Pride is an ugly sin and is at the root of all sins from the moment Satan said “Non serviam” that is “I will not serve,” pride has been causing bad things in God’s good creation.
Now back in the good ol’days of the Church, before life got soft sometime in the fourth or fifth century, there were no confessional boxes with nice anonymous grills. Oh no, none of that. People confessed their sins before the priest and anyone else who happened to be there. There was often some pretty public penances given as well, especially for public sins. Even kings were told to wear sackcloth and ashes and walk a pilgrimage or two.
If you’ve read Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter (a wonderful trilogy which I highly recommend) you will have seen that Kristin walks a very public pilgrimage in penance for her sin against God and her father. (See how careful I am not to put a spoiler in for those of you who haven’t read it yet :) )
So I will make a confession here. I have caught myself with a very subtle type of pride and its about being indispensable. My terrible fear of not being useful. God is curing me of the disease of indispensability by having me be really ill. So, good things do come from being ill.
I noticed this pride as Christmas came and I just hadn’t done all the things that I usually do in preparing, cooking, wrapping, getting good presents for people. I like Christmas to be just so, and very special so in the past I’ve spent hours, staying up half the night wrapping, arranging and God knows what else. It all sounds very generous and kind doesn’t it? But in fact I got a lot out of it. People saying how wonderful I was at all this.
So this year has come as a hard lesson. I can’t do it all. In fact a lot simply hasn’t happened. Christmas cards didn’t happen until the last minute and then only some cards. I didn’t cook enough so there are people without the usual chocolates, chutney’s cakes and sauces. Iona has made a lot of really lovely things, but usually we did it together so a lot could be done quickly.
Wrapping presents defeated me in the end and I just had to cave and go to bed (pulse hit the high 130s as I tried to get the washing done as well). Iona and Josh stayed up and finished the work.
Alex and Anna have been over to help with the final preps and making the Christmas dinner. There are other people who can take up the slack in the rope. I am grateful, but also it upset me. See? It wasn’t just about getting it done – it was about me getting it all done. I have to be useful.
I wanted to be doing it all. I wanted to be the queen of Christmas, making it lovely for everyone and basking in pride. Oh dear me. Now that I can’t I am learning a new humility.
I suspect this particular form of pride is mostly a woman’s problem. Many of the saints were hidden little people who spent a lot of time being very ill. I think I need to remember that next time I am getting frustrated over what I can’t do.
I came across a fellow ME patient a couple of days ago who said she was lucky in that her family took care of her and made sure she could both cope with and enjoy Christmas. They accept she is very ill and don’t try and force her to perform. A little ruefully she said she wished she could offer something in return. Looking at her, I thought, well you are offering something. You are offering your family the opportunity to take care of you. All those people at the last judgement standing on Christ’s right hand had been feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty caring for and visiting the sick and those in prison and so on. If there were no sick, housebound, imprisoned, hungry thirsty and naked people- how could they have done all that?
I think when it comes to us sickies and cripples when we stand (before by then we will be able to!) before God, He won’t ask us so much about all the stuff we couldn’t do, He will say, “Did you accept the people I sent to help you? Were you kind and polite and patient with them?” And of course, “All those people who wouldn’t help, left you to struggle and made life even more difficult; did you forgive them?”
So, fellow mothers out there watch for this sin of pride. Don’t learn with the holy 2×4 as I have done this Christmas. Learn from me. I like the saying that any fool can learn by his own mistakes; the wise man learn’s from other people’s.