Friday, May 26, 2006

Think on These Things

One of the worst ways the ugly pride in my heart manifests itself is through a critical spirit. My default mode is to look for error; I am, after all, an editor. I have trained my eyes to see what's wrong, what's ugly, what doesn't work. I set out to find the mistakes. I have been a perfectionist my whole life--and so my sharp eyes examine carefully to spot flaws, traces of imperfection.

Over the last few months, I've been learning how the humble path away from that pride requires what C.J. Mahaney calls "identifying evidences of grace in others." When I read his book Humility: True Greatness several months ago, I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair as he examined me:
"Are you frequently critical of others? Do you look at those around you only to find one blemish after another? This proud tendency is a deeply rooted habit for many of us who have sown seeds of self-exaltation over the years."
(I wrote: "umm...guilty much?")

Mahaney explains that identifying evidences of grace in others--"actively looking for ways that God is at work in the lives of other people"--is crucially linked to humility. "Only those who are humble can consistently identify evidences of grace in others who need adjustment," he says in the book. "It's something the proud and the self-righteous are incapable of."

So God has exposed this sin in me--the pride that surfaces in a critical spirit. But how do I learn to "identify evidences of grace"? I've been asking Him to change my perspective, to give me new eyes to see myself and the world around me. It's clear to me that I desperately need the Spirit's gracious work of transformation; left to myself, I settle back into the habit of fault-finding. I am an expert at this sin. But if I am skilled at finding fault, I want to become even more adept at finding grace.

This week a quote from John Piper deepened my understanding. He says in Future Grace:

"Wherever faith looks, it sees grace behind every praiseworthy act. ...Whatever goodness faith sees, it sees as the fruit of grace."
Perhaps the beginning, I realized, is to simply see goodness--to look for what's good in everything, rather than looking for what's wrong. For then, as Piper says, I know that whatever goodness I see is the fruit of grace. I don't mean that I must deny the pain or evil in this world; things do go wrong and things are bad sometimes. But I must be quicker to see what's right (and trust by faith that even the wrong will be used by God for good). Then a familiar verse came to mind:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
I've often heard this verse quoted in arguments and debates about what's acceptable for Christians to watch/read/listen to/etc. I think it's deeper than that. I think it's about noticing. I think it's about taking note of the truth, the nobility, the rightness, the purity in the ordinary people and things and events in my everyday world. I think it's about pausing to notice the lovely in the common instead of noticing the ugly in both. It's about looking for something to admire instead of something to criticize. It's about looking for something praiseworthy instead of something to nitpick. And it's about praising the gracious, glorious Savior who is the Source of all that's good.

I am quick by nature to see what's distasteful, what's broken, what's substandard. Lord, transform my vision. Make me quick to see what's pure, true, noble, right, excellent, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy. And then teach me to see in these things grace.


Laurie said...

"Perhaps the beginning, I realized, is to simply see goodness--to look for what's good in everything, rather than looking for what's wrong. For then, as Piper says, I know that whatever goodness I see is the fruit of grace."

I love that. thanks for your insightful writing.

dottie said...

thanks for this post and these words of wisdom about grace and humility and how not to be critical of others. i really appreciated it.

on my way to church this morning, i was trying to remember what it was you had written about how to see evidences of grace in others. when i got to church, i made myself a note in the bulletin that read "re-read amy's blog for info about grace." :o) a shift in perspective is something that i know i could greatly benefit from. thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

I have come to understand that humility is an attitude that we must train ourselves to possess. I spent time this morning in 1Peter 5:5 which is an instruction to the church to be humble. God finds favor in humility and then He promises to give us grace. So grace in itself is a gift of mercy that God freely gives to those who willingly submit to those in authority. We are responsible for our attitude of humility and God gives us the tools (1 John 1:9) to put us back in fellowship when we sin and fall short of the glory of God. We admittedly sin and fall into an arrogance pattern fueled by pride that opposes God. But God has gived us a way to recover through the application of confessing our sins. We then get back into fellowship and continue our journey of spiritual maturation. Thanks for your honest evaluation of your own heart. It is refreshing to know that others are intrested in pulling the "weeds" out of their soul garden. See ya Wednesday!