There are parts of my life that I am well-aware, and other parts that I am not so aware of, that I would rather not talk about. I would rather not address them because it feels rather embarrassing or difficult to change. I had a sweet roommate before I was married who was beautiful and well-dressed, along with having a wonderful personality. She also had the cutest Victorian-like bedroom, much prettier than mine. My other roommate and I would like to tease her by looking under her bed or in her closet where she kept her concealed mess. Piles of papers and clothes lie hidden away from sight in the quiet darkness. We would uncover it and laugh with her. Often in life, I am a dichotomy like this, yet I don’t feel like laughing when discovered. I would rather keep up the illusion that I have my act together. What is really hiding behind the “I am good or fine” responses, is a concealed mess. Can you relate to some degree? I keep bumping up into some of these areas and it is getting tiresome. As I continue this “detox” I am seeing one of these areas a little more clearly; and I am not sure I like it! It has to do with the area of pride.
The Pride Masquerade
I remember in college someone talking about “pride” and I automatically thought, “I know a lot of people that have pride. They think they are the best. They only seem to care about themselves.” But in time, I came to realize that my heart was oozing with pride, but it wore many masks. The masks of pride cover up some ugly stuff. No wonder it wears a mask! Pride also can be difficult to detect, not only because of the masks, but it is also tricky and deceptive. I am pulling off some of these masks and I will let you see what is really there. Yikes!
There is the mask of the loose words and the quick words I speak. My words become a tool of control, criticism or putting myself in the center of the world. This of course is often done subtly. Often I don’t fully listen to another person because I am caught up in what I will say next. Obviously, I have the answers! There are also the words I wish I could take back. Instead of a healthy pause, I succumb to quickly making my words most important. What I say really matters, so I need to quickly speak! Words are powerful. Loose and quick words puts me in the center.
There is also the “self-protection” mask which helps me to keep a safe distance from being really known, corrected or having to take a risk. It feels better to protect myself, so that myself is perceived as good, and altogether. I often see this come out in feeling defensive, even with some minuscule suggestion or correction. It may not always be on my lips, and often it is, but I like to make sure I am understood. To be misunderstood is not desirable at all. If I am misunderstood than my motives may be questioned or not grasped, the person may think they are right, or I may lose control of my plan. Self- protection keeps me on top.
Another way I see pride masqueraded is in my need to compare. How am I doing in comparison to the next person? Maybe I should do things like them: like with my kids, finances, ministry focus, writing, friends… This leads to two places: either I exalt the other person and make them the measuring stick or I need to criticize them and make myself the standard. Hmmmm… not good. Comparison creates competition and tends to rob my heart of compassion and humility.
Well, that is just a few of the masks of pride– not pretty. Little did I know in college, as I began to learn about pride, that it was just the beginning of facing pride and it’s insidious nature. It creeps in, overtakes and oozes out; while often I am unaware of its lurking about.
As I started this detox I noticed several areas that I wanted to prayerfully address, and obviously this was one of them. I am not naive enough to think that I can obliterate pride from my life, but I would like to honestly take this to God and ask Him fo help. “What Lord?” I am at a loss. I said to Brian, “I see these nasty areas and want to be rid of them, but it seems like such a part of me. They seem to be attached and not wanting to let go.” I think the older I get I begin to see these kind of things in a new light. It isn’t that I am just “being hard on myself” or that God is just “getting back at me.” It is actually God’s grace to gently point out pride in me when He does. At a different time, possibly I would have blown it off or found it too much to handle. Also, He reminds me how brokenness touches everything this side of heaven. I see that His grace poured out is not desiring me to stay stunted by my brokenness, but to grow more like Christ. Yes, shedding light on areas gives me an opportunity. Now what will I do about it?
Gracious Solitude and Silence
In the last post I discussed the ‘kind fast.” Fasting is a kindness from God to draw us to Him and do a “detox” of our soul. Only Jesus cleanses us from our sin completely. A fast draws our attention to Christ and areas that need transformation. For the desired outcome is becoming more like Christ throughout our life. An important ingredient in fasting or for transformation in general, is some sort of “solitude and silence.” Often those words have sounded so “religious” or “mystical” to me. Who gets solitude or silence— especially as a mom! Basically, it is being in a place of refuge. I love these verses from Psalm 91. We find real refuge near the Lord and “under His wing.”
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Psalm 91 :1,2
Jesus often modeled solitude and silence in His life when He would go away by Himself for short or long periods of time. He modeled it as He talked, listened and spent time with His Father. If Jesus needed it, then I surely need it!
Two kinds of Solitude and Silence
There is so much I am discovering, but at this point I find two kinds of solitude and silence. There is the daily, pulling away in little ways; whether that is first thing when you get up, in-between classes, sitting in traffic, or little quiet spots in your mind. It is daily and regularly finding and making points of refuge in my life, as a student, teacher, mom, doctor, etc.
So, how am I taking solitude and silence regularly?
What I discover as I ask myself that question is: yes, I was doing it, but my mind was distracted, God’s Word seemed dry and God felt distant. It wasn’t a place of refuge. The busyness of life, and my own lack of self-control stood as a barrier to finding refuge throughout the days.
The other kind of solitude and silence is taking intentional time out to set aside longer periods of time for refuge. This is really where I am find deeper “detox.” As the winds of change are whispering, “Something is not quite right.” It also calling me to pause, and have solitude and silence. It is time for taking some longer periods of time for finding refuge under God’s wing, so that I can daily, even moment by moment, find refuge. In the long run, it is not about doing more, but about “being.” Then when I am”doing,” I am also “being.”
But, “How is that possible to find this time?”
What I find is it has to be intentional– I have to clear out my schedule. And of course my schedule doesn’t like that! Every person is different in how they can work this out. I take some “personal time” off for this. We take time off for all sorts of things, but what about caring for our soul? I asked my husband to step in for things in order to help me get this time. He may help with the dishes, make lunches and take the kids to their activities, while I stay back– giving me an evening of solitude and silence. I arrange a Saturday in the same way. I have a light-weight red chair in my backyard that becomes a place of refuge as I move it around the yard, in and out of the sun– sometimes out of sight from the kids. I love sitting in it and just being reflective, and lately, taking in the beautiful weather. It has become a place of refuge for me. I also know a person who is able to take a half-day off at work once in awhile or uses time over the holidays to find some extended time of refuge. If you are a student, teacher or whatever your occupation, it will look different. The question is:
“How are we going to take extended time for solitude and silence?”
Solitude, Silence and Pride
So how does this all relate to pride anyway? That is what I was wondering also. As I take time out for this detox I am seeing that solitude and silence draws out all sorts of things, and one of them being pride. As I take time alone with God and away from people I see things a little more clearly, a little more from God’s perspective. Even though God loves me completely and values me, I am not needed for the world to go around. As I encounter how magnificent God is, I see how small and insignificant I am.
As I seek to find times of refuge in the Lord, I seek to spend more time reflecting on God’s word and just listening (the Silence part). Instead of a laundry list of requests or a type of “honey-do” list, I want to try and pause and ask questions– but also just be still and listen. As I discover that the world goes on without me, I am also seeing that God works with or without my words. My words are better as few, and my ears are better open. Yes, solitude and silence does touch on my pride. I desire fewer words and more thoughtful words. My words are a gift but they are not always necessary.
“…solitude is the furnace in which this transformation takes place. Finally, it reveals that it is from this transformed or converted self that real ministry flows.” Henri Nouwen in The Way of the Heart
There is so much more I could say. I do know this: I want transformation in my life. I don’t want to stay where I am. I am so thankful I have a gracious God, who lovingly corrects me and often uses the grace gift of solitude and silence to do this.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
Are you taking time out regularly to seek refuge in God?
What would it take for you to arrange your schedule for some extended solitude and silence?
As you hear about pride, do you relate to any of the examples?