The percentage of the earth covered by oceans is about 70 percent. So what we set our feet on every day is literally an island in the midst of a vast mass of water.
I’ve been thinking about the vastness of oceans lately as I reflect on the culture in which we live. Just as the earth is covered mostly by ocean water, so it seems our culture is mostly submerged by different oceans. The waters may look a little different, just as Caribbean appears differently to us than the Atlantic, but it’s all H2O.
As I look over the landscape of our culture and take inventory of my own life, what I’ve realized is we are swimming in oceans of pride. The Psalmist writes:“In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” Pride leads us to focus on ourselves, to the extreme point of crowding out any thought of God. Total. Self. Absorption.
Somewhere along this continuum between selflessness and self-absorption, we each find ourselves, and likely further toward the latter than what we realize or would admit. Like a strong riptide, we are being carried deeper into the ocean of pride without realizing the danger. It is only when our gaze is turned back to a fixed point on the shore that we realize how far adrift we are.
But really, how many of us do that? Our focus is primarily on ourselves—our jobs, our relationships, our goals, our struggles. And because the oceans of pride are so vast, it is often all that we see. And within these oceans are the strong currents of our culture pulling us further away from the Fixed Point that could alert us to how far adrift we truly are.
What we are, and what I am, is adrift in pride. Many of us will, of course, acknowledge the generic dangers of pride, particularly if we walk with the Lord, but I think all of us have far much more pride than we are willing to admit.
During the past year, I have been doing a lot of self-examination, not necessarily because I set out to do it, but because circumstances forced me. What I found is I’ve been swimming in pride. I was most focused on myself, my life, my opinions, my circumstances and that focus left little room for God. While I proclaimed Him and wrote about Him, taught from His Word and encouraged others to obey, I was unknowingly adrift in pride, being carried further away from my Fixed Point. My thoughts were first and foremost on myself.
Pride is ultimately about control and self-sufficiency. Like a young child might say when offered help, “I can do it myself!” He or she wants to demonstrate the ability to do things without help. We like to find our own solutions and lean on those. I recently talked with someone who was struggling with something and I asked her why she hadn’t said anything. She replied, “I don’t like to ask for help. My retort was, “That is the very definition of pride.”
I spent the first part of my year of reflection trying to solve my own problems by thinking about them and talking about them—A LOT. I offered up an occasional prayer, but I wasn’t truly seeking the Lord for help. It wasn’t until I was desperate enough to turn my heart toward Him that I realized how prideful I truly was; how far I gone adrift in its waters.
I have been reading the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament recently and what struck me is that a number of godly kings started out well, but later became prideful. Solomon, the wisest human to ever live fell to pride as he aged; King Uzziah’s downfall was the result of his pride; and Hezekiah, who restored the Temple and placed God once again at the center of Judaic society, late in his life became so proud that even after the Lord healed him, he took it for granted and had no appreciation for what the Lord had done. (To his credit, Hezekiah did repent.) What these biblical examples demonstrate is our bent toward pride, even if we are fully committed to following the Lord. So we have to be on our guard against it. However, few of us are.
In the culture in which we live, it is nearly impossible to locate the dry land upon which we can find our godly footing. We have to be aware of our Fixed Point and intentional in making our way back to shore. So much of what our culture values and promotes naturally sets us adrift—a social media account that is solely about us, our lives, and our opinions; the mantra that we can grow up to be anything we want to be; that we can each have our own truth; and on and on it goes, adding up to a nearly total focus on ourselves. Because of the Fall, pride is in our DNA and the cultural influences bring out its worst traits. As the Psalmist declares, pride leaves no room for God. As it grows within us, it crowds Him out. So what is the solution?
David, who was no stranger to pride, found the answer in his prayer in Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)
The Lord is the only one who can find and root out the pride residing within us, but it is risky to ask Him to do so because He is relentless and, as I have experienced, He will expose how adrift we are. It will be far more than we ever realized. But He promises if we humble ourselves before Him, He will lift us up (James 4:10). And I might add, lead us out of the ocean of pride back onto the godly land where we once again can find our footing and live for Him and His Kingdom rather than for ourselves.
© Jim Musser 2018