I was raised to work hard. Those seeds of industriousness eventually took root, and I made it my ambition to be a self-sufficient “net giver,” like the one the Apostle Paul describes in his letters to Timothy and the Thessalonians.
No one taught me to idolize ambition. Any distortion was my own. But somewhere in the process of pursuing a law degree and casting a vision for life as a husband and father, I came to see myself as the main character in my own narrative. I entered law school quietly confident that I could purchase stability and security with grit and determination.
The first two semesters went according to plan, and I expected to receive the the recognition that would lay the foundation for placement at the the most prestigious firms in town. But at the end of that year, the school’s journal selection committee informed me that I was not good enough, that I would not receive the recognition that I was certain I deserved. As I sat in my parents’ home reading that email with my wife and infant son nearby, I was not so much disappointed as confused; someone must have made a mistake.
The eyes of my heart had become so darkened in such a short time that I could not see what Jesus was doing. This was no mistake. In his infinite, infinite wisdom and mercy, Christ was interrupting my slow descent into self-adulation.
It was not until years later, as God showered manna-like provision following a period of wandering in the wilderness of disappointment, that I began to see that in each of those disappointments, it was the hand of God disciplining and pruning my heart and delivering me from certain destruction at the hands of my own conceit.
I came to realize that I was not the main character and that “my” story was not mine at all. God had plucked me from obscurity and given me the undeserved privilege of playing a role in a drama that transcended time and space with the singular aim of displaying the glory of Christ’s heroic saving work on the cross. If ever I were to partake in the glory of being a counselor to clients or a provider to my family, that blessing was just a whisper of the infinitely greater glory of Christ. He is the preeminent counselor of all wisdom and ultimate provider of all good things. My weakness is not cause for worry. It is the backdrop against which he has chosen to display his glory.
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” - 1 Corinthians 1:27-31