If the check engine light comes on and your car starts making a funny noise you can put a piece of duct tape over the check engine light and turn your radio up a little louder. Problem solved.
If, on the other hand, a rock flies up and hits your windshield, leaving a tiny ding, you need to get that taken care of as soon as possible. That tiny ding turns into the San Andreas Fault pretty quick. I learned this lesson, along with a few others, several years ago.
The repair shop that I was using to fix my windshield was about 20 miles away. This was partly okay with me and partly problematic. The okay part was that the price was good and all I had to do was drive my car a few minutes up the road to get my new windshield. The problematic part was that the job was going to take all day.
This left me with two options.
First, I could hang out in the shop all day with Dexter and L.C., drinking coffee and talking about NASCAR. The second option was calling someone to pick me up. I didn’t find either option too appealing so I created a third option right there on the spot. I decided to walk 20 miles back to my house.
Dexter and L.C. thought I was crazy.
They were right.
Twenty miles is nothing when you’re driving. It’s an eternity when you’re walking. When you drive twenty miles, you usually only notice billboards and cop cars hiding out behind trees. When you walk twenty miles you notice a lot of dead snakes and the strange noise coming out of the power plant.
Oh, and you also notice the potential serial killers in your community. The one I encountered while I ran into a gas station for a quick break seemed nice enough. Don’t they always?
“Sir, I’ve noticed you walking most of the day and I thought maybe you’d like a ride.”
Noticed? Most of the day? Man, why didn’t I stay with Dexter and L.C.? Now this guy wants to eat my liver with a side of fava beans.
“Uh, no thanks. I’m just going right up here. Thanks anyway, Dr. Lecter.”
By, “I’m just going right up here” I really meant I’ve only got another 15 miles to walk.
Sometime after noon, I entered my town’s city limits. Another 30 minutes and I would be home. And that’s when I noticed a familiar car coming my way. This time when the driver asked if I wanted a ride, I gladly hopped in. In the front seat were two guys that belonged to my student ministry.
“Thanks for the ride! What are you guys doing out of school?”
I never really got a straight answer. Later, I found out that they were skipping.
“What are you doing walking on the side of the road way out here?”
I never really gave them a straight answer. Later, they found out that I was an idiot.
I was more than an idiot. My long walk home that day revealed a terrible flaw in my heart. Even though I tried to spiritualize my twenty mile hike by comparing myself to Moses and thanking God for giving me the ability to walk that far, I couldn’t get away from the sin that was at the core of what I was doing.
I didn’t decide to walk back because I wanted to be more like Moses or even because I didn’t want to put anybody out by asking for a ride. The reason why I walked so far that day was pride. I was too proud to ask someone for help.
It’s like I gave grace an eviction notice from my heart and rented out the empty space to pride.
Pride convinces us that we’re better off than we really are. When a need arises or someone offers their help, Pride’s favorite response is, “No, I’m good.” Grace tells us that we’re much worse than we let on but that we’re still loved. Grace doesn’t have a problem asking for help because it knows that a little help is the least of our needs.
Pride suckers us into believing that we can make it on our own. It loves to tell us things like, “If you want something done right, you got to do it yourself.” Grace shows us that, as Christians, we belong to a body and need each other. It reminds us that our God has lived in a community called Trinity for all eternity.
Pride is a flatterer that leaves us stranded out in the middle of nowhere talking to a potential serial killer. It’s like the friend that convinces you to do something dumb and then takes off when the cops show up. Grace makes the call for help quickly because it knows that you’re at your weakest when you are by yourself.
Several years later I got another chip in my windshield. This time I immediately called for help. The next day a trained professional was at my house, installing a new windshield in the family car. While I was watching this man do his job, I couldn’t help but think back to the time when my pride tricked me into believing that I could manage all by myself. And I thanked God for allowing me to grow in his grace and learn that following him has nothing to do with how far I can make it on my own.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)