Where'd You Get Those Shoes?!?
We women are subtle creatures. We communicate entire paragraphs with a glare and furrowed brow. But the funny thing about mastering the art-of-the-subtle is that we can go a long time without ever having to confront what’s below the surface and truly in our hearts. Yes we women are often sophisticatedly subtle and we’re equally sophisticated in our subtle expressions of what God quite simply calls “pride.” In my life, it seems like there are as many subtle variations of personal pride as there are shoes in my closet – a different shoe for a different occasion, some that I’ve so worn out that they’ve conformed to my foot, other that never fail to cause blisters but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them. Since James 4:6 says that God is opposing the proud, but gives grace to the humble, we all could use a good cleaning out of spiritual shoes.
Consider these less-than-flattering footwear:
The High-Heeled Stiletto of Self-Reliance – Because you’re an independent woman who knows how to make a statement!
C.J. Mahaney describes pride as “when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.” (Humility) We daily need to remind ourselves that Jesus said. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Nothing. My attitude of self-sufficiency and self-reliance is an offense to my God and to the reality of His empowering grace at work in my life. Second Corinthians 3:4-5 reminds us of where competence comes from: “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. Have you been walking around in the powerfully impressive, but precariously unstable Stiletto of Self-Reliance?
The Gaudy Gladiators of Competitive Rivalry – The more outlandish the better!
Galatians 6:3-5 warns against comparing ourselves to others to fuel our self-perception: For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. Miriam is one biblical woman who, unfortunately, fell into this competitive trap. She must have been lacing up the straps to her spiritual Gaudy Gladiators when she challenged her brother, Moses. “Has The Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?” (Num. 12:2). In a spirit of rivalry, she believed she was just as deserving of power, despite what God had set up. Philippians 2:3 commands us to “do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
The Clunky Boots of Selfish Ambition – When you just need to kick people out of your way!
First Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” Contrasting a proud heart with a broken spirit,Nancy DeMoss notes that proud people want self-advancement, feel wounded and overlooked when others are promoted, and are driven to be recognized. Philippians 2:4-7 tells us Whose attitude we are to emulate: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Before you plow over another sister in Christ with the Clunky Boots of Selfish Ambition, consider “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich,” (2 Cor. 8:9).
The Familiar Slippers of Self-Pity – So cozy, you can sink into them and never want to take them off!
Ah, slippers! Those delightfully fluffy clouds of comfort that slip into at the end of the day when we’re worn out, tired and dreading the thought of having to get up in the morning and start all over again! Self-pity is perhaps the subtlest shoe in our closet. It lures our focus away from Christ and drives us to focus inwardly on ourselves. Instead of worshipping and exalting Him, we worship and exalt our feelings. How often have we found ourselves frustrated and discouraged because we deserved to be treated better and they just don’t appreciate me or understand all that we do! Remember Martha in Luke 10? She was busy doing all the work and in her attitude of martyrdom asked Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” Martha was wearing the Familiar Slippers of Self-Pity when she confused service for busyness and “counting others more significant than yourselves” with counting the significance that you, in and of yourself, are to others!
The Practical Pump of People-Pleasing – So versatile, you can wear them everyday!
I think I probably have these shoes in just about every color! The pride of people-pleasing strives to keep everyone happy with their perfect performance. But just like the Apostle Paul, we haven’t obtained perfection and we are still in daily need of God’s grace and forgiveness (Phil. 3:12). And pleasing God will often mean not pleasing people. Paul knew that when he said, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ,” (Gal. 1:10). You and I are incapable of meeting everyone’s expectations – but in Christ we can, “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,” (Col. 1:10)
The Elevated Platforms of Self-Righteousness – Because it’s so much nicer outside when you’re above everyone else!
Instead of acknowledging that it’s God, “who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light,” (Col. 1:11), the Elevated Platform of Self-Righteousness forgets that we have nothing good, righteous, or pleasing to God apart from Christ. Unlike Paul, we don’t consider ourselves, “the chief of sinners,” because – hey, compared to everybody else around us – we’re doing pretty good! Perhaps we even feel like we’re doing so well, that we can help other people identify their shortcomings! Self-righteousness tries to remove a speck from another’s eye with a plank stuck in theirs, while humility bears another’s burdens and restores in a spirit of gentleness (Matt. 7:1-5, Gal. 6:1-2)
The Casual Slip-ons of Self-Ascribed Influence – So comfortable, you’ll forget you’re even wearing them!
In every influence for good that you and I may have, God is the Master Conductor and we are simply His instruments. In assuming the credit for what ultimately God alone has the power to do, we forget to ask ourselves, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:17) You and I have nothing to boast in, “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world,” (Gal. 6:14). Next time you reach for the Casual Slip-Ons of Self-Ascribed Influence, remember: “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me…” (Rom. 15:17)
So what kind of shoes should be a part of our “look?”
The Unassuming Sandals of a Humble Perspective – They may not look like much on the outside, but they’ll never wear out!
In his book The Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster describes humility as, “one of those virtues that is never gained by seeking it. The more we pursue it the more distant is becomes. To think we have it is sure evidence that we don’t.” So how do we cultivate a truly humble spirit? One of the most effective ways it to practice hidden, selfless service. “Of all the Spiritual Disciplines, service is the most conducive to the growth of humility. When we set out on a consciously chosen course of action that accents the good of others and is, for the most part, a hidden work, a deep change occurs in our spirits,”. It’s when we lose focus of ourselves and fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2) that God works in us the kind of humility to which He turns His attention. “Thus says the LORD: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool… All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word,” (Is. 66:1-2).
Ok, My Footwear-Loving Friends – which shoes have you gotten comfortable wearing lately? No matter what season of life we’re in, we’ve got to chuck whatever is “out of style” for a child of God (Col. 3:1-17, Eph. 4:20-32). After all, you and I have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Is. 61:10). May we be women known for Christ-exalting, self-forgetting humility, whose spiritual shoes match the wardrobe of our brand new life (2 Cor. 5:17)!
Katie McCoy is pursuing a Doctorate in Systematic Theology at Southwestern Seminary. When she’s not studying for her classes (a rare occasion!), she loves hanging out with friends, eating sushi, learning new words and is currently a political news junkie. Connect with Katie on Facebook or Follow her Twitter!