That self-righteous prayer is so gross. I found myself thinking this week, “Gosh, I’m sure glad I’m not like that horrible Pharisee.” Wait…ah!
And I remembered other times too. Times when I have thought of myself more highly than I ought, only to be brought low and reminded of my great need for Jesus:
I had a downstairs neighbor who I judged.
She was kind of weird and never smiled, even when I tried to befriend her. I thought she hated me.
In apartment living, you can hear your neighbors through the walls from time to time. One time, I heard what sounded like crazy crying, coming up through the vent. Like crazy, uncontrollable crying, with yelling. And at other times, loud, loud singing to Adele.
Yikes. She’s a little unstable. – I thought judgmentally to myself, eyebrows raised superiorly. Nobody saw me think these things. So my sin was safely hidden…even somehow from myself.
I don’t think my sin was in noticing that she seemed unstable. That was an honest observation. And I felt badly for her, whatever she was going through.
My problem was that in that moment, I felt better than her. Not that I was doing better, but that I was better. Made of different stuff.
Fast forward a year later. This time it was me crying, in my room, alone. So frustrated. Nobody could see me. So I let myself be raw. Really raw. I wept loudly on my bed, letting my disappointment and hurt be laid bare before God. I threw a comb across the room and heard the satisfying sound of it hit the wall. And I yelled things that no good, Christian girl would yell.
After the release, I was quiet….and suddenly remembered in horror our thin apartment walls. I was horrified that my neighbors, Christians no less, heard me. No!! What will they think of me? Only a fool gives full vent to his anger! Out of the heart the mouth speaks! Oh no, they’ll think I’m crazy! Or two-faced! In the days to come, my suspicions grew when the encounters with these neighbors felt…polite, but…weird. One day, I was overcome with embarrassment and guilt for not being more…admirable. Presentable. Measured. Spiritual. Mature.
I admitted my embarrassment to my husband and a friend. We joked that I should apologize to my neighbors for the crazy houseguest who was visiting. That I was trying to minister to her. Poor soul.
And I felt so ashamed for judging my neighbor the year before, that I thought her less than me. This is fitting, isn’t it, Lord? You said that we would be judged to the measure that we judge. I’m getting a taste of my own judgement. Forgive me!
I had seen my sin, in a new light. My ability to look down my nose at others. My ability to unleash anger. My fear of man. My desire to protect my “image.” My amazing concern for self right after my outburst. My unbelievable pride.
My small group was discussing what “Gospel-Living” looks like, and our tendencies to pretend we’re okay or to perform to win God’s good graces. I had to wrestle with this question that was asked – As God thinks of you right now, what is the look on his face?
Delight is the look I’m used to seeing on his face. But, at this time, I couldn’t see His face. I couldn’t see what expression He was making. It was unclear to me. Like a gray face. So I imagined that maybe what I perceived I saw in my neighbors’ faces mirrored the expression on His face. Uncomfortable. Embarrassed for me. Are you embarrassed by me, Lord? Are you ashamed of me in this moment, in front of your other (“with-it”) children? If I had responded more maturely in my weak moment, said this and not that, would that have secured the delighted look on your face?
But wait. If He is ashamed of me, then how is that Good News? What kind of Gospel am I believing?
So I made myself imagine what God’s face must look like when He looks at His Son, his righteous Son, the one I bank my life on to make me right with God. And the power of the Good News sunk a little deeper down into my heart, as it does whenever I realize what a pitiful, dirty creature I am and how He has made me righteous through Jesus, His perfect Son.
And I read this in my small group booklet again slowly: “Growing in the gospel means seeing more of God’s holiness and more of my sin. And because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, we need not fear seeing God as He really is or admitting how broken we really are. Our hope is not in our own goodness, nor in the vain expectation that God will compromise his standards and “grade on a curve.” Rather, we rest in Jesus as our perfect Redeemer – the One who is “our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” (I. Cor. 1:30)
So, today, I am resting in that.