I grew up here in the south where the people here have deep roots. We are conservative and most of us consider ourselves to be a moral, upright, people who have a strong history of conservative beliefs and practices. When I was growing up, church attendance was high and the majority of the people I knew considered themselves to be Christian. I am proud of my upbringing and proud of my heritage, but I am often reminded of how prideful we are – how prideful I am. We think of ourselves as good – often we consider ourselves to be far better than the rest of the country that has fallen so far into sin. We are the people of the church – the people of God.
Oh how pride has blinded us and we forget that we are also sinners. Pride has made us forget our good, conservative, lifestyle does not save us; our good works do not save us; we are not saved because we grew up in church and still attend; we forget that we are saved by grace – I forget.
Then I slip and stumble. Oh, how pride falls hard. Once more the words “I’m sorry” tumble out, but they seem hollow and unable to repair what I feel I have broken again. I make my own standards and hold them up high; I discipline myself and strive for perfection – driven to be good by insecurity and pride rather than love. Then in an effort to exalt self, I judge quickly and harshly – hurting those I love the most. I misjudge. How quickly I forget that relationships far outweigh deeds.
And while my heart is pricked deeply because my judgments have wounded one I love, I am also reminded how often I judge those whose sin has not injured me. I judge at a glance those I don’t know and whose journey in life may have been far different than mine. I judge almost without conscience thought and I am broken to realize once more how much I have in common with those in Christ’s day who thought they were good because they had been raised from childhood to be good – I am a Pharisee at heart.
I am reminded of the parable in Matthew chapter 18 of the servant who owed the king a large debt, but when he begged for mercy, his debt was forgiven. He then went out and found a fellow servant who owed him far less and refused to forgive the debt. Rather than compassion, he was harsh and demanded payment from his fellow servant. Although this passage is about forgiveness, it also reminds me of grace. I am saddened to think how often I have not offered grace in the measure – or even a fraction of the measure – which I have received.
I, who want to earn that which cannot be bought, also want others to prove their worth. Then when I realize I cannot obtain with works that which I so desperately need – when I am finally broken and aware that even my best is worthless chaff – then I crumble and lift cupped hands and stand in wonder when they are filled. Over and over again my cupped hands are filled and grace and mercy is poured out on me like abundant water flowing freely from an endless source.
I have a friend who says she feels she carries the gospel in cupped hands like water – and she does – spilling it on all in her path. But I….I am to prideful to carry it at all sometimes. I want to stay at this source that flows so freely and hoard what I cannot hold. In my pride I want to be a perfect vessel – a vessel of honor and worthy of new wine, but as pride crumbles, I see that it is the broken vessels that overflow, spill, and pour out grace.
Father, please make me a broken vessel that does not hold what is given so tightly, but help me to be filled with compassion and freely offer that which I have been freely given.