Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My pride colored glasses

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the blinding nature of pride. It is so easy to see it in someone else, but we Christians must be honest that it is amazingly difficult to see it in ourselves. The moment we think we’ve reached maximum humility is the exact moment we’ve topped the charts in pride. After all, a truly humble person believes, or at leasts suspects, that he is actually quite proud. It is the proud person that thinks he is essentially humble.

The importance of this point is profound when we comprehend Solomon's wisdom that "pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Mankind must be constantly on the verge of destruction, headed for a fall, if this is the case—and indeed it is. What's more earth-shaking to ponder is that we believers are not immune from this vice. We, too, are inherently proud, and therefore on the brink of destruction, headed for a fall.

The whole situation is not unlike the old "colored glasses" analogy. I always believed the denominational advocates each had their own set of colored glasses through which they viewed Christianity, or the Bible in particular, and that I did not. The Baptists had their tinted glasses, and so did the Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherines. While I might allow, in moments of introspection, that my glasses were not perfect, I certainly considered them mostly clear compared to the other person's glasses.

The thought did cross my mind at times that others must think that I must be the one with the colored glasses. It would even come up with Christians in discussion of other religions. But I must confess, the thought was quickly dismissed most of the time as too relativistic.

As C.S. Lewis wrote so poignantly a couple generations ago, we can easily determine that another person has a retina through which they see the world, but it is difficult to see our own retina. That is like asking us to see the very thing we use to see.

I now realize that I had all along (and still have) colored glasses on. Make no mistake--I desire to take them off and see the Bible, and Jesus Christ, and God, and faith, as they really are, not as I want to see them, or have been taught to see them, or feel outside pressure to see them. But truth demands that I be brutally honest with myself and acknowledge that it is completely impossible to remove them altogether. I have a point of view, a filter we might call "human fallibility." Once I realize that, there is no going back to the naive belief that I do not have a point of view that is colored by my own thinking process.

If it is impossible to remove my glasses entirely, a useful way to think of the situation I find myself in is that I need to try to constantly clean them. That means changing the focal length of my eyes every so often to see the lens, not just what I normally see through that lens. That means thinking about my thinking on Christianity, not just thinking about Christianity.

Just the other day, my son Jaden got a library book of stereograms (A.K.A. "Single Image Random Dot Stereograms," or holographs). For the uninitiated, stereograms are those colorful, seemingly abstract patterns, often printed on posters, which actually contain vivid three dimensional images. You cannot see the image by focusing on the page. You can only see it if you trick your brain into focusing on an imaginary plane in back of the paper, usually designed to be the same distance from the paper to your eyes. You are essentially looking "through" the paper to see the image printed on it. The key to seeing the image is in changing the focal length of your eyes. While we do this millions of times a day unconsciously, it is not something we normally do consciously.

That's what I want to do with my faith, in a way, only I don't just want to see an illusion, a trick played on my brain. I want to see my own retina—my own lens through which I view my devotion to our Creator. To do that, I have to acknowledge that I have always had "pride colored glasses," and to some extent, I always will. Until I let God remove the prideful perspective that I am the most correct of the bunch, I will not be the most correct of the bunch. How's that for a paradox?

I don't at all mean to suggest that the ideal Christian should be plagued by doubt and insecurity. God forbid! We should be confident and unwaivering in what we know:

    Psalm 119:5 - Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! (NKJV)

    Isaiah 26:3 - You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (NKJV)

    1 Peter 5:10 - And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (NKJV)

But we should likewise be willing to add to our knowledge. And if we're going to be "plagued" with anything, my friends, let it be with humility.
    1 Peter 5:5 - Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud,But gives grace to the humble.” (NKJV)

    1 Corinthians 10:12 - Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (NKJV)

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