I am not sure when it started. I first noticed it in the grocery store when the 16 year old clerk called me ma’am - oh how that word makes me cringe! Well, it happens all the time now. I feel old, or at least older. And I am finding that ma’am is no longer restricted to the grocery store, it has infested the library, my work, the movie theatre and just about anywhere else I venture. To top it all off, I am now involved in a Ladies’ Bible Study! I must admit, the mere thought of being in a ladies group, triggered a wince and a squirm. Surely 24 year olds were not supposed to be in ladies groups! What ever happened to being a young adult?! “Get over it” His voice pushes. “You are still a baby, and in more ways then your age!” (That last comment was accompanied by the sting of my Saviour’s hand smacking my ego back into place).
So here I am in the Ladies’ Bible Study. A bit weary at first, but now, after 8 weeks I am so glad I came. In these past 8 weeks, and especially in the last 3, Jesus has taken the opportunity to do a bit more ego, err, should I say pride, smacking. Let me share my story.
As a group, we are going through the book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, by Joanna Weaver. The basis of the book in Luke 10:38-42, in which Jesus stops at Martha and Mary’s home. Mary sits at Jesus’ feet while Martha hurries about, busy with preparations. Martha gets upset and tells Jesus to have Mary help her. Instead, Jesus tells the worried Martha that Mary “has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
The most recent chapter, chapter 7, is on “the better part”. Weaver focuses on personal bible study and daily devotional time with God. In this chapter, she quotes a blurb by Wilbur Rees:
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.”
In the back of her book, Weaver poses the question, “Consider Wilbur Rees’s thought-provoking words…..In all honesty, how much of God do you want? What keeps you from wanting more?”
From the moment I read it, this question haunted me. It continues to ring in my head, “In all honesty…” And when it comes to these sorts of questions, honesty is a hard thing to find, especially in my own heart. It would mean confronting laziness, disappointment and worst of all, pride.
I started writing, hoping my innermost thoughts would surrender without a fight and come out of hiding, spilling out onto my journal’s empty page so I could see them for the nasty, deceitful things they are. “Search my heart; see if there is any offensive way in me.” I don’t remember specifically praying those words, but somewhere from deep within they cried out. I wrote:
I have wanted $3 worth of God, but found it to be incredibly boring. I do want the fullness of God. Or at least I want to want it. It doesn’t feel scary. I don’t fear what it will mean. I just feel like I am chained in. Bogged down. I ask God to free me and fill me, but still feel the weight. Sometimes it gets lighter, but most of the time it is heavy. I find the thing that stands in my way the most is impatience! That is my chain! And when that one is loosed, pride sneaks in. Instead of continuing to seek God, I get impressed with myself and my ‘relationship with God’ and then what happens? I get impatient because in my pride I have stopped moving forward! Vicious circle really!
I sat back on the park bench and stared at what I just wrote. Maybe this seems all very basic to you, but for me it was mind-blowing. Pride I knew about, I already had a deal with the Holy Spirit about him. HS would guard every door and window of my heart and sound the alarm as soon as pride tried to sneak in. Then HS and I would call pride out and tell him exactly what we think of him and where he should go. But impatience! I hadn’t known about him. He was the one sneaking pride in, showing him the secret entrances to my heart. Oh that scoundrel! Holy Spirit and I quickly made a pact about him too and HS agreed that if I ask Him, He will show me who else is trying to break in.
This thought brings me back to an excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest. In bright pink letters, on the bottom of the October 8th reading, I had written, “My pride. Lord, help me to be humble. Help me to come!” and of the passage, highlighted the following:
If you want to know how real you are, test yourself by these words – “Come to Me…” The Holy Spirit will show you what you have to do, and it will involve anything that will uproot whatever is preventing you from getting through to Jesus. And you will never get any further until you are willing to do that very thing. The Holy Spirit will search out that one immovable stronghold within you, but He cannot budge it unless you are willing to let Him do so. How often have you come to God with your requests and gone away thinking, “I’ve really received what I wanted this time!” And yet you go away with nothing, while all the time God has stood with His hands outstretched not only to take you but also for you to take Him. Just think of the invincible, unconquerable, and untiring patience of Jesus, who lovingly says, “Come to Me…”
As for me, I definitely have more than “one immovable stronghold”. Pride and the imp are just two of who knows how many, but HS and I are making progress - like showing me how my attitude towards the ladies group was not really about being old, or young for that matter, but being prideful. And with all that finally out in the open, I am left to “think of the invincible, unconquerable, and untiring patience of Jesus, who lovingly says, “Come to Me…””