Skipping the “A” in the ABCs

Jake! (In the fake mustache, he makes me think of author Agatha Christie's Detective Poirot, famous for his "little grey cells"!

Jake! (In the fake mustache, he makes me think of author Agatha Christie’s Detective Poirot, famous for his “little grey cells”!)

“Pride goes before destruction,” says the King James Version of Proverbs 16:18, “and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Here’s how the Message puts it: “First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

Wise words.

The “crash” can range in severity and form. For me today it was an edginess, a tendency to blame everything on someone other than myself. Sarcastic retorts were my first responses, and a couple times I didn’t bite my tongue fast enough to keep them in. I should have worn a sign that read, “Leave me alone—for your own good!” I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know why I felt so terribly grouchy. I couldn’t pinpoint any particular person or event that legitimately could be the cause.

I fought back. This is not me, I told myself. I can control this. I can change this attitude.

I’ll just grit my teeth and smile, smile, smile.

It didn’t work. Well, outwardly it did, sort of. But nothing changed inside.

I went for a walk at the dog park. Cold air, outdoors, the physical effort of breaking a path through nearly knee-height snowfall—those are all things I love.

But that didn’t work either. I still wanted to bite the head off the first person I saw.

Poor person.

At home I continued my battle to snap myself out of it.

Until I sank into it and waved the white flag.

The truth, I finally acknowledged, is that the edgy, grumpy, sarcastic, self-centered person I’d been all day IS me. With all masks and Southern “lady” upbringing stripped aside, the true me is self-righteous, self-focused, and accusatory.

I looked out the window at the bright snow that blanketed the patio. “I’m not feeling too clean right now, Lord,” I prayed. “Feeling pretty stained, pretty dirty.”

The bulletin from the morning church service was next to me. I looked at the Old Testament Scripture reading from Jeremiah 31. God said, “With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back. I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble…” (Jeremiah 31-verse 9).

I’d been doing nothing all day but stumbling, tripping, and falling all over myself in my attempts to be a “nice” person on my own. I sighed with relief. You say You will lead me back, Lord. I don’t have to find the way myself.

I read further: “’(M)y people shall be satisfied with my goodness,’ declares the Lord.” (verse 14)

That was the root of my problem. I’d been satisfied with my own goodness—till I discovered it was anything but good!

Several years ago, when Em was 10, the twins 6, and PJ only 4, Em shared with the entire family the ABCs of salvation she’d learned in Sunday School. “A is Admit you’re a sinner,” she told us. “B is Believe that Jesus paid for your sins. C is Choose to follow Christ.”

“Hmm,” Jake said. “I think I’ll take B and C.”

Funny–but true.

Too often I still want to drop the A. I want to have some personal righteousness to boast about.

But I don’t! And mercy isn’t sweet and grace isn’t beautiful unless I see how desperately I need it.

And I’m not really following Christ unless I’m following Him as my only hope.