm, assaulting my thinking.  The despair is beyond belief, I have no words to describe its special variety of darkness.  But anyone who has walked into this hell will understand.

Am I ‘less’ a Christian because of this vicious despair?  Some would say so.  David in verse 1-2, calls out to God.  (I guess this what you are supposed to do).  There is a sense of consistency in his cry.  In verses 3-5, we see him evaluating his position.  Again, there is a underground current of despair.  There is simply no help, no deliverance for him.

And in verses 6-7 is a painful recognition that God is doing all of this.  It’s a bitter and painful place to be.  There are no explanations why life has gotten so nasty and bitter and out-of-control.  But one thing that Psalm 88 does quite well, it strips you of any dignity that you have left.  I think that there exists a faith behind your faith.  (If that makes any sense at all?)

Now, I will get on my ‘soapbox’.  There is so much embedded in the Psalms.  Comfort, faith, victory and hope are what we find,  and more.  But in Ps. 88, we find a black pearl, the only one of its kind.  Somehow, we dare not leave it behind, just because we don’t understand it.  I’m convinced that it has tremendous power to the disciple in endless pain.  Just vocalizing this Psalm does something to us.  These words help.  This Psalm is ours.  God has provided it for us.

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This Delusional Shore

Vivid and intense, this is very much like the mania of Bipolar

I need to be honest and forthcoming.  Life has been, let’s just say…interesting the last several weeks.  I have been struggling a great deal with delusions and paranoia, two big issues that are part of my mental illness. And I’ve been having ‘absence seizures’ which are bit of a thorn.

Maybe I ‘over-think’ these things?  But spiritually, I am growing.  My prayer life and time with the Word has been very good.  I’m growing in Him, and in confidence of His love for me.  I even have been told, that I’m writing well.  Yet I’m perplexed, mystified by these delusions that seem to come from nowhere.

Some of them are persecution based.  I imagine that people are plotting to discredit me.  The delusions are very slippery and evasive and they are difficult to explain.  The paranoia works the same way, all I see is elaborate traps are being made in a concentrated effort to ruin me.  It feels, hostile.  I feel that I’m being victimized. And there are people who want to hurt me.

All of these issues have an effect of making me feel that I am spinning ‘out-of-control,’ like a clown on roller-skates at the circus.  I am embarrassed by what they do to me, and feel stupid.  I feel bizarre, as if my skin suddenly turned incandescent blue.  I have a vague but real sense that I’m not appropriate, but I just can’t seem to be normal. I must remember to take my meds. And pray.

On the positive side, the Word especially the Psalms, is  protecting me more than ever.  I have a special delight for Psalms, and I’ve been voraciously digesting them.  I also find myself almost unconsciously rejecting each delusion as it becomes known.  It seems to be a sort of a “cleansing” process and I have to believe it is the Holy Spirit actively protecting me.

So, in the dark, I will sing His praises and read His precious Word.  I no longer do it for theological reasonings, or to put a check mark next on a reading program.  It’s more medicinal, or therapeutic.  The Bible cleanses me as if it were a dialysis machine filtering my blood. I read them to stay alive.

I don’t know why I keep producing these delusions, but the Holy Spirit nullifies each one before they can damage me or others.

So dear “Brokenbeliever.com” reader,  I would simply ask you to be kinder and more understanding to those around you with mental illnesses, they really need you right now.  Let them know that there is a real hope.  Also, I believe each one will contribute something vital to the Body (sort of like a pancreas or a gall bladder, lol.)  I am sure God has placed them into the Church deliberately to serve the fellowship through their illness.  God is big enough to do that. And He loves us enough to insist on this.

“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”

Psalm 119:160

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For something similar: http://brokenbelievers.com/ministry-for-the-mentally-ill/

http://brokenbelievers.com/without-your-wound/