Finding one perfect sand dollar thrilled me as my husband and I traipsed through the white sand near Navaare. The sun was shining with warmth, yet a brisk wind reminded us that it was January even in Florida. We skirted the ocean tides and meandered through stretches of sandbanks littered with the remains of ocean shells and other washed-up debris. Our bags seemed to overflow with a myriad of broken shells holding profound beauty even with their imperfections.
When I encountered the miniature in perfect form, I was elated—very sure that this one discovery was the find of the day. To my surprise, I ended up finding five tiny sand dollars. Two I gave to family members that we were visiting, and the other flawless sand dollars I secured in a box with lots of soft tissue for the journey home.
Upon our return, my picture-perfect sand dollars were put away, and I did not find them until I unpacked a large box holding office supplies after our move. I was elated to discover them still in pristine condition—very sure that I would eventually find a safe spot. A week may have passed when I placed the three sand dollars on the top of a wooden floor display in my office that held other memorabilia. The sand dollars added the final touch to a weaved heart made from Nicaraguan palm branches leaning against a framed plaque holding the “Love” verses from I Corinthians 13. Impressive for sure!
A few days later, my husband came into my office and sat down. Our little dog Tostito scampered in behind carrying his rope toy. He squatted on the floor and commenced chewing the rope in hopes someone would grab that toy and throw so he could go fetch. I was elated to have company in my space–very sure that I needed a break from a current project. Then my husband reached down from his chair, grabbed the rope from Tosti, and tossed it over his shoulder. From that second on, time moved in slow motion as I watched the rope head toward the wooden display. Another second passed as the rope hit one side of the standup frame, slowly tilting it to the right. I gasped and failed to move quick enough to stop the downward direction of the frame, which crushed one sand dollar, slightly hitting the next one and bumping the third. The aftermath–one sand dollar broken into pieces…two chipped.
In a matter of seconds, those unblemished sand dollars were changed forever. My emotions went into high gear, causing reason to escape. My inner voice kicked in and took over, shouting, “It’s not fair…this can’t be happening!” “I cannot believe that I thought they would be safe there.” “How could my husband be so careless?” All semblance of normalcy was stripped away, and my light-hearted spirit wilted as anger began to brew. Unable to keep silent for too long, my outburst of dismay did come.
As I look back on that day, I have come to the conclusion that the flawless sand dollars mirrored a source of pride—a symbol of the excellence I attempt to portray. The pride I carry in my heart often can get the best of me. It is etched with my need to have perfection around me. What should have been a lighthearted time with my husband and little dog had become spoiled, erupting my emotions and effecting my husband negatively.
Pride issues are not new with me, but I am learning to recognize the symptoms with an appreciation that I did not possess earlier in life. Pride can come out of nowhere, even in trying to preserve dead sea urchins. But that is how pride works, it is subtle and can transfer inner selfishness to an object of desire. In a matter of seconds, I shifted into self-absorbed mode. No matter how insignificant or valuable the object or issue or desire, pride can cause you and me to lose sight of the plans God has for us.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3
God yearns for each of us is to enjoy the beauty of His creation, to demonstrate love in our relationships, and to display His grace to others as needed. In order to do these things, our hearts must depict meekness, believing in a greater good beyond personal indulgence.
Within my self-centeredness, I also forget that I need wisdom—I do not mean searching through all the self-help knowledge that exists today. The understanding I most need comes from divine truth, but I must ask and seek God’s wisdom with a humble heart. The “I know what to do’s” or as my grandchildren say, “I can do it myself,” must be eliminated from the equation.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
God desires to give us our needs, and His wisdom He gladly shares. However, the way in which we ask is vital—with humility. Nothing else works better than looking up to God for the answers– drawing us away from downward self-gratification.
C. S. Lewis stated it this way: “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” Mere Christianity
I have also come to the conclusion that my pride takes away lighthearted spontaneity. Since perfectionism is my goal, anything that is a deterrent makes me strive even harder so that I remain in serious mode. An old adage states, “Blessed are they that laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be entertained.” I am grateful for my husband and his continuous efforts in teaching me to stop taking myself so seriously. His motto, “Learn to lighten up and laugh at yourself,” or as the author of James challenges us:
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10
God, who I truly believe has a sense of humor, promises to raise us up beyond our earnestness to achieve on our own merits. We are blessed to have a Creator who gave us the ability to laugh as a release from stress, relaxing us and boosting our immune system. It must be true: “Laughter is the best medicine.”
On that fateful day, reason told me that the sand dollars were remains of urchin life from the ocean floor. They had served their purpose, eventually being washed ashore for…discovery. I had a choice to make. I could continue the berating or swallow my pride and offer grace to my husband. I would like to say it was an easy choice…but no. It did help that my husband felt bad. He even offered a creative suggestion on how to restore the shattered pieces. As I sat there lamenting over broken sand dollars, I suddenly could not keep from laughing as my husband started talking for Tosti who supposedly was “barking” for forgiveness. Looking back, I am elated for fresh discernment that day—very sure that I had taken the high road.
If you are like me, you enjoy hearing the words, “I am proud of you” or “You did a fantastic job!” Having a justifiable self-respect and being respected for genuine good work is great. However, keeping pride from multiplying into lofty thoughts and grandiose actions means being intentional about getting your thoughts off of self.
We do not always have control over three perfect objects in our possession, our precious loved ones, or extenuating circumstances that never seem to change, but we do have control over our reactions. I challenge you to consider how pride may factor into your life. Quite simply, pride that is self-centered leaves others and God out of the equation. Begin today by turning your focus on Christ and expressing thanks to God for all He has done. I hope the next time that pride starts to get the best of you, you will sit back, take a deep breath, maybe even laugh at yourself, and thank God for the moment to factor in His goodness and grace.
Blessings for all your efforts putting pride in its rightful perspective.
Just Kathy here, wishing you well on the journey!