In A fern fiddlehead – onward in victory – part 6, I mentioned an image of “a tree growing outward from between my shoulder blades” and I would explain its meaning in another post. This is the other post, and now I will attempt to interpret.
That tree was pride…thriving above with a tangle of roots reaching into my psyche beneath. Those roots had penetrated and attached themselves to my being, anchoring pride firmly, sucking my life from me to provide nutrients to the robust parasite they supported. Increasing the crushing weight of this growth were gargoyle like beings perched in its branches. These were characteristics, attitudes and actions which find their home in and are embraced by pride: arrogance, conceit, superiority, disdain, anger, jealousy and covetousness, to name a few.
Let me qualify. There are different ways to define the word pride. We tell someone we are proud of them which means we are pleased with their acheivements or with who they are. That is a positive conotation. But, on the negative side, Dictionary.com says pride is a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc. This is the type of pride of which I am writing. The kind that points always to self: self-importance, self-aggrandization, self-absorption, self-glorification. The kind that builds up at others expense. The kind that dulls one’s sensitivity to God and people and inflates egos, until gradually and sometimes subtly we become the center of our existence. The kind only God can reveal, because we are too prideful to admit to its presence.
What were the seeds of this growth? I was born focused on myself (just as we all are): wanting my own way and believing that everything revolved around me (picture a baby or a child who has not learned to share…). Our culture strokes this inborn sense of self-gratification by exalting us and telling us we deserve everything and by lifting up selfish people and urging us to be like them. My pride also stemmed from my family of origin. (It is amazing how prideful deeply dysfunctional people can be. To cite a couple examples…once, after making a mistake, I made the comment that nobody was perfect. My grandmother (on my dad’s side) responded by exclaiming, “Who says?” (What an astounding implication!). Also, in private conversations, my mom and dad would viciously attack those to whom they felt superior or scorn situations they felt were beneath them.) Another source of my pride was abuse. Strange as this may sound, abuse can have a perverse way of creating a twisted sense of importance in the abused while at the same time demoralizing and stripping that person of all positive sense of worth and value. Negative attention teaches importance for the wrong reasons and turns the abused inward and self-ward; devaluing destruction leaves a vacuum that is often filled with the bile of cruel bitterness and condescension toward others.
Ah, me! “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25) Because Jesus has broken the power of sin and pride in my life, I am able to confess, repent and be freed. Because Jesus has broken the power of evil for those who believe, in His name I can break bondage and rebuke the patterns of the past. Jesus has wedged a giant crowbar called the cross under this tree of pride’s bole; each step of obedience has levered it upwards, causing the roots to loosen and the weight of its growth to be lifted. The resulting upheaval and shaking has caused some of the creatures roosting in the tree’s crown to flee; it is, thankfully, no longer a comfortable place for them to rest (although some are more tenacious and continue to grip the branches with their claw like talons; loosening them will require more effort).
I rejoice in all God has done, but this process is not complete. Even though I know the poison of pride will be lurking waiting to pounce as long as I live on this earth, it is possible that this particular out cropping will be completely uprooted. But whatever transpires, whatever God’s time frame happens to be, I know that He “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” will carry His good work “on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 3:20, Philippians 1:6) In Him I can trust; in Him I can hope. When my eyes are opened to my weakness and I recognize my fallen humanity, I know I can trust my omnipotent God to be powerful and strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9)