Between a visit to the Grand Canyon and being a small minnow at a big conference, the Lord has been graciously reminding me of my smallness of late. While I initially resist being put in my proper place, I am learning the freedom of a right estimation of self.
I want to be big. I want to be made much of. I want to feel important and needed, wise and winsome. I want to be remembered.
And those desires are not necessarily evil, but the twisted ways the fleshy parts of my heart seek these things most assuredly are. I want to know more than you. I want to write better than you. I want to be more needed and more significant than you. And it disgusts me deeply. It fills my eyes with tears.
Left to myself, I perfectly embody exactly what James says wisdom is not:
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (James 3:14).
Social media did not create this monster. My sin-wrecked heart did. Christian conferences (yes, sin shows up there in its pious clothes) do not create this creature, they only give it a place to show its ugly self. It lives in me, as much as I try to avoid places where it may rear its hideous head.
And I am thankful that the Lord sometimes lets me see it and admit that it is not yet extinct in my existence. For such sight makes me want to fight it until the day when I am finally free to admit my smallness in the unadulterated presence of the One whose largeness of character made room for me.
My soul yearns to be one who is rightly accustomed to the low seat, to be one who has a right estimation of self, to be one who is so hidden in Christ that she need not be seen or celebrated beyond measure.
Yet, my flesh rages against these God-implanted, Scripturally-nurtured desires. I have far more Pharisee in me than I care to admit.
As Jesus so astutely pointed out in Matthew 23, the Pharisee in me loves to sit in a high seat and longs for the places of honor and titles of importance (Matthew 23:2 and 6–7). Yet the Spirit is slowly, steadily shaping me into one who clings to the feet of Jesus, washing his feet with my tears of repentance and dependence (see Luke 7:36–50).
The Pharisee in me wants to be seen and celebrated by human eyes as I do good works or walk in obedience (Matthew 23:5). However, the Spirit is slowly, steadily shaping me into one who is more comfortable with the prayer closet more than the crowds (see Matthew 6:16–18). The Pharisee in me wants to be called teacher, instructor, or mother (Matthew 23:7–12). Nonetheless, the Spirit continually puts in the place of a pupil and child. Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides, but the Spirit would make us seeing servants (Matthew 23:16).
In the kingdom of God, smallness does not mean insignificance. A right view of self, while bitter at first, leads to the sweetness of true identity in Christ. The gap between my desire to be large and my smallness is meant to be filled with the love of Christ which does not puff up but builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1).
When my flesh fights the Spirit, demanding to be made much of, the Holy Spirit brings to mind a simple poetic pairing of lines by George MacDonald:
“‘Tis God I need, not rank in good;
‘Tis life, not honor’s meed.
With Him to fill my every mood,
I am content, indeed.”
The wisest ones will cling to the only Wise One who perfectly embodied the perfect wisdom described by James, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, partial and sincere” (James 3:17).
And the more they cling to Him, the more they will be conformed to Him until that glorious day when they are completely with Him, face to face.
May we help each other to be happy to be small and hoping to be whole until we are in the presence of the holy One.