I have this index card on my desk that has a quote from one of the email devotionals that waits for me every morning when I get to work. It reads:
"The moment our hearts are emptied of pride, selfishness, ambition, and everything that is contrary to God's law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the spirit of God. We must be emptied before we are filled"
I avoid this index card even though it is taped along the bottom of my monitor and written in faded blue ink. It's followed me from desk to desk offering the same message that my heart does not want to hear.
You see, I struggle with pride, selfishness, and ambition. Daily. It's a fine line between feeling satisfied at a job well done and proud of an accomplishment. It's a fine line between working hard to get what you want and working only to get what you want. It's a fine line between going after a goal and being driven by ambition.
This index card challenges me more than any other words on a page. When I reflect on them, I find myself wondering, was I humble enough? Were my motivations right? Did I leave room for God to be glorified? Did I give God the glory or did I think, in my mere mind, that I was the one responsible for ANY of the success I found?
We must be emptied before we are filled.... but who wants to run to empty? I do it with my gas tank because I am lazy...but I often kick myself in the behind because I end up having to get gas at the most inconvenient times for the most outrageous price. It is so easy to see how we err, isn't it? But as easy as it is, it is equally as hard to correct our bad behavior. Most of it is impulsive, isn't it? Its like a child that you say no repeatedly to that is still drawn to their offense. Uncontrollable.
Pride, selfishness, and ambition are necessary for worth - I am absolutely sure... but how much of it do we need to strike a balance? I suppose that answer is different for everyone. I could spend time trying to answer it here, but it might only apply to me.
I have sat by a friend who hit absolute rock bottom - a friend who was proud, a wee bit selfish, and definitely full of ambition. This friend was hollowed out by grief, pain, loss, uncertainty, hopelessness ... The shell that stood, lamenting, next to me felt as though it would shatter at the slightest whisper of air. In this brokenness, in this emptying of pride, selfishness, and ambition, the Holy Spirit swooped in and turned moaning into shouts of joy. Oh how He loves us.
Our God is a God of second and third and fourth and infinite chances. He wants us to be able to glorify Him - and so what He does is allow us to be emptied so that all we have is Him, His word, and His promise. When we accept this, when we lean into this and use it as a crutch to take the next step, then He weeps tears of joy and celebrates the victory. He has made us more than conquerors - we are His friends, His disciples, His missionaries, His heart of praise and worship. On the upside of it all, He allows us to be blessed to a measure that is bigger than our hearts desire - which makes us humble and full of awe - which makes us shout from rooftops what our God has done for us even when we don't necessarily deserve it.
Empty yourselves, friends. It may be easy for some, hard for others...but the glory of the goodness of our God will fill your hearts - every single corner. Trust Him.