Friendship, listening, and empathy: A Prayer GuideTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Holy Spirit disruptions: Pride and ego

Lynne Baab • Wednesday June 16 2021

Holy Spirit disruptions: Pride and ego

Being a writer/teacher/preacher has created a form of pride or ego in me that the Holy Spirit has been disrupting pretty intensely during the pandemic. You might think the biggest form of pride or ego for writers/teachers/preachers would be the conviction that we are right. That has certainly been an issue for me for much of my life, something that my family members have mentioned dozens or even hundreds of times.  It feels like I’ve learned a lot about that. Maybe I will have more to learn at another time, but that hasn’t been the pandemic pride/ego issue.

The form of pride the Holy Spirit has been disrupting relates to mastery or competence. On some deep level I believe that because I’ve written/taught/preached about something, I’ll be able to do it competently. I’ll tell you about two areas where I see the Holy Spirit’s disruption in this area, but sadly I could easily write about several additional areas.

1. Grief and gratitude. Twenty months ago I began a series of blog posts about the idea that a skill of maturity is holding grief in one hand and gratitude in the other, one of the most helpful ideas I have ever come across. I assumed because I wrote about it, and because I could see the value of this idea, I would be able to do it relatively easily.

I still believe the skill is significant and extremely valuable, but I have discovered that it is very difficult to do well, mostly because grief hurts. And hurts. And hurts. Like many of you, I have been so aware during the pandemic that I have it better than so many other people. I am intensely grateful for a home, food on the table, a loving husband, friends, and the privilege to have spent the last ten months in New Zealand, living a free life. When I think about what others have suffered – the loss of family members, friends, jobs, businesses, physical and mental health – I grieve. In January, I wrote about the dissonance of being in New Zealand while so many of my friends and family members in the U.S. and the U.K. were suffering.

As all of you know and have experienced, the sources of grief in 2020 and 2021 go far beyond the pandemic – which frankly precipitated enough grief to last me a while. Our hearts have been broken by George Floyd’s death and learning more about systemic racism. Our hearts ache at the profound political divisions everywhere and the way they create challenges in families and friendships. The earth is screaming out for us to take care of it in so many ways. Thousands of children around the world still die each day from the effects of hunger, and many sick people worldwide have not received treatment because the pandemic has sucked up medical resources.

I’m so grateful for reflections of sunlight on water. I’m devastated by plastic in sea birds’ bellies. I love getting cards from my granddaughter and zooming with her. My heart is broken by the effect of covid on communities of color. I love that my Seattle congregation is studying systemic racism, but I hate everything I learn about how political and economic structures in both the United States and New Zealand have nurtured racism. I rejoice in good medical care, but I grieve the deterioration of my body that requires using it more often than I want to. And I grieve that so many people both in the United States and around the world lack medical care.

I’m doing it – I’m holding grief in one hand and gratitude in the other – and it is so infinitely much more painful than I thought it would be. The challenge of doing this creates an inner message that I must not be doing it well or it would be easier. The Holy Spirit is telling me to trust in God rather than take pride in my competence at doing anything.

2. Another way that the Holy Spirit is disrupting my sense of pride or ego relates to hearing God’s voice and responding. I work hard to listen to God’s guidance, and I try to respond in obedience. I write about listening to God. I preach and teach about it.

When we began to consider moving back to New Zealand to wait for a vaccine here, where life is more open than in the United States, I felt a nudge from God in the area of flexibility. I knew we would likely live in a series of airBnBs, and I embraced God’s nudge that growing in flexibility would be good for me. We didn’t know how long we would be here, and holding plans lightly would also stretch me, I knew.

Hearing God’s challenge to grow, accepting that challenge, and relying on God’s strength for growth and change is at the heart of being a Christian. I write and teach about this. And I have found that growing in flexibility and holding plans lightly has been excruciatingly difficult.

The Holy Spirit is disrupting my pride at my competence as a human being and as a Christian. The Holy Spirit is saying, “Trust in God’s goodness, not your own competence.” Jesus is saying, “You are my beloved sister, adopted with huge love into God’s family. You can trust that I love you as you are.” The triune God says, “Trust.”

“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
   make melody to our God on the lyre.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
   prepares rain for the earth,
   makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the animals their food,
   and to the young ravens when they cry.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
   nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
   in those who hope in his steadfast love." (Psalm 147:7-11).

(Next week: Beloved. Illustration by Dave Baab: Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

Some of my favorite posts in the series on grief and gratitude:

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