Labor Day weekend, 2009, we were at Devil’s Den State Park in northwest Arkansas—one of our favorite places to traipse around God’s creation. It’s nestled in the folds of the Ozark Mountains and offers miles of trails that wind through crevices, bluffs and gorgeous views of the old mountains. Our kids love the kind of hikes that include climbing up and down rock formations, so this was a great holiday adventure.
One of the crevices is about 30 feet in depth and about halfway down has a narrow slab of rock that you have to walk across like a balance beam to get through to the other side of the crevice and climb out. If I remember correctly, the vertical slab is about 8-10 feet off the ground, and below it is a bed of sedimentary rocks in the darkness.
I have crossed this stone balance beam before and remembered that to go across, the first step requires a shifting of weight from one foot to the other and swinging around a slight bulge in the crevice wall. Once that maneuver is successful, it is an easy walk across the 6” wide slab because the crevice walls are within reach to keep one’s balance.
This time, Lanie and I were exploring the crevice while Gary and Garrison waited up top for us. Since it was her first time to tackle this crevice, she was a little uneasy about shifting her weight around the bulge. So, being the “expert” (I’ve done it two times before!), and wanting to show my daughter her mom’s outdoorsy abilities, I did the “step aside, honey and let Mom show you how it’s done” move. But, evidently my show-off mode wrecked my balance, because I overcompensated on shifting my weight to the slab and lost my footing. The next thing I know, I’m falling off the slab and through the 2 foot opening between it and the crevice wall down into the cave. On the way down, I hit my head on the crevice wall, hit my back on the slab, landed on my upper thigh and tore up my right leg on the bed of rocks in the darkness below. My leg felt warm with a strange pain that pulsed much deeper than a typical scrape.
I stood up pretty quickly because I could hear Lanie panicking above me—fearful that I was unconscious since she couldn’t see me in the dark. Someone met me at the top of the bed of rocks and helped me climb out of the opening. As I stood back up in the sunshine, there were a few gasps from onlookers. Evidently that warm, deep pain was where a sharp rock had punctured the side of my leg. I was bleeding more than I had ever bled in my life. By the time a park guide had tied some cloth around my leg and we had hiked the 1/4 mile out of the park (it was early in the hike!), my shoe was so soaked in blood that a small pool of it had accumulated in the cushion of my tennis shoe. I had to throw it away and buy some flip flops later that morning.
As I limped around for a few weeks with an incredibly sore leg, battled an infection around the wound and winced every time I sat down from a bruise on the back of my thigh that was about a foot in diameter, I knew that this experience was a humbling lesson to me of how sometimes I let pride lead in my life. There is still a scar on my leg that often reminds me of where pride can literally take me down.
Pride for me is:
- often quiet and patient—I don’t think I have a constant prideful demeanor, but rather my pride waits in seclusion for a prized opportunity to make an entrance. Then it pounces on the moment.
- sometimes disguised as humility—Not always, but there have been times that my willingness to serve or sacrifice was really a facade for wanting to get noticed or get the credit for something.
- a confusion between confidence and performance—This isn’t to imply that to be a performer is to be vain. Some of the best performers I know are incredibly humble and tend to retreat away from accolades. For me, though, I have to ask myself if I’m performing for acclamation or leading from a deep sense of purpose and confidence.
- a subtle inability to let go of my own wants—This happens when I don’t want to wait for something or disagree with someone else’s plan that impacts me! I can find myself trying to maneuver situations to my liking when things don’t go my way.
It’s just another part of the self-awareness campaign God is working out in my life. Often, as adults, we correct our children and the adolescents in our lives for being selfish or prideful, but the reality for me at least, is that I’ve perfected the art of disguising and diverting attention away from my pride so that I won’t be accused of such a thing. There is just as much pride in this human heart as there was 25 years ago; I’ve just tried to unconsciously master it.
I think it takes a good, hard, pride fall that leaves a mark in order for us to see that we are being prideful. I’m hoping that scar on my leg never goes away. Not only will it be a good test for my vanity on physical appearance, but the scar tissue goes deep enough to caution my motives when I only want others to see the me inside of me. Letting God clean house on my pride is about getting out of the way so others can see the gracious Creator, Author of Life, and Redemptive Father at work in me.