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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Well done!

There are just times when you stand back, examine the fruits of your hard labor, and declare, "Man, that is good"!  Okay, now honestly, am I the only one that has ever looked at a finished project and thought how wonderful it turned out, just admiring all the beauty in the project?  I think this is natural - to see the fruits of your labor begin to produce something kind of excites some sort of pride within you that just tickles you.  It isn't as though we want everyone under the sun to notice what we did - we just find some sense of inner delight in seeing the end result.  When does this become an issue for us?  It becomes an issue when we "thrive" on the compliments for our labors - when we "need" the attention we get from having done the job.  It is as though we aren't just saying, "Man, THAT is good," but we are saying, "Man, I AM GOOD."  Our satisfaction moves from having done the job to having been "noticed" for doing the job.  This is when pride enters the picture in a way which focuses on the one completing the job as deserving of some merit.  In this type of situation, it as though someone thrives on the attention they receive, getting some sort of "credit" they kind of add to the account which they feel gives them some sort of self-worth.  The long and short of it is that we don't find our self-worth in what we do for ourselves, but in what has been done for us because we were incapable of doing it ourselves! 

When pride comes, shame is not far behind, but wisdom accompanies those who are humble. The right-living are guided by integrity, but the crooked ways of the faithless will lead to ruin. (Proverbs 11:2-3 VOICE)

Look at the connection our writer places between pride and shame - one follows closely behind the other.  Why?  Pride is literally a struggle with OUR opinion of our own dignity, importance, merit, and even our sense of superiority in a circumstance.  No wonder shame follows closely behind!  It isn't wrong to admire a job you have completed and find some deep sense of satisfaction in how well it turned out.  I decorate the Christmas tree each year, then stand back and admire the beauty of all those ornaments, twinkling lights, and knowing it will soon be filled with packages for my loved ones all around its base.  Many of those ornaments are handmade over the course of my kids' or grandkids' lives, given to me with love, and serve to remind me of their love for me and my love for them.  Those which mom handcrafted, fired in the kiln, and painted with such care speak of a time in her life when she still had her eyesight and her ability for fine motor coordination was totally intact.  The ones which come from co-workers remind me of the laughs we have shared, and the struggles we have navigated through over the years. The tree's beauty is not in how well I did in placing those ornaments upon those branches, but in the meaning of each piece which adorns it!  Oftentimes, the beauty we see in the lives of another is not so much in their ability to have done something so well we rave about the job they have done, but in seeing their commitment to the job, the joy they took in doing it, and in the love expressed in having been engaged in the work at hand, somehow blessing another with the fruits of their labor.

Pride is a constant battle for each of us - not because it is some monster hot on our trail all the time - but because it is a natural part of who we are to look for some confirmation we have done well in this life.  I think this is only natural.  We need praise and even to be recognized when we have put ourselves into a project, heart and soul.  What we don't want to do is cross over that line where we begin to expect or live for the praise we receive.  After all, our self-worth isn't found in that praise or recognition - but in the actions of Christ's life given for ours.  When we said "yes" to Jesus, asking him to become the center of our lives, we were actually saying our own "merit" isn't what is important, but the merit of Christ within us, moving us to live and love as he would have us to live.  There is no greater "compliment" we can receive but to have someone recognize Jesus is alive and well within each of us!

Now, lest we think this thing called "pride" is always a bad thing, it is not.  Pride can be the delight we take in seeing another blessed by some action we took, or observing the happiness which seems to invade the lives of one we have spent time with.  There is a deep sense of "well-being" which invades our hearts when we see another blessed, knowing the "job" we have done is a blessing to them.  We don't look for the "honor" in the recognition of the job, but it is okay to accept the thanks and praise of those who have been blessed by the "job done well" on their behalf!  God doesn't want us to refuse the compliments - he just doesn't want our whole worth to center around them!  He wants us to recognize our worth has a much deeper center - his Son!

Keep in mind that the "unhealthy" form of pride is when the focus is on self.  Self-satisfaction, self-worth, self-regard, self-love, self-admiration, self-glorification - all of these often lead to something we term as self-sufficiency.  This is when we drift into dangerous territory - for any time we think of self as sufficient for anything, we are sure to realize shame following closely behind whatever it is we are finding so much pride in ourselves about!  Trust me on this one - self is not sufficient to redeem our lives.  Self is not sufficient to restore our fellowship with God the Father.  Self is not sufficient to really love another - we need to be embraced by the love of God in order to really understand how it is we are to love another. It is this issue of "self" which gets us into the place where pride crosses the line.  As long as we are focusing on allowing Christ to be the center of our lives, whatever actions come from that "centered place" will be a blessing to those around us, and even to our own lives.  In the end, we will receive the "job well-done" our hearts desire so much, but it will come from his lips!  Just sayin!