Leadership skills,  The Modern Pilgrim's Journey

Pride Hates the “Small Stuff”-Humility Thrives On It


The Modern Pilgrim # 19- Pilgrim exits the Palace of Pride as no one in the court listened to her stories anyway. The Good Shepherd greets her and assigns her a small task; to clean up the trash from the last site where the group stopped and rested. Pilgrim sulks her way to the site.

If God asked you to bring cookies to a neighbor with whom you are at odds, how long might you debate before you obeyed? What if God’s request was odder? What if he asked you to take one egg to them?  How long your debate now? The latter is a true story from Mary Geegh, a Reformed Church in America missionary to India.

In her book, “God Guides,” Mary teaches about the link between listening to God and quickly obeying him, by using her own experiences. Early into her ministry, Mary committed to God that every morning she would sit silently and listen for specific instructions from him. In this story, Mary and a fellow teacher felt friction between them. The other teacher was a mother to ten children and their needs continuously took priority over her schoolwork.

So, that morning, Mary asked God for specific instruction about resolving the friction. God impressed her with the thought, “Take her one fresh egg.”  Mary resisted. First, she didn’t have one fresh egg and one seemed stupid. A dozen much better. She left for school with this unresolved.

When Mary came home for lunch, there sat a chicken in one of her armchairs, and yes, it laid one egg. Immediately she walked over to the fellow teacher’s home and gave the egg to one of the children who was playing outside the house. Mary dashed home.

Later that afternoon, the other teacher came to Mary’s classroom and asked about the one egg. Mary explained God’s instruction. The teacher shared that she had only enough eggs to feed the children. She went without and felt so weak. The egg revived her at lunch. A true bond grew between the two women in that moment and God set the stage for a miracle.

One day, the teacher’s two-month-old baby became ill with pneumonia. The doctor pronounced it dead two days later. The child’s father came to Mary and asked if she would pray with the family. Mary asked the family to simply sit quietly with her and listen. In the silence, God instructed Mary to obtain some Antiphlogistine (a type of clay) and some cotton.

She said that God still saw life in the baby and instructed the family to heat the clay, spread it on his chest and back and then wrap him in cotton. After this they all sat silently. For five hours. By a casket with a dead baby in it. The child’s eyes opened at the end of the fifth hour.  He eventually grew up to become a delightful, godly young man, according to Mary.

I’ve read this story many times to remind myself that great things often start with small steps of obedience. God took time to build this miracle and partner with Mary. I wonder where I’d bail in this process. Would I have even first bothered to ask God’s help to resolve the friction? Would I walk a solitary egg, to someone’s house?

If I sat there with that family would I have the courage to use the clay and cotton? Would I be too embarrassed, afraid of how this could go sideways? During those long five hours, how many times would I think, “I didn’t hear right from God. This was a bad idea.”  

Every hesitation I can imagine is rooted in pride. How will I look? What will people think of me? This is why pride resists humbling tasks which God asks of us. Doing small things deflates the balloon of pride’s self-importance in the grand scheme of things.

One of my favorite memories of my pastor, Sam Rijfkogel and his wife, Brenda, happened during a community project inside our city’s public schools. Hundreds of volunteers from our church, swarmed our underfunded, inner city school buildings, cleaning, painting, landscaping, moving furniture and everything else the school’s maintenance team asked us to do. For free.

As overseer of cleaning crews, I checked on an elementary boy’s bathroom scheduled for fresh paint, to see if the cleaning had been completed. Here I found Pastor Sam and Brenda, down on the floor scrubbing the walls and floors around the toilets. In a BOYS bathroom. Mull that for a moment. God moves in significant ways in our church and greater community through the Rijfkogels. I think it’s because of this type of humility and obedience.

Any time I get the idea that a task is beneath me, that’s a warning bell for pride. I’m not advocating for everyone doing everything all the time.  God places us individually, in designated roles with specific tasks. My point is that when he does ask us to step outside that role to do something we view as humbling, insignificant or just odd, pay attention to that first, gut-level response. I think that can be a good measure of how filled with self-importance we are, in that moment.

Jesus was a foot washer, a nasty job in his day. If he asks you to carry an egg or scrub around someone else’s toilet today, are you ready to obey quickly, cheerfully?

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