I remember it like it was yesterday. The conversation made such a mark on me, both by stinging my pride and shaping my desire for holiness.
My wife and I were taking a walk, enjoying some nice conversation, and then she lovingly asked me a perceptive question. “Did you ever notice that you are always the hero of your stories?”
It knocked me off of my feet. My wife was saying that I routinely made myself out to be the hero in all of our talking about life, family, and even ministry. She mentioned how rare it was to hear of my own vices; instead, she regularly heard of others’.
As we talked about this in the days to come we realized a few things:
1. Making yourself the hero all the time is like playing dress-up. It is not reality. This is living in a fantasy world. After all, my wife lives with me, she knows what is actually true. No matter how hard I tried, even unwittingly, to pretend and write my own script my home remains a “no-spin-zone.”
2. Ministry is a great mask for pride. You can cloak a prideful self-promotion and an overly critical spirit with discernment and a love for the truth. Regrettably, much (not all) of this is actually neither discerning nor truthful; it is prideful. And ironically, under the guise of discernment, we can show an alarmingly low discernment of our own pride.
3. Jesus can’t be the hero when you are. This is the one that knocked the air out of me. I noticed how I was muting the gospel by playing my own theme song. How does it emphasize grace, mercy, and redemption when I showcase myself in light of the failings or inferiority of others? When I try to look awesome, I’m not doing a good job showing how awesome Jesus is.
4. It is really bad leadership. This type of thinking and living rubs off on people. If I didn’t get to work on this it would begin to shape my wife, kids, friends, and church members. And let’s face it, we can’t all be heroes—that is not a very good script.
5. The only way out is to go down. In other words, in order to make a change on the vine of my life I must go into the roots and see that the bad fruit comes from a root system that is prideful. In order to deal with the behavior, the gospel of Christ must pervade my mind, heart, and actions. It has to really get into my system.
I really believe that God used my loving wife to deliver this gospel blow to my midsection; it had to knock the prideful wind out of me. I am so thankful she was loving and courageous enough to say something. I still hate that guy who pretends to be a hero. But you know what? I still find myself looking for my cape and reading my lines.
Oh, how we need the gospel every single day. Thankfully God does not leave us alone.