“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.”

Proverbs 3:7

I love houseplants despite my thumb being a shade of not-quite green.  I do manage to keep flowers alive on my patio, although they are never quite as vibrant as those of my neighbors.  A few years ago, I started adding foliage as décor in my home, one by one, with reasonable success.  Instead of the traditional flower bouquet for Valentine’s Day, I received a big floor plant that I had been longing for, quickly naming it “Phoebe” (my daughter and I have a habit of naming birds, squirrels, ducks, plants, etc.)!  Feeling confident in my ability to care for it, I bought an English ivy.  I found a cheerful yellow pot on clearance, envisioning my ivy, properly named “George”, spilling over the sides.  I carefully transplanted it, set it near the window and watered it faithfully.  Over the next three months, “George” slowly withered and died a painful death, after dropping all its leaves, one by one.  I was so hopeful each time I watered it until the last few brittle leaves took the plunge.

Disheartened, I went to my favorite local greenhouse, searching for a new plant to fill my now empty pot.  Finding something I thought would work, I brought it to the counter, inquiring of the young clerk how big it would get and described the yellow pot in which I intended to put it.  Then I made the mistake of telling her about “George”.

She seemed genuinely baffled.  “You killed an ivy?  They are really easy to grow, in fact they grow on the sides of buildings.  Did you water it, and how much?”  When I told her my approximate measurement of water, she replied, “Are you sure, was it near a window?”  Again, I responded favorably, and then she said, “I have never heard of anyone killing an ivy!”  Sheepishly, I handed her the new plant I now wondered if she would allow me to purchase.  She admonished, “This plant needs a lot of TLC, I’m surprised they are still in the greenhouse, I thought the owner was going to remove them.  This plant really needs a lot of TLC!”  The implication was clear: she didn’t trust my skills or ability to care for this plant!  I muttered that I would be careful, listened to her advice, and walked out with the plant.

Photo credit to Margaret Collins. In the spirit of being somewhat of an anglophile, I am going to name this plant “Henry”!

Although I felt a little demeaned by the clerk, her questions were legitimate.  Being a plant expert, she was trying to troubleshoot my problem.  Instead of letting her questions derail me, I listened carefully to her suggestions for caring for this new plant.  I even bought a different soil mix she recommended to ensure the plant’s growth.  After a few weeks, it is starting to perk up and flourish!

To be honest, a few years ago, I would have been annoyed with the clerk’s response and likely have ignored her advice.  At the time, I would have let my pride hinder me from further learning and growth.  In my twenties and early thirties, I actively sought information to improve my marriage, parenting skills, and knowledge in God.  I listened to radio programs and discussed principles with friends.  I recognized I was young and needed the wisdom of others to help me grow.  As I grew older, I eventually formed some core philosophies and principles and became locked into my beliefs.  And then I made a mistake: I sought out sources that only supported my way of thinking and agreed with my ideas.  Letting pride creep in, I ignored anything that might challenge my way of thinking.

Anyone who owns a front-loading washer knows the challenges of preventing mildew from growing on the rubber seal.  After every use, I must dry the seal and door carefully, leaving the door of the washer open for twenty-four hours.  I also clean the machine with a special product monthly.  I stay on top of these tasks because, if I slip up, mildew will not only form but grow, eventually ruining my washer and clothes.  Like mildew, once pride creeps in, it starts to grow.  It clouds your vision and keeps you from recognizing your weaknesses.  It leads to sin, and it can destroy relationships and hinder potential.  It permeates every area of your life!  Caleb Holmgren, my good friend’s 23-year-old son, said it best in his vernacular, “Pride sucks. It keeps me from admitting when I’m wrong, and hinders me from reaching out for help as well…”

My pride stopped me from growing.  I became judgmental of others’ shortcomings, elevating myself in my own mind.  Outwardly, I acted humble, but inwardly I thought my principles were not only the right way to live life, but the only way!  I stopped seeking wisdom for my marriage, parenting, and my life, in general.  I became stagnant and arrogant in my way of thinking.

Then a series of events happened that crushed my pride.  Problems arose in my marriage and I started to see flaws in how I had parented.  I was faced with the ugly truth; I had relied on my own knowledge instead of God’s.  I had chosen to direct my own path, instead of realistically evaluating my own lack of skill.  I basked in the glow of my so-called “perfect life”, ignoring signs indicating that something was wrong.  One morning, feeling completely broken, I felt God was revealing that pride was at the root of my sin.

Generally, I have seen two responses when pride is brought to light.  The first response is to remain prideful, either by persisting with an arrogant attitude, or living in shame.  This paralyzes you from dealing with the problems.  The second response is to be contrite, admit your sin, and take full responsibility for it.  On that morning, it was only by the grace of God that I chose the second response when faced with the revelation of my sin.  I swallowed my pride, examined my heart, spent some time in repentance, and made a lot of apologies to those I had wronged.

Pride is a common theme throughout the Bible.  It is a major character flaw in both antagonists and protagonists in the Bible, including Saul and Hezekiah.  In the New Testament, both James and Peter state, “God resisteth the proud.”  God also makes an interesting contrast related to pride.  In Proverbs 8:13, Solomon says, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way and the froward mouth do I hate.”  Based on the way this verse is punctuated, one half of the things that God thinks are evil are related to pride.  Both pride and arrogance, although they are different words, are rooted in the same Hebrew word “ga’ah”, which means “to be exalted in triumph.”  The fear of the Lord is to hate exalting ourselves.

God not only revealed to Solomon what the fear of the Lord hated, but also what the fear of the Lord looked like in practice.  He remarks in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  He continues in Proverbs 13:10, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.”  God contrasts exalting oneself and relying on your own opinions with being well-advised by others in the pursuit of wisdom.

It follows that one of the keys in developing wisdom is to be well-advised.  So, one of the steps I have taken to prevent the “mildew” of pride from spreading further in my life is to be well-advised.  First, I have made studying the Bible a priority.  God’s word can magnify my prideful attitudes and show me examples of how to remain in a posture of humility.  In addition to the Bible, I have spent the last two years reading some books that address marriage, parenting adult children, and growing as a woman of God.  I have also listened to podcasts, paid attention to sermons that have pricked my heart and have talked over some of my problems with people who could speak wisdom into my situation.  I have actively chosen to be well-advised!

One of the most popular passages every Christian memorizes is Proverbs 3:5-6, where it says, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  Recently, I heard someone say that this was their life verse.  Verse seven, which is less quoted but just as important, continues, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”  Again, God is contrasting wisdom with pride.  In writing this post, I have decided to make this plant in my yellow pot a prayerful reminder to me. This is my prayer:

God, I am so grateful that You revealed my prideful attitude and Your kindness led me to repentance.  Help me to continue to fear You by seeking Your wisdom.  Challenge me on a regular basis to grow in wisdom through Your Word, sermons, books, and podcasts.  Let the wisdom of the well-advised transform my way of thinking to align me with Your way of thinking.  God, as this plant flourishes and grows, let it always remind me to remain humble in Your eyes.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

1 Comment

  1. Did the plant survive??? this is so amazing. I loved it thank you I learned a few things about myself by reading this 🙂

    Like

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