In 2016, I faced down some of my worst enemies: Pride and vanity.
On the surface, most people wouldn’t have noticed. But my thoughts constantly revolved around myself and what other people thought of me. It was always about what I knew, what I thought or what I said.
“I don’t want to feel the need to gain the approval of people, to be noticed and given attention. I don’t want to think so highly of myself all the time and compare myself with others. I want to be free of my pride.”
These were words I penned down in my journal. Thoughts that were self-absorbed in nature ate at me constantly. They hindered me from truly loving others because self-interest always took priority.
But I felt powerless to change. My ego was such a big part of me that half of me didn’t want to give it up, while the other half didn’t know how to!
During the summer, God spoke to me through an encounter with a friend.
I had unwittingly made a careless remark which hurt her. But she lovingly and graciously confronted me, making sure I knew she had also already forgiven me. That would typically have been the end of it, but I started questioning myself: How could I have been so insensitive and hurtful with my words?
My sharp words had betrayed how critical and biting my thought-life was. All I could do was to apologise.
Crying at how horrible I felt about myself, I sank into a pit of self-condemnation and self-pity.
I felt the heavy weight of my sin and ugliness sit squarely on my shoulders for the first time. It wasn’t just about this particular incident. I knew that deep inside — I was broken. It had been a struggle I was aware of before and I hated it. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t change myself. And the more I tried to change, the more I focused on myself — which was exactly what I was trying not to do!
“My pride, I hate it … But not enough. Jesus, help me. This is what You died to remove and rose again to overcome … I need You, Lord. I can’t do anything about my own wretchedness.”
As I wrote down these thoughts in my journal, the Holy Spirit brought to mind a verse on forgiveness I was so familiar with in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I knew I had to apply this verse right then. I wrote “1 John 1:9” in capital letters over all the entries of self-pity and self-condemnation in my journal, as a symbolic act of receiving His forgiveness and cleansing for my sin.
I didn’t know how the cleansing and transformation were going to work, but I knew I had to surrender. When I told God I trusted Him to do this work in my life — all the self-condemning thoughts left!
It was as if a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Psalm 103:8-14 is a verse which tells me about God’s character, and that there’s always forgiveness to be found in Him.
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
I have been humbled by the realisation of how weak I really am — humbled at how truly great and gracious God is. I am still a wretched work in progress, yet God has found me acceptable because of Jesus Christ.
Now I am free to pursue Him — to love and serve Him! To love and serve others. I want to make Jesus great in my life so that others can be blessed.
This quote by CS Lewis sums up my condition beautifully:
“[God] wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble – delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress..getting rid of the false self, with all its “Look at me” and “Aren’t I a good boy?” and all its posing and posturing. To get even near it, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in the desert.”
Looking back, I am amazed at how God has been so real in my life. He took some of the ugliest, most hidden parts of me and brought them to light — so that I could see my flaws for what they really were and find my breakthrough in Him.
His immense love and grace were real for me, and they are real for you too.