Self-sufficiency or Humility?

We all have unique perspectives on life because of our individual experiences. My unique perspective in childhood included being the daughter of a Minister of Music in a small town baptist church. It was a normal occurrence in our house to hear Christmas Cantatas in the Summer in the tape deck of the Ford Crown Victoria.

It was part of my life for everyone to be looking in at every behavior. The kind of car you would drive was up for discussion. The way we spent money, the way I acted and dressed, etc. I did not have another life to compare it to, but now I realize the performance mentality was built in. That was a small microcosm set in the context of a small community.

As I read the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector this morning, I realized that I often approached life with my self-righteousness at that time to prove performance standards. I knew what to say in every situation and how to come out smelling like a rose, but my heart was oftentimes not humble. As I read the portion of scripture where the tax collector beats his breast and says “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” I gave a knowing nod.

My adult life has constantly been in the process of that humbling. God so graciously has turned me inside out to show me that my self-sufficiency is empty and powerless. The journey began when I was not a somebody that everyone watched. I went to the University of Tennessee knowing a couple of people from my graduating class, but we never saw one another. I was not Mr. Cox’s daughter…I was just a girl who wasn’t as confident in this new world.

I took a deep nose dive in self-sufficiency my Junior year at UT. I failed at performance. I was leading this freshmen group ministry, trying to manage my “rep,” and I let myself and a lot of others down. My humanity was out on display, and I could not spin it. I made a mess. I had not grasped the humility of clinging to God’s sufficiency and grace over my performance. In fact, with what I have experienced now, it would be a humbling privilege to go back and apologize face to face. Wearing a mask is exhausting.

Somewhere along the way, I have learned that I do not have to perform. In fact, I get in deep trouble when I go into those old modes that worked for me in childhood. I cut people off and do not see them. I cut myself off from real connection. Most importantly, I miss out on deep fellowship with the Lord.

I always say jokes on me that I am a Pastor’s wife because that is what I said I would NEVER do. However, because of the Lord’s mercy and faithfulness to me, He is constantly putting me in a different posture of heart. There are many more people now looking in on my life and our family’s life since we are at a much larger scale church. I forget at times that people look at us as different because we are on the exact same journey as everyone else–raising kids while trying to keep our sanity, dealing with passivity and exhaustion and comparison, but some people define us as “other.” Especially neighbors or random people we meet. They distance themselves for fear that we will judge them. Little do they know they could pull a chair right up to judge us!

Greg is also unique with his teaching gift–I call him like a D list celebrity in the days of podcasted sermons and social media. One of the things that I so respect about him is that he is not self-promoting or flashy. That is a service to our family. But, we really really try to just be us…and the Lord has humbled me in all the ways showing me that freedom is in authenticity.

I have a little theory, people are not meant to be famous. They cannot handle the awe that is to be reserved for God. In a culture of celebrity, we look around and see how people are literally eaten alive and crushed by the weight of money and fame. We joke and say “I’d bear that burden for the day.” But, if we really knew, we would run from it. Think about Justin Beiber crushed by the weight of “glory” in his formative years, and he is attempting to walk out from those ashes. Elvis, Michael Jackson–they had completely screwed up lives. Think of the Kanye stuff now…scrutiny at every turn. On a smaller scale, we often elevate celebrity pastors and singers and now, influencers. In a world of “branding,” we follow personas of what people say that they are. It’s a dicey place to live. Every moment of our lives now can be a sound bite.

No wonder these pastors and christian celebrities are falling through the pressures and the isolation. They have to own where they have put themselves buying into the hype. They have to own the damage done to others by their choices. But, what if, instead of performance and likes and the speech of the Pharisee they took the posture of the tax collector from the beginning? God does not need any of us to accomplish His purposes, and when we start thinking that He does and that we are “other,” we live in a pompous place and actually mar His beauty reflected in the world.

See, we all have the choice to trust in our self-sufficiency and performance or to humbly know and depend on the Lord. Whatever the path in our career or our families, the state of our hearts is cultivated everyday. So, it’s easy to point fingers and call people hypocrites and roll our eyes at “those people.” However, we each are making decisions everyday in our spear of influence that is affecting others.

So, today…in your unique corner of the world, what is the posture of your heart? Are you proclaiming yourself or His mercy?

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