Packaged Self-Righteousness

My family is anticipating a move in the near future.  Our house has been on the market for many months now and we are anxiously waiting for it to sell. 

As we wait, I find myself constantly wanting to pack things up and move things out.  Recently it hit me that, much like the actual packing that I plan to do, I am constantly in a spiritual state of packing up my heart, life, and mind for the big plans that I want God to jump on board with.

Over the last several months God has gently revealed to me a prideful and self-promoting area of my heart.  I did not grow up in the typical Southern church family. As a teenager I was very insecure in my faith and felt alone because I didn’t understand church lingo. When I started to mature, I found great freedom in the fact that I was loved because I was a child of God and not because of my background, spiritual influences, or good behavior.  Over time I became proud of the fact that I was not self-righteous. Self-righteousness was for those who grew up in church where things were right and wrong, and they leveraged themselves over those who made the “wrong” choices.  That was not my background and I felt good about my understanding of God’s grace.  I was proud to not be like them.  Like those self-righteous people who love their religion more than their God.

“I was autonomous, but I failed to recognize it because I was making my own religious way.”

And then one day it hit me—I’m actually just like them. My heart is just as prideful. I thought my story made me different, but I am actually guilty of the same thing– putting my religion before my God.  Years of having to figure things out on my own in a spiritual sense developed a sense of pride in my ability to do things without the help of others.  I was autonomous, but I failed to recognize it because I was making my own religious way.  My religious way made me appear spiritual. It gave me the ability to do and say the right thing, which developed in me a sense of religious pride. I didn’t need the help of others, and I didn’t need the help of God.  I could do good things, make big plans, and all I needed was God’s blessing when I was ready to go.

But what I thought I was doing for God, I was actually doing for myself. I delighted in the praise I received for doing a good job and not from serving the God who has rescued. My plans were, and are, plans for how I think God should use meI would pack up those theoretical boxes and ask God to jump on board with my next great area of sacrifice where I would surely receive admiration for my generous heart.  And when it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, I would feel good about the trials I was enduring while I was I waiting for God to move forward with my plan.

Recognizing these ugly places in my heart has caused me to be ashamed of the love I have for myself.  The beautiful thing in recognizing this sin though is that I now have a greater understanding of God’s grace – one that is extended to me.  He opens his arms to my proud, self-promoting heart, and he calls me daughter. And now as I learn more about what it looks like to bear the image of God as an ezer, I can do it from a place of freedom.

So I continue to pack, only now I’m packing up my selfish goals and plans and spiritual ambitions and laying those at the feet of Jesus.  Instead of choosing religious autonomy, I’m daily asking God to help me let go of my plans, my religion, and my need to be used, and cling instead to the grace and love that He gives, allowing it to overflow in my life.

– Natalie Patterson

Are their certain areas or aspects of your life you tend to self-promote? What do these behaviors imply about the condition of your heart?