A pastor’s pride

Late last night I wept. I lay in my bed and I cried until my pillow was wet. What brought it on? It suddenly hit me how proud I’d become. My heart was full of me. And this blog was a big part of it.

I wasn’t sure if I should write this post. It could be just another example of what brought me to tears. A proud response to my response to pride. But I need to write it. I want to apologise and I want to change. I think my pride had become public, and thus so should my confession.

My dramatic realisation of my own pride hit me hard. It was a bit like hearing that I had a tumour. I was devastated, the tears flowed, and I prayed. The kids were away, Fiona was in another room, and I cried out on my own to God.

I’d just written a post telling pastors to be humble and yet my own heart was hard. I was writing as the preacher, not the practitioner. I was pronouncing who pastors should and shouldn’t be, but it was me that needed to listen. Here was I, doing all my reading, making all my comments, implicitly claiming to be an authority, telling others what to do, and I wasn’t doing it.

Sometime last night God told me. I don’t know how exactly, but he made it very clear to me that my heart was the problem. I’d been getting the message all week, but I wasn’t listening.

On Sunday I joined in the memorial service for my friend Bronwyn. On the front cover of the order of service, were printed these words:

Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.  (Psalm 115:1)

I was so convicted as I read and heard these words. These words seemed so true on the lips of Bronwyn, but as I mouthed them they seemed so hollow. In fact, even during the service I found my thoughts and tears and prayers wandering away to my self and my family instead.

There were so many people at that service to thank God for Bronwyn, support the family, and pay tribute to her life. I knew so many of them, and they kept coming up to me saying how good it was to see me looking so well, and how they’d been praying for me, even daily. And my heart swelled up. I’d become the prayer celebrity. Oh, how I hate it how my heart can take what is good and twist it so badly.

On Monday and Tuesday I joined a planning retreat with the staff of our church, and it did my head in. I was struggling with the effects of chemo, but that wasn’t the real problem. It was being in a situation I was so familiar with, but in a role that was totally foreign. I’d been the leader and now I wasn’t. It’s not that I wanted to be. I’m very grateful for Marcus, and for the grace that all the team have shown me. But I realise that my heart is still catching up with my head.

On Wednesday I went to the oncologist. It had been a while and I’d been doing so well. I wanted him to tell me that I was the best patient he’d had, that he’d been wrong about me, and that we could expect the cancer to disappear very soon. I now realise I’d become proud of how I’d been going. I’d had 23 cycles of chemo. Most people don’t have more than 5 or 6. I’d been battling cancer and winning. I could succeed where others had failed! How stupid and how arrogant. The oncologist made it clear that I still have a terminal illness. I’d done nothing, but fill myself with pride.

Thursday and Friday I’d been writing. Telling people what to look for in a pastor, what a pastor should be like. What I should have been doing was listening to the word of God that I was preaching. I should have been looking into the mirror and seeing what I looked like. We’d actually read these verses on our staff retreat only days before:

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  (James 1:22-24)

And I’d been doing exactly that! It took the words of two friends to point it out to me. They don’t know it, but they were angels, messengers from God. They were true prophets, for they told me the truth from God. They weren’t so rude as to tell me outright, but their gentle and wise questions helped me to see the truth clearly last night. My heart was proud and it needed to change.

Last night I prayed and I cried, asking God to forgive me and to change me. Thank God, he is gracious and merciful and forgiving. My ongoing prayer is that God will gently work within me to give me humility.

I’ve written and published this because I believe that I owe you, my reader, an apology. Please forgive me my pride.

10 thoughts on “A pastor’s pride”

  1. Thanks Dave,
    So appreciate your posts they have helped me as a pastor heaps. Interestingly after reading you post on what pastors ought to be doing I was so beaten up i cut and pasted the whole thing into an email to my wife under the heading “time for me to resign”… it wasn’t that disagreed with your post quite the reverse it was so hard hitting and convicted my of my own hopeless inadequacies. Anyway the next post on who supports the pastor and then this one put a whole different angle on things. So thanks for posting and please to continue to do so.
    Regards

    Dan

  2. Dave, your self-exposure is so very heartfelt and meaningful no doubt to yourself and, to be sure, to so many others. God has used your words to let me see inside myself and it isn’t a pretty sight; for this I thank both him and you. I have a spinal disease where the ligaments that join the vertebrates together are ossifying (diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis/DISH); I have to keep moving or my spine will become stiff, inflexible and useless (even stiff-necked!). It would not be fit for the purpose for which it was designed. Pride does the very same thing to my heart. I have to keep allowing the Lord to keep my heart in the condition he wants as he sanctifies me, and not what — I — want to make myself out to be, or hope to be. Thanks so much for being real. Be encouraged in the Lord and lift your eyes to the Lord… Psa 43:5 “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”

  3. Dave, if the Lord has convicted you of sin far be it for me to water that down. I am reminded of Jesus’ words “Let him without sin throw the first stone …” I have appreciated your posts and your insights. Yes, they convict … but I often need to hear your rebukes. Thank you for your ministry to me. I also appreciate the warmth I often see in your heart. Your concern for God’s glory; your passion to see the lost saved; your heart which aches for the restoration of all things.

    Thanks,
    Michael

  4. Can I just share that pride is one of the curses of the blogger? (and no doubt the pastor too) Certainly it has been mine, particularly during the first few years of writing, and it took some thorough humbling from God just to begin to drive it out of me. I’ve got a long way to go yet. Thanks for your honesty, and it is good to hear you talk openly of your tearful repentance. Praise God for your godly, true friends.

  5. Hi David
    I too was at Bronwyn’s service, and also my thoughts wandered to you during that time. I have not met either of you yet on this side of heaven but know we will all meet one day when we sit at His feet. I have prayed for you both at different times- we are brothers and sisters of an awesome Father. We all have a story to tell, keep telling yours giving glory to Him. Have a blessed time @ Burrill. Karen

  6. Macca, thanks for your raw honesty.
    I am reminded of my favourite quote.
    “God doesn’t love me because I am valuable, I am valuable because God loves me”.
    You, brother, are indeed valuable. Despite pride, or any other sin which you and I both are guilty of, God redeemed. The cost so immeasurable. As Tim Keller worte, we indeed have a prodigal God.
    You have repented, now be free. The evil one would have you ensnared in a prison of guilt, lest you do God’s work.
    To paraphrase – get back on your bike, we aren’t at the finish line!

  7. I’m glad you opened comments bc after reading this post it made me reflect on myself and my own sinfulness.
    I personally do not find your blog prideful, I am encouraged by your words and they help me to focus on Jesus. Thankyou Dave!

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