I felt like an idiot last Friday. That’s really no different than any other day of the week. But this time it was unique. This time it was my son’s fault.
He won an award. Student of the Month. Man, he was so excited. And I was too. When he pulled the certificate out of his bag he was glowing. I was wondering if we were going to have to put one of those My Child Is The Student of the Month bumper stickers on our car. He didn’t get one of those and that’s a good thing because the school colors would clash with our gold Bentley. Close call.
But then I got to thinking. I started thinking about all of the awards I won when I was in school. The academic awards. The athletic scholarships. The senior superlatives. I started school when I was five-years-old. My first teacher’s name was Mrs. Day. I finished school when I was 34-years-old. I can’t remember my last teacher’s name. I guess that’s what thirty years of education does for you. So that’s three decades of awards to comb through in my mind.
I was done combing through my mind after about 5.3 seconds. That’s because I never won any awards. Never. Well, unless you count that time in the sixth grade when I got to wear a button that said Math Champ. The next day the teacher started adding letters to the math problems and I haven’t worn that button since. But I did marry a math teacher so I do have that going for me.
On the other hand, my kid’s academic career began about a month ago and he’s already got me beat. Three decades, zero awards. One month, one award. Father 0, Kid 1. Game over.
Nothing has ever humbled me quite like that. That time at CrossFit when I got made fun of by a lady in her 80s comes in at a close second.
“Hurry it up, sonny! It’s called the Work Out of the Day, not the Work Out of the Week. We’ve got places to be!”
Sin has a way of creeping in to every area of our lives. Even the areas we least expect. My three decades of education is nothing to brag about. I don’t have to worry about becoming prideful about the fact that I begged my way to a passing grade in my tenth grade math class at my now unaccredited high school. But there is something else that I have to watch out for.
If we’re not careful, our humility can turn into something else. Something far, far away from what Christ commands of us. Something we call pity.
Pride is rooted in an attempt to take God’s rightful place on his throne. It’s fruit is a life where I am the center.
Pity has as its foundation the belief that God doesn’t care about me. Built on that foundation is a structure of depression, fear and worry.
Both are dangerous.
When I look back on my education, I don’t see any awards. But I do see God’s grace. In middle and high school, I was a mediocre student with a bad complexion but I learned what it meant to represent Christ. In college, when I struggled each semester to find new ways to tell the accounting office that I didn’t have any tuition money, I learned what it meant to trust in God. At seminary, with a brand new baby boy who would one day become a Student of the Month, I learned how to lead a family. No certificates. No awards. No funny caps or ropes to wear at graduation ceremonies. Just grace. I’ll take it. Give me my bumper sticker.
But when I allow pity to take over in my life, I miss those things. I miss the opportunity to see God’s grace at work. And his grace is at work in our lives everyday. It’s working when you get stuck in traffic and it’s working when I fail and get made fun of.
That’s the thing about grace. It’s easiest to see it during your weakest moments.
As long as you don’t let pity get in the way.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ESV)