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Friday, August 31, 2012

Who Are You, and How Did You Get in Here?

It never ceases to amaze me how sin can enter into my mind and disguise itself as something seemingly harmless.  Sure, sometimes I recognize it in the form of bad habits, but the recognition doesn't go any further.  But lately, I've been horrified to discover that I have some serious stuff lurking in the corners of my mind.  Some masquerade as bad habits or character flaws, but some are brazen enough to wear the disguise of goodness and thoughtfulness.  Imagine my surprise when the masks came off. Here are a few of the things I've discovered.

Let's begin with the "bad habits" like fear and impatience.  For some reason, over the past couple of years, fear has gained a major stronghold in my life.  It seems like I'm afraid of everything. . . and I'm not just talking about snakes and spiders.  I'm constantly terrified by the "what if's".  What if something happens to one of the dogs?  What if Jason is in a car accident?  What if the house burns down?  What if we run out of money before we run out of bills?  What if, what if, what if?  These horrible, negative thoughts haunt me day and night.  I know that it's wrong, for the Bible says God has not given us the spirit of fear, so if it's not from God, I have a pretty good idea where it's from.  Still, I've shrugged it off by saying that I really have no control over how I feel.

Impatience is not a good thing, and overall, I consider myself to be a very patient person.  I don't get bothered by traffic or stoplights.  I'm not overly concerned with long checkout lines or slow service.  But the area I exercise the most impatience is when it comes to answered prayers.  For whatever reason, I expect God to answer my pleas in my timing, and when He doesn't, I grow very impatient.

One of the things that I've always considered to be a "good thing" in my life is my perfectionism.  I'm a firm believer that if you're going to do something, you ought to do it to the best of your ability.  This trait is made evident by my straight A's all through school (including college).  Assign me a project, and you'll soon learn that not only will it be done, but it will be done far beyond your expectations.  That's just the way I am (although you'd never believe it if you saw my house at this moment).  Doing good work is a good thing, right?  Doing my best can't possibly be bad, can it?

Before I answer that question, let me point out another "good thing" that was pointed out to me.  Even though I work a full-time job, a part-time job, teach a Sunday School class, prepare music for church services, run errands, cook meals, clean house, etc., I simply refuse to ask for help.  When Jason comes home from his physical day job, I don't have the heart to ask him to help with dinner or to sweep the floors while I fold laundry.  "He's tired," I argue with myself.  "He's had a long day and needs to rest."  The result is one worn-out, frazzled Dana who has no time or energy to devote to our marriage relationship.  All this time, I thought I was being considerate, but this week I've discovered the truth about it all.

Hello.  My name is Dana, and I have a pride problem.  Wow, there I said it.  Pride is a sneaky little monster that can manifest itself in many forms.  Don't believe me?  Let's look at the four things I mentioned--the four things that give me the most trouble in life.

Fear comes from my inability to control things.  I'm afraid because I know I don't have the final say so in how things turn out.  I'm fearful because I know there are circumstances beyond my control, and frankly, I don't trust God enough to work things out for the best because He doesn't do things the way I think they should be done.  Pride?  Oh yeah!

How about impatience?  The desire to have things done on my time table.  Hmm, sounds like pride again, doesn't it?

Perfectionism?  That is a tricky one, but once we break it down, it's easy to spot the true root.  You see, what is perfect?  Whose definition of perfect do I hold myself accountable to?  Why, mine of course.  And whose definition of perfect do I hold everyone else accountable to?  You guessed it!  Mine again.  When I decide this is the way something should be done and then expect everyone (including myself) to hop to it, I am exhibiting pride.

And the hardest one to swallow is the last because I really, truly thought I was doing good.  I believed I was being considerate by not asking for help.  But in truth, I was once again exhibiting pride.  I was fooling myself into believing that I could do it all and have it all.  I convinced myself that I was Wonder Woman who, though tired, could successfully run a business, a part-time career, a class, a household, relationships and much more without any assistance.  I was too proud to admit that I was tired and couldn't handle the load.  My, oh my!

Remember, pride is a sneaky thing.  It doesn't often step forward yelling, "Look at me!  I'm special!"  Instead, it puts on disguises and lurks in the dark corners of our minds, scheming and plotting our eventual demise.  Unfortunately, until we recognize the bad habits, good habits and personality flaws for what they truly are, we won't be able to deal with the problem of pride.  It's time to go exploring.  Take some time to wander through the black recesses of your mind, and search out pride in its various forms.  It's got to go if we are live happy, healthy lives.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16:18

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