When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble.
Proverbs 11:2 NRSV
Oh, how I understand this proverb in the mission context.
For as long as I can remember, I have been sensitive to heat. Even as a little girl, hiking in the heat would give me migraines which would lead to nausea. While the other kids were enjoying the hike, or playing afterwards, I would be laid out with a cool rag on my head, miserable. This has not improved as an adult. What has improved is knowing the signs of heat exhaustion and taking care of myself.
Except on the mission field.
I have been serving on short term mission trips for ten years. Each work trip is hard physical work in heat. Each of those trips I worked to keep up with the others. I was not going to be the weakest. Each trip, there were extended times of headaches and various stages of heat exhaustion. Times where I had to remove myself from the group.
The defining moment for my prideful self was Haiti 2011 I was representing International Ministries, visiting work in Haiti. In a short two days, I served with two teams building rubble houses. I needed to “keep up”. I was breaking up rubble, passing buckets full of rock, catching empty buckets, and banging rocks into place. I was desperately trying to keep up with the team, even in the hot sun, knowing my limits. My head started to hurt. I drank more water. And I started to work on a project in the middle of the street where there was no shade. The rest of the team was working, I was not going to stop, even knowing the warning signs.
Too late, I gave in to the headache and quit. I remember laying in my bunk so miserable, thinking I could just die or take a cold shower. Dying seemed a better idea, until the nausea kicked in. I will spare you the details.
My pride to keep up and work beyond my limits not only made me miserable, but it took several other people away from their ministry to tend to me.
Did I prove anything? Only that I am too proud to accept my limitations.
Believe me, there is nothing honorable about losing your breakfast in a Haitian toilet. Nothing.
Three years later, I was back on a work trip. In the heat. With a week of hard work ahead. This time, I have physical limitations from the cardiologist. This time, I make a conscious decision to put my pride aside and lean into my limitations. I am coming to realize that God gave me this body, beautiful in its brokenness. I am learning to understand that I have strengths in my weakness.
Was it hard to back off from the heavy work? Absolutely.
Was there guilt that I wasn’t contributing? Sure.
But in letting go of pride, I let God in.
I realized in a new way the deep love of the God who meets us where we are.
I understood that raw space between ”I can’t” and reaching for strength.
In the difficulty of my limitations, I found the unlimited joy of a loving God.
This will be a lifelong struggle, this pride. By the grace of God, pride will fall, and joy will overcome.
To God be the Glory!