Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Does Personal Arrogance Look Like?

I am in my early sixties, but I still love to exercise. My weapon of choice is my 30 year old 18 speed touring bicycle that I  bought for $150 at a garage sale. Despite the price, it works great. A couple times a week I ride for exercise. I don’t go very far, and I don’t go very fast, but it is a great stress reliever. It keeps my blood pressure down.

I don’t have expensive bicycle clothing. When the weather is warm I wear an old black swimming suit and a Walmart moisture-wicking T shirt or light sweatshirt. My shoes are fifteen years old, my skin pasty white, and there is way too much body fat. (A reason for the exercise).
On a recent ride God spoke to me. About three miles out I got a flat tire. I pulled off to the side of the road and moved my bike into the ditch. (Did I also mention that I am not very mechanical?) Fifteen minutes later the repair was not progressing like the repair manual said it should.

Like a Good Samaritan, another cyclist riding by saw me in my predicament, and graciously pulled over to help. He was about forty, pedaling a $5,000 carbon-fiber road bike. He was wearing a professional  cycling outfit that probably cost $500. He was “sculpted.” He didn’t even have one percent body fat. His lightly bronzed skin covered muscles that bulged in all the right places.

“Can I help?” he graciously asked. He could see that I was in trouble.

 “I am having trouble changing my tire.”

From a hidden pocket he pulled a set of expensive, ultra-light bike tools and quickly helped me with the repair.

“How far are you riding today?” I asked.

“About sixty five miles. I’m training for a two hundred mile race. How about you? How far are you going?”

Slightly embarrassed  I responded, “About fifteen miles.” I didn’t volunteer that this was the longest ride I’d done in two months.

By this time I—the fat grampa on the thirty-year-old garage-sale-bike in the Walmart outfit—was feeling thoroughly intimidated. I was embarrassed. I wanted him to think well of me, but there wasn’t much chance.

I got back on my bike. My friend soon passed me and was just a blur on the horizon. I nursed my emotional wounds for a couple of miles. Just as I was starting to feel better, I saw two bicyclists way off in the distance. I was going faster. As I began to close with them I got a better look. It was too overweight people on one speed bikes, the kind with balloon tires, wobbling down the street at about five miles per hour. I quickly gained on them, and as I did I began to feel slightly superior.  Look at those slow moving fat people.  I am not like them. Its wonderful to be in such good shape.

Then the Holy Spirit’s sweet conviction came. Pride is the great sin. Few know that as well as I. I have written articles and books on this subject. Pride is the sin that feeds the all the others. It is the root system that nourishes all the other evils.

On this bike ride I had just witnessed two profound symptoms of that besetting sin in my own heart. The first was the feeling of intimidation I felt when the fit, serious cyclist stopped to help me fix my flat. I felt intimidated in his presence because wanted to be something that I wasn’t. I wasn’t a no-body-fat, sculpted guy with expensive equipment. I was just an overweight, sixty year old out for some exercise. I wasn’t happy with who I was, the stage of life I was in, or the body that God had given me. Humility would have contentedly thanked God for the way God made him, but pride is never content. It always lusts for more.  Humility would thank God for the superior person’s skills and abilities. But that was not me. I wanted to be something I wasn’t. That was Satan’s sin. “I will make myself like the most High” (Isa. 14:14). My feeling of intimidation was evidence of this terrible sin at work in my heart. 

The second symptom of pride was even worse. It was the condescending attitude that welled up in my heart as I passed the two fat bicyclists. Now the table had turned. I had the upper hand. I was actually looking down on another person who was in the exact position I had been in a few moments prior. It was rank Phariseeism. I looked down because I felt myself superior. It was ugly. I was proud. I needed a Savior!

The good news is this. The gospel gives me one. Jesus humbled himself an infinite distance. When I put my faith in him, his humility becomes mine, and i get exalted with his exaltation.

This is Good News indeed!

3 comments:

  1. Interesting how God works. I've been recently and increasingly convicted of this as well. I think of how often I've felt superior over the years. What a fool I've been (and too often still am)! I thank God he's given me some time in this life to be humbled and perhaps change a bit. And I hope I can help someone younger than me understand this temptation earlier in their lives and enjoy the blessings God has for the humble.

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  2. I have always been encouraged by this story to watch my attitude in comparing myself with others.

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  3. Thanks Bill, I found it interesting that there was an advertisement on the side of your blog that emphasized "Feeling the PRIDE of being a published author." It's too bad they haven't read your book.

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