“[L]et us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). When it comes to being straightforward about showing love, John got it: Stop talking about loving others and just go and love them. Just love them. That’s what I wanted to do. I had an opportunity, and I wanted to take it.
I knew drama camp was coming up. I would get to do life with so many other students for the whole week and I was so excited. As a senior in high school, I wanted to step up and be a leader. I wanted to help cultivate an open environment of acceptance, affinity, and grace for all the students. I had the vision, the goal. It was going to be great. The problem is, my plans got a little thrown off.
The week of drama camp came, and things didn’t go perfectly. Before the week began, I had prayed this bold (and maybe a bit rash) prayer that God would work on a problem area in my life: pride. And of course, on the first day of camp, my pride flared up like never before. It was all I could do to make it to the end of the day without being overwhelmed with self-absorbed thoughts. It was terrible. The next few days were the same. I saw my pride everywhere and I couldn’t stop living in it, no matter how hard I struggled against it.
On Wednesday night, I drove to youth group feeling heavy in pride. When I got there, I felt like I should just sit in the car for a moment and talk with God. As I began to talk through the issues I was facing, He opened my eyes to see a parallel between my pride and the play we were working on for drama camp.
Called “No Place to Flee,” the play is set in Russia during the Bolshevik revolution, when Stalinism was marking the country and Christians were facing unbelievable persecution. People like Joseph Stalin, who were destroying countless innocent lives, were trying to make it to the top. And a thought hit me: How many people are you willing to step on to preserve yourself?
Because that is pride. It is self-absorption, self-promotion. And my pride is no different. How many people would I be willing to hurt before I would give up my pride? Every deed done in my own strength is a work of the flesh. It is simply living out of my own pride. So, how many people would I be willing to hurt before I would surrender myself and live in humble dependency upon God’s strength?
It filled me with such grief to think that I could be so selfish that I would cause pain for others. My sin had already put to death the Son of God: “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:6). As tears ran down my face, I prayed: “God, my pride is too much for me. It’s so destructive, but I can’t get past it. I believe you are more powerful than this. I give my pride to you—I don’t want to try to overcome it in my own strength anymore.”
In that surrender was humility and a greater understanding of the power of God. And as I placed my feet on the rock, the firm foundation of God’s greatness, the elevated platform I’d constructed for myself crumbled. In its absence I could see around me more clearly. My eyes were opened and my desire to love others was awakened with greater force.
I understand now that pride just tries to block God’s heart. Striving to love others in my own strength is just going to fail because I don’t have it in me: When it’s up to me, I am an enemy of love. Humility is the first step of showing the Jesus kind of love, because humility is recognizing God’s power and surrendering my own weakness. And only God can show his perfect, beautiful love.