I don’t think I’m an intensely autobiographical writer on this blog. I write with a personal element, of course, but I don’t engage in a lot of existential, self-reflection on here, where I arrive at some personal insight leading to enlightenment that I can share with others. I’ve realized that because of this, I might come off in digital print as a better person than I actually am.
I started thinking about this because I’ve been listening to Paul David Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling, on pastoral ministry, lately and it’s been good. Well, more like “hurts so good” kind of good. At one point, Tripp goes into the problem of pastors feeling like they’ve spiritually-arrived because of various factors like theological knowledge, ministry experience, technical efficiency, or the praise of others. It’s very easy for a pastor who is experiencing some ministry success or getting the praise and thanks of parishioners who only see their public ministry persona, to start believing their own press. People don’t always see the petty thoughts, the fires of pride just stoked by their well-meaning comments (which you shouldn’t necessarily stop, because plenty of pastors do need it), the dozens of shady words uttered away from hearing ears. In any case, it’s pretty easy for a pastor to be blind to their spiritual condition.
Of course, when I started to think about it, this easily applies to bloggers too. It takes little effort to convince yourself that because you can write well, communicate gospel truths effectively, and happen to have gotten a few breaks as a writer, that you’ve arrived. As the positive comments, shares, or tweets start up, you can quickly start thinking “Yeah, that really was a good post. Man, I really did help people. I do deserve this attention. How nice is it that people are noticing the great work I’m doing?” You might not even think this consciously, but that sense of pride and accomplishment creeps in and starts to rob your sense of gratitude toward the God of grace who called you and gave you whatever gifts and accomplishments you have.
I know that I’ve had to catch myself recently in this. I’ve caught a couple of breaks here and there (big for me, but still, it’s not like I’m a big deal), little bits of God’s grace towards me, and it’s amazing how quickly that can start turning into the sense of having arrived. Write a few posts paraphrasing Calvin and other smart people, get some nice feedback, and you start to feel like you earned it–like those insights are signs of deep wisdom and spiritual maturity. I can fool myself into thinking that because I know what to say about growing in sanctification, or engaging graceful polemics, I’m actually good at those things.
The funny thing is that this kind of pride is so wily, it can even apply to those bloggers who make a regular habit of ‘vulnerability’ and honesty about their weaknesses and foibles. Kinda reminds my of this mewithoutyou song, “WOLF AM I! (AND SHADOW)” where Aaron Weiss sings:
Oh, there I go showing off again.
Self-impressed by how well I can put myself down…
and there I go again, to the next further removed
level of that same exact feigned humility, and this
for me goes on and on to the point of nausea.
Even ‘humble’ self-confession can become a substitute for actual brokenness and repentance over sin. Being ‘confessional’ in a setting like this can easily become an opportunity of self-aggrandizement and a way of reinforcing your false sense of spiritual maturity. I won’t even try to say that there isn’t a level at which that’s at work in this post itself. I wouldn’t put that past me.
That said, I figured it was worth the risk of sharing this little reflection in digital-print as a caution to a few people:
- Readers – If you’ve got particular writers you look up to for their spiritual depth, insight, and knowledge, don’t forget they’re just as sinful and in need of grace as anybody else. Even if they’re particularly gifted in talking about holiness and grace.
- Other Bloggers – Don’t be suckered into believing your own press. You might have tons of great readers, have writing successes, gotten pretty good at your craft, and actually are blessing people through your work. Don’t for a minute forget that you’re only used because God is gracious, not because you are entitled to it, or have somehow ‘nailed’ it. Constantly bring your work before Jesus and ask him to keep you honest and humble, even in the face of your writing successes.
- Me – I mean, I’m the one writing this, but it’s just too easy and too important to forget. As spiritual as my blog might read at times, it’s probably holier than I am.
Well, that’s it for now.
Soli Deo Gloria
The blog so easily becomes an altar of self-justification. I beg for Him to smack me down decisively when I’m not speaking His truth. And He generally obliges.
Oh yeah. He’s faithful with that.
One minister’s response to a listener’s commendation of his sermon: The devil has told me that already!
Thanks for this. I randomly stumbled on your blog a while back (I think it was a post related to a Rob Bell book) and loved the humility and grace in your words as you discussed something you didn’t fully agree with. Anyways, because of that post I subscribed and have been reading most of your blog posts as emails. Today this came at the perfect time. I don’t work in ministry but am just as guilty at thinking I’ve “arrived” theologically. God used this post to convict me at the perfect time. I can definitely relate to the irony of how I have pride hiding underneath my “humility”. Thanks for this!
Glad to hear that blog has been blessing you and this post in particular. God has a way of saying what we need him to at just the right times, doesn’t he?
I have had a front row seat to watch what happens when a pastor at the height of his “success” in ministry crashes and burns – in part – from believing his own press (self admitted). Appreciate all and any reminders as i enter into professional ministry to keep that truth before me, “We are beggars all – this is true.” Or as Paul rings out in 1 Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Appreciate your sharing this in continuing to keep it before me and “grace” as my only boast.
Dude, that Tripp book is gold.
Even the haters can leave you feeling like a noble martyr. You MUST be making inroads into enemy territory to provoke such a backlash! ; )
Hey brother, I have been so encouraged browsing your posts. Well every now and then, I hope I can remind myself of how pride can creep in. I want to bless you by using this comment to remind you to read your post again. Keep it up brother!
Ha! Thanks for that.