I shared the first part of my story yesterday, telling how God used people he had put in my life, as well as the writings of C.S. Lewis, to push me to take my faith seriously for the first time when I was in 8th grade. For this part of the story, I’ll continue focusing on my growth and development and maturity as a human being. Then part 3 will actually backtrack some chronologically to hit on a crazy God-encounter in Mexico. For now, let’s pick it up where part 1 left off…
I think that, for most of us, the process of God removing from our lives is generally either very painful, or a huge relief. We tend to either feel like the trial we’re going through will kill us, or we feel like a giant burden has been lifted off of our shoulders. Either way, I think most of us come out on the other side thinking, “Now all is well. God has healed/redeemed/changed/released me, and now everything will always be good.” I think this is pretty natural. Like I said, we’ve just come through a situation where we either experienced great relief, or great trial followed by great relief. And during that situation, we were probably so focused on the current problem or issue that we lost sight of some others…
That was the case for me, definitely. God had taken me through a gentle process of removing pent-up frustration and anger from my life, changing some of my attitudes and response-tendencies at the same time, and I felt great. I was curious again. I was reading and learning like crazy…
And that’s where my next obstacle appeared. I got very prideful about the fact that I was reading heady theological stuff like C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict), F.F. Bruce (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?), J.P. Moreland, and others (it seems like if you want to be an awesome Christian thinker/writer, you just need to go by your first two initials and your last name). I learned most of those authors’ names from Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, and I was also very proud of myself for understanding the intricate and academic language used by most of his interview subjects.
As I said, the practical result was tremendous pride on my part. It wasn’t an in-your-face, outwardly displayed, “I’m better than you and we both know it” kind of pride. No, it was much more insidious than that. It was the type of pride where my spirit and intellect said, “Oh, these poor people who aren’t as learned and well-read as I… They simply don’t understand what I do. I should be the instrument of their enlightenment to help bring them up to my level.” Yeah, I agree with you, Reader… I would have punched myself in the face, too, had I been consciously aware of this.
Now I haven’t really read that much from Bruce, Moreland, McDowell, etc., but I have read a ton of C.S. Lewis, and a ton about him as well. I feel like I’ve read enough to have a fairly good understanding of the man and his character. I know that he would be aghast and mortified that his writings had caused such a pride in one of his readers. Lewis was a genius (and was aware of his intellectual gifts), but he was also one of the most humble and honest people who you will ever read. He had a genuine and legitimate understanding of how small his own importance was in the scope of God’s Kingdom, the Universe, and even his own existence. Here I was wanting to be like C.S. Lewis intellectually, and I had turned into something that he would abhor.
I can’t tell you exactly how God brought me past my intellectual pride. It’s been a long, slow process of realizing my own sin, and often being blown away by the depth of an insight from someone who I had previously considered to be less intellectually capable than myself. I think that general maturity has helped, too. And the example of Jesus’ disciples, too… There’s a lot of embarrassing stories about them in the Gospels (three of which were written by either one of the Disciples themselves, or by a close follower). The fact that those stories were recorded shows that they were humble enough to admit mistakes and missteps, something which I was very uncomfortable with until I had moved past my pride.
So, to keep a long story short, it was a nebulous (and ongoing) process of years, but God took me from a place of ministry-prohibitive pride and humbled me to the point (hopefully) where he can use me to reach others.
More from my story tomorrow – an absolutely unbelievable God-encounter during a mission trip to Mexico.