I drove to Hampton, Virginia for a meeting the other day. I left early, a little concerned about the high winds, but as I drove the winds calmed down, the sun came out and it became a beautiful day. I felt just great, driving down the road, music playing, sun shining, anticipating a good meeting. I decided I would reward myself with a little treat at Chick-fil-A on the other side of Richmond. After all, I was early, the sun was shining and I was prepared for the meeting.
It’s funny how things can quickly change. I swung into a parking space, opened my workbag, the one with my computer, glasses, notes, wallet…only there was no wallet. No worries, I figured it had shifted around somehow and was underneath something.
Before long the entire contents of my bag were on the front seat of my car, and it was becoming very apparent that my wallet was not in my bag. That means no license, no credit cards and no cash, and I was over three hours from home. Still, no need to panic, I’m a resourceful woman.
I pulled back onto the highway thinking through what this no wallet situation really meant. The good news is that I wouldn’t starve. I had the Starbucks app so I could have coffee and expensive boxed lunches until the money ran out, and even then I could remotely reload the card. Perhaps this would even lead to someday writing a book about the new Starbucks diet.
As I thought through what was in my bag, I remembered I had seen my checkbook in the bottom. I don’t even know why it was in there. I rarely use it anymore, but for some reason it was with me. “Great,” I thought, “I’ll use it to buy gas.” Gas was the one thing I was really worried about. It was possible I could make it to and from Hampton on one tank, but the last 30 minutes could get really exciting.
You’ve probably already figured out the problem with a check: ID. And of course my ID was…in my wallet. In Herndon. Every solution I considered for my gas problem ended up needing something in my wallet. There was no way around it; I was going to have to ask someone at my meeting for help.
You may wonder why I was so hesitant to ask for help. It’s very simple really. Pride. I was going to a meeting with my boss’ boss’ boss and three other people who are much more senior than I in the life of the UMC. I was thrilled to be going and wanted to be at my best. I wanted to be competent and smart. Let’s be honest, I really wanted to be the most competent one there and to be so wise in my conversation that everyone would look at me and realize how amazing I was, and so humble too. This would be hard to accomplish after confessing I had traveled the entire way without my wallet.
I hate to admit this but it is true. Maybe some of you have dealt with this particular sin as well. There are positive types of pride. Taking pride in our work helps us do the best job we can. Having pride of ownership in our homes helps us to make wise decisions about upkeep. The positive side of pride expresses dignity, honor and respect.
But the shadow side of pride is selfish pride. Selfish pride leads to disrespect of others, believing you are better than they are. Selfish pride makes us believe we can live well, independently of God. We begin to believe we are enough, that we can fix any problem.
I was so tempted to not ask for help in Hampton. I almost decided to get in my car and pray that my gas tank would not hit empty. That may be the ultimate definition of pride: praying to a Holy God to support my selfish desires. I was almost willing to risk running out of gas at night on I-95 rather than ask for help! I saw the irony in that situation.
I did ask for help, and my very nice colleague, without even blinking an eye, reached into her bag and handed me money. No questions asked. No teasing. No judging. Just kindness and compassion. My ride home from Hampton was much more enjoyable knowing I would not be stranded in the dark on I-95.
If you suffer as I do from this particular sin, may I suggest that during Lent you spend time acknowledging it before God? Ask for God to show you when you are prideful. Then ask for help, from God and from others.
And once you have done that, take a moment to laugh. There’s an old saying, “Blessed are they that laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be entertained.” I’ve discovered it’s hard to be prideful when you are laughing at yourself. I hope you do too.