But it’s much worse than toilet paper stuck to my shoe. It’s like leaving the ladies’ room at church with my dress tucked into my pantyhose. Pride is what everyone else sees that we can’t. Humiliating.
It was only when a health crisis brought me to my knees that I began to see pride in myself.
Excruciating spine pain left me unable to stand in the shower, lift a heavy pan, or even carry my purse. I could barely sit through church, and certainly couldn’t lift my arms in praise. Even bending over to cut my own toenails became impossible.
Fatigue felt like a boulder on my head. But to get a modicum of relief from the pain, I had to keep moving. I felt like a [very tired] hamster on a wheel.
My body was failing me, but so was my brain. Chronic sleep deprivation impaired my brain function. I formed sentences haltingly and often forgot altogether what I wanted to say.
I felt ninety years old.
My independence became dependence My self-sufficiency became neediness. Pain caused me to despair.
I was plunged into a dark night of the soul.
Suddenly, when I most needed friends, I realized how few I had.
I had lived life on such a tare, running myself ragged to justify my own existence—doing the “worthiness hustle”—that I had spent too little time to developing precious relationships. I was a purpose-driven junkie. I hadn’t allowed the blessing of friendship to break into my schedule. Constant moves over six years, three of them international also left me reticent to invest too deeply in the friendships I needed.
Before the apex of my crisis, my husband took a new job in another city. Though he came home on weekends, I lived lonely. Driving hurt and I feared being bumped. So, except for grocery runs or doctor’s visits, I stayed home.
Suddenly, I was flooded with empathy for people I hadn’t given much thought before—people in pain, shut in’s, lonely people, and those who couldn’t cut their own toenails. Because now, I was one of them.
As I laid awake at night, tormented by pain, I examined my life and repented of my sins.
It was only when I couldn’t form coherent thoughts that I realized how impatient I had been with others, completing their sentences, interrupting when they didn’t articulate their thoughts quickly enough for me. I cringed inside to think how my eyes must have glazed over when others talked about their physical pain. Now, I understood.
Feeling housebound, I decided to risk a trip to the grocery store. Because even the slightest bump would reduce me to tears, I did it with trepidation. Arm in arm with my husband, I plodded from our car toward the store. As we walked behind a car, the driver began to began up without seeing us. I panicked. Before my crisis, I could have scurried out of its way. Now I felt helpless and vulnerable. Thankfully, the driver saw us in time.
Inside the store, people charged by me with their shopping carts inches from my body. I was terrified. I also felt sorrow—the kind that leads to repentance. How many times had I done the same, oblivious to people around me who might be in pain, people who needed extra margin to feel safe?
Suffering opened my eyes to more than my bad grocery shopping habits. I saw how pride manifested in me—to push, rush, demand, self-promote, interrupt, insist on being right, and refuse to apologize. I was blind, but now I see.
Pride breaks things: hearts, relationships, peace, even health.
As I listened to Randy Alcorn’s We Shall See God, a quote by Charles Spurgeon who suffered many physical ailments himself, struck me between the eyes. He spoke of the power of rheumatism to humble a person.
When my sixty-four-year-old mother had to come to help me for six weeks—to drive, cook, shop, do laundry, and even cut my toenails—I was humbled.
Suddenly, I became poor in spirit.
Now, I got it. I had been living all wrong—even as a Christian on mission with God. For more than a year, not only has God been removing the toilet paper from my shoe, but He’s been opening my eyes to others’ pain and giving me capacity to enter into it with deep compassion. He is loosening the grip I had on “my” time so that I’m more easily interrupted. He’s rooting out unforgiveness from my heart.
Jesus is purifying His bride.
How has God used pain in your life? How has He held up a mirror to you to reveal areas of pride?
What fruit is that bearing in your life?