It was a simple mistake. A grammatical error, to be exact. But it was on the internet, the modern-day public square, and (crucial to note) the error changed the meaning of the statement. When I received a mocking response (yes, from a stranger!) I was surprised at how it felt—like a hot iron, pulled from an angry fire, and pressed on my mistake. Exposing, embarrassing, and painful. My face flushed with shame; I was caught in a stupid blunder.
And just as quickly, the embarrassment was followed by shock at my reaction. Why had I responded that way?
In the course of my everyday life, I was usually the stoic one. When friends were going through times of crisis, I was the one they called on for measured, reasonable advice. I could take the jokes and the hits, and normally the trolls just make my eyes roll. So why was this time different? Why had this comment cut so deep?
The episode stuck with me for a few days. I found myself sharing what happened with a few trusted friends, hoping to receive some clarity by talking it through. I journaled and I mulled it over. Eventually, I took it to the Lord in prayer, tired of the question mark that hung over my heart.
In the classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, author Oswald Chambers talks about the “hurt of the Lord.” He writes,
“Unless we get hurt right out of every deception about ourselves, the word of God is not having its way with us…The word of the Lord pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit; there is no deception left. There never can be any mistake about the hurt of the Lord’s word when it comes to His child, but the point of the hurt is the great point of revelation.”
When my eyes were finally opened, the reality was devastating. Something as simple as being mocked for a grammatical mistake had triggered the ugly dragon of my pride to rise in its defense. The state of my soul desired to be known as intelligent, pulled together, and—let’s just be honest here—perfect. I didn’t want to be branded as a writer who made mistakes with her words.
But once the sword that is the “word of the Lord” pierced my heart and revealed my arrogance, I was deeply grieved. My prayers turned from cool questioning to sorrowful repentance. I was no different from Paul’s adversaries in Galatians 6, “those who want to make a good impression in the flesh,” because I was deriving my sense of worth from other people’s opinions of my abilities and allowing it to inflate my ego.
As he finishes his letter to the believers at Galatia, Paul concludes (and interesting to note: at this point he has forgone the custom of employing a scribe and is writing in his own impassioned handwriting instead),
“But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation.” (Gal. 6:12, 14-15 HCSB)
Paul reminds us that when pride attaches to the works of the flesh, be it in religious ritual (like circumcision) or the everyday use of our talents or skills (like my writing), we are in danger of trading the beauty of the resurrected life for…nothing. Emptiness. Shallow value and hollowed meaning.
However, if we embrace the reality of who we are before God, and more importantly, who he is as Lord, it will change our entire worldview. Paul’s words challenge us to “boast” about the work of the cross of Christ in our lives (essentially freeing us from boasting about anything of lesser worth).
And you know what that means, right? We are invited to joyfully tell anyone who wants to hear that Jesus has made me new! I was once dead in my sin, but now I am a new creation!
From this side of the episode, I am thankful for the piercing hurt of the Lord. I know now that it comes from his love for me as his child—from his desire to discipline my wayward heart and bring freedom from the chains of my pride. It was the convicting touch of the Spirit that turned my condemning shame into tender contrition, and ultimately, brought a fresh revelation of God. And for that, I would gladly endure it again.
 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing) March 1.