Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field...
What is true of the serpent is true of his inventions. The most deadly sins are the most subtle, pride being chief among them. Sure, pride can be noisy and brash, an ugly display of self-important pomp. But in this way, pride is often like the obvious swindler who, eliciting our devout rejection, enables his partner to pick our pockets in the diversion. Subtle is the pride that comes from being selfless. There is a way of glorifying God which is really a way of glorifying ourselves. This is the serpent's insidious masterpiece, one that I am learning to guard against.
About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about about my decision not to move away to seminary for the present time. In that blog, I outlined my plans to teach English as a second language (to non-native speakers). Anyone who has been in touch with me recently knows that those plans have not come to pass. A series of unfortunate discoveries and happenings trailed last year's blog entry. I won't divulge all of them here; suffice to say that the Lord closed just about every single one of those doors (if they were ever open to begin with). What followed was a quite discouraging summer and fall of 2011 in terms of career placement. Please do not mistake my meaning. I am truly grateful for my current job and certainly do not take it for granted, but the truth is that it is simply not what my heart set out to do. The hard truth is that sometimes God says, "No." The comforting truth is that it is God who says, "No."
In Coldplay's song Lost, Chris Martin sings, "Just because I'm losing, doesn't mean I'm lost." I agree. The Bible repeatedly reminds God's people that even in the wilderness, even in the belly of the great fish, even in the prison cell, we are never lost. We are exactly where we are supposed to be. And wherever we happen to find ourselves, we have work to do.
The injury of my failed plans was not upon my ability to glorify God. The injury was upon my pride. I wanted to glorify God by serving in clever and important and adventurous ways. But what happens when you strip away the cleverness and the importance and the adventure? What is exposed? It will be a simple, humble, ordinary service to God, or it will be the withered remains of self-glorifying ambition. To be fair, what remained in me was probably neither of those and both of those. Our motives are never quite that simple. But I am learning that the subtle pride exists, how to recognize it when it creeps up, and to welcome whatever produces a Christ-exalting humility in me, however uncomfortable it may be. And I am very slowly realizing that it is no small thing to empower others to do great things, even if I never do great things myself. My children and grandchildren may yet do great things. Even better, they may do small things with great love. And no one may ever know our name.
This morning I went to buy breakfast in the cafeteria at my workplace. As I approached the cashier, I noticed a small devotional magazine laying open beside the register. I do not know the woman who rang up my order this morning. I do not know her name. I do not know what she dreamed of doing with her life after graduating high school, or if she even graduated high school. I do not know where she would like to be in ten years. I do not know how she feels about being a cashier in the cafeteria at my workplace. But I saw the title of her devotional for this morning. It read, "Glorifying God in Life and Death."
Glorifying God in Life and Death. You know, those might be the only two ways to do it.