I remember seeing one of the scariest things I’d ever seen sitting in the passenger’s seat on a family road trip circa 2009. We were in Atlanta and had hit the interstate heading home. Two cars, several hundred feet ahead of us, were about to collide. At first, it appeared that they had avoided the collision, but one of the cars “overcorrected” and hit the jersey wall causing him to spin out of control causing a crash with other cars.
A couple of months ago, the Holy Spirit convicted me of being full of pride. I was on a prayer call and the part of the prayer about distinguishing pride from confidence hit me like a heat seeking missile. “Somehow”, I knew I was being corrected. It was the conviction of the Holy Spirit. He said, “Yes, YOU.” I took this conviction to God in prayer, asked for forgiveness, and repented of it. In the days after that, I started to think about how I got to that place and why it was so, so easy for me to see pride and arrogance in other people, but I did not recognize it in myself. It was not apparent. I had convinced myself that because I often serve others now and have learned through humbling experiences to give grace and love past offense that that somehow that equated to operating in humility. It does not. I’ve learned that I can serve and assist and be pleasant and STILL be operating in pride. What does all this have to do with a car accident in Atlanta in 2009? While I was thinking about my prideful behaviors, trying to get to the bottom of how I’d become so prideful, I went back in my mind to my childhood. I discovered that my prideful behavior may have been a result of “overcorrection” of childhood and life experiences.
WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW CAN HURT YOU!
In recent years, I have started to see God’s favor on my life, but as a child, I never really sensed God’s presence, except on a few occasions that I can recall. My parents and grandparents and great-grandparents invested in me and expected me to do well in things, but as far as I can remember, no one ever told me why. I knew I was expected to get good grades, but I didn’t realize that it was because I was pretty smart little girl. No one told me. I just knew that I better not bring home any bad grades! No one ever said, "We expect you to do well because you’re smart, you can do it, you’re valuable, you’ve been given gifts and we want you to use them." I do recall hearing on several occasions that I had no common sense, which is ironic given the field of study God has chosen for me. It’s amazing how God works. I'm not saying that I was never encouraged or complimented as a child, those affirmations just do not stand out in my memories. I did not have the same thought process as most of the people around me. I saw things differently. It turns out that was by design. We often said, “I love you” in my family, but somehow, I felt insignificant and "regular"—like nothing special, so much so that once I turned 18 I was determined to leave the whole state because I felt like it was "regular", I was regular, my high school was regular, and my town was regular. I longed for something more, something to make my life feel “special” and different. I had never felt special or different. I grew up and made choices in my life and relationship choices that reinforced the feelings I had about myself—that I was nothing really special. Looking back, I had developed a false confidence in my young adult years once I recognized some things about myself, but that type of confidence was EASILY hi-jacked. I eventually came to a place where I didn’t think I could do anything wonderful, BUT GOD. I met Jesus and He helped me to realize that each of us has gifts and abilities that HE gave us and that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made and that each of us CAN GLORIFY GOD with the gifts we’ve been given. He helped me to see that I too was special and gifted. Before this revelation, I had already started calling out gifts in others and encouraging others and then God said, “You too, Terima.” By faith, I responded by pursuing the things that God told me to, and He showed me so many things about myself that I NEVER KNEW. He showed me gifts that I’d been given. Looking back, I remember writing a poem in elementary school that was read over the loud speaker during morning announcements because it was so good. I was excited about it, but I don’t remember it being a big deal in my household. It was like it was regular, nothing special. There was really no outward expression of appreciation for each other’s gifts in my family. I remember the first time my dad told me that I was pretty. I had just gotten some new gold-rimmed glasses. I was so surprised because no one had ever said anything like that to me. I was about twelve years old at the time. I don’t blame my parents or my family; they were doing what they knew. In fact, I had behaved the same way with my first two children until I met Christ, so now I understand their plight. We can only do as well as we know. In time, I started calling out my nephew’s and my older children’s special gifts and God-given abilities and explaining to them how their gifts can be used to glorify God.
I’ve learned that when we feel like “nothing special” we have a tendency to attract people that will treat us like that. The enemy assigned people to me to capitalize on my ignorance and to reinforce my insecurities because he knew that I didn’t know what was in me, BUT GOD. I know I had operated in pride and haughtiness over the years, but I’d gone through some experiences that brought me low and humbled me greatly. I thought I was as humble as humble could be, but I discovered that I still have some of that prideful residue hanging around. I believe that like the driver on that Atlanta interstate, I had overcorrected and almost crashed, BUT GOD. As I have come to realize who I really am in Christ, I have gained this level of confidence in Him but also some confidence in ME reemerged. I started to feel so good about myself and regretting all of the years that I wasted not realizing how wonderful I am. It sounds ridiculous on paper but it’s the truth about how I felt. But those types of attitudes came out in conversation and in my actions. I often say that we are all more transparent than we think. I realized along the way that it was best for me to keep my mouth shut in certain social situations sometimes for this very reason. My field of study also lends itself to creating a sense of arrogance and cynicism, which is not a good mix for anyone to have but especially not for a follower of Christ. All of my confidence should be rooted in Him.
I’ve also had to fight the temptation to flaunt in front of people who kicked me while I was down and who had put me down over the years before God blessed me with revelation about who He created me to be. It's been an ongoing battle. When we are down, and God brings us up, we have to realize that we are not deserving. It is His grace and mercy alone that is the reason for our prosperity, nothing more. It is often hard to keep that right perspective. I remember telling myself one time, “God said He’d prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. Surely, He wants me to be happy about that!” I was trying to justify my temptation to flaunt. But, I held my peace. Everyone who is supposed to find out about God’s blessing on my life does find out, and I don't have to say one word or post it on Facebook a.k.a Brag Central.
You see, as I was driving down the road of life, God was with me directing my path. I know it because I proclaimed things out of my mouth when I was twelve years old that have come to fruition in the last two years. I was weaving in and out of lanes and making wrong turns, but He always got me back on track. I found myself headed in the opposite direction in life, driving toward oncoming traffic. I was dodging attacks of all kinds on my life. I was on a road of depression and I lacked motivation. I was lazy and I blamed life. I didn’t serve anyone but myself and I didn’t even do that well. I was becoming angry and bitter. My confidence had been Hi-JACKED. The Lord said, “Terima, where are you going?” He said, “THIS WAY!” He showed me the way. He showed me my gifts, abilities, and how I had already been operating in these gifts most of my life but didn’t not know that He gave them to me and that He had a purpose for them. He had a purpose for ME! He had a plan and He showed me part of the plan He had for my life—the MAP, the destination! I was so excited that I immediately got back in the right lane once I found these things out, but I “overcorrected” to try to uplift MYSELF. I didn't do it intentionally. It happened organically. It was a fleshly response to once being low and now being "high." I was like, “Awwww yeah! I’m smart, I’m cute, I’m headed to school, and I can do all of this stuff very well! You can’t tell me nothing!” Just like that vehicle in Atlanta, overcorrection can be just as deadly as going in the opposite direction against oncoming traffic. That overcorrection was the Pride of Life and I realized that I still operate in that pride to an extent. I have to be intentional about keeping that before God lest I slip into it easily and frequently. What I've come to realize is that no one, not even me, can uplift me like God can. When He uplifts me, it is for His glory and not mine. I've learned to be so happy with that. It's much less stressful. When people lift us up, the same folks will tear us down, but when God lifts us up for His glory, no one can pull us down.
So why didn’t I notice my own prideful behaviors? Why weren’t they apparent? You can see this human phenomenon at work in David when he was confronted by Nathan the prophet in 2 Samuel 12:1-17. When David thought the prophet was talking about someone else’s selfish sinful deeds, he was angry and was ready to kill the dirty low-down scoundrel who had committed such acts. He could not see that he had acted in the same way and that, in fact, the prophet was talking about David himself!
I’ve learned that there is a thin line between having confidence in who God created you to be and operating in pride. In order for us to truly walk in humility we have to bring ourselves before the Lord and ask for His help. We must stay in constant communication with Him and remind ourselves that we are not deserving but that we are fortunate to be chosen by God and blessed by God. One way I’ve learned to battle pride and to walk in humility is to make a practice of apologizing when I have wronged someone (right away) and also asking for forgiveness. “Will you forgive me?” is different than “I apologize.” or “I’m sorry.” I have found that asking for forgiveness, when appropriate, really helps me to walk in humility. Also, I have been obedient and have not posted anything on Facebook about all that God is doing in my life. I have had so, so many wonderful things I could have posted, but the Lord would not let me. Where I have wanted to post things that pretty much say, “Now run tell that!”, the Lord said, “Hold your peace.” So, I moved over to Instagram a few months ago where I follow only a few people and even fewer people follow me. I stay under the radar, relatively unknown, and I like it that way. It almost feels like I’m off the grid and I love it. This also helps me to walk in humility.