For some reason, my wife and I apparently love to take on big life changes in bunches. Getting married? Let’s add a new job at the same time. Having a baby who doesn’t sleep for the first nine months? Let’s make sure that’s mixed in with another job change and buying a house. And definitely make sure the new oldish house has creaky floors, so we wake our rarely sleeping baby as often as possible. We do at least love a challenge.
It’s tempting to keep our struggles nuclear—all in the family—but then you end up having a 25-megaton blow-up about who loads the dishwasher right. My wife and I believe in community because we know we need it. In seasons of depletion, God’s grace has come to our marriage when we sought help from the hands and feet of Jesus, which is to say when we opened up to members of our church (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). This, of course, meant we had to swallow some pride.
What can we say of pride? It cometh before the fall, sure, but really it’ll do the whole job of self-destruction given the chance. Pride oozes a corrosive mix of arrogance and insecurity, eating away our gratitude. And when we stop thanking God and other people, we forget the joy and even necessity of asking. Instead, we continue thinking we’re our own all in all, the very habit that started our trouble in the first place. Self-sufficiency cascades in a hideous and—in a bit of tragicomedy—a self-feeding sequence.
Of course, we don’t feel it when things are going well. In fact, good times seem to vindicate our pride. All the while, though, we’re sealing ourselves off until one day we’re sleep-deprived and warring over dirty dishes—and nobody even knows.
Pride, on a broad scale, takes on the look of polite society where everyone admits only to doing “fine.”
Pride, on a broad scale, takes on the look of polite society where everyone admits only to doing “fine.” I submit to you that while such society may appear decorous on Sunday mornings, it’s actually a lonely mess. The epistle of James is good to remind us that God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). We all need grace day by day—sometimes twice a day—so how does one become humble?
It starts with honesty—that thing that cracks the self-made wall pride would build around us. Coming out of hiding humbles us so that we can receive care and be thankful. Over time, as seasons change, we find that we can give out the same kind of grace we’ve been given. On a broad scale, care flows in and out of each of us very much like the breath of the Spirit.
I’ll admit right away that opening up to someone about real heartache is no certain or predictable undertaking. You might be met with indifference or you could become gossip. You might even find their troubles are worse than your own, though this might not always be a bad thing. Caring for someone else has this way of soothing our own hurts, perhaps just by deflecting some of our self-focus. Vulnerability comes with a risk and therefore asks something of us to build a culture permeated by it. For starters, perseverance, forgiveness, and courage, which is to say love.
But, imagine a church filled with people who make space for deeper and more honest conversation. Imagine a church filled with people who honor vulnerability by faithfully keeping each other’s confidence. Though reaching this goal will be a work in progress, a church filled with people like that is the best we can pray for because it’s a place where the Spirit and the Word can flow freely. It can all start with a truthful answer when someone offers those three simple words, “How’re you doing?”
Illustration by Jeff Gregory