Hard Falls, Pt. 1

James Shupp, Founder of The Movement Church of San Antonio, TX

Pride Comes Before The Fall

Most of us learned the story of Icarus in grade school. As the story goes, he and his father wanted to get off an island, but the only way to do this was by flying. So dad made two sets of wings—one pair for himself and another for the boy, both constructed of feathers and wax. He warned Icarus:

Don’t fly too high.
For if you do,
The sun will melt the wax
And you will surely die.

Icarus did not heed the warning of his father. Instead, he was overcome by the freedom of flight, soaring higher and ever higher. He felt free and powerful and confident. Then he experienced what pilots often call “a hard landing.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t one from which he would walk away unscathed. High up above and in despair, his father looked down upon a cloud of feathers floating on the surface of a deep blue sea.

“Icarus Landing” is an age old story of pride, overconfidence and self-deception. His pride convinced him that he was smarter than his father. His overconfidence led him to believe that there were no risks. His self-deception led to a fatal error. Had Icarus been willing to listen and learn, the story would have ended differently.

If you are listening and learning, you are still growing. A fool is someone who believes that there’s no one worth listening to, because according to him, there’s nothing left to learn. In his own imagination, the fool has arrived. His mind is closed. Seldom will he allow a glimmer of light to shine in the dark room of his carefully guarded opinions.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the wise man. Night and day he searches for knowledge, especially in areas where his understanding is deficient. He is quick to realize that his knowledge is useless, that is, unless it translates into wisdom. He defines wisdom as the practical application of truth in its purest form. As ironic as it may seem, the wise man may know less than the fool, but he knows that there is still more to learn. Consequently, he is less susceptible to pride, overconfidence and self-deception.

The good news is that we get to choose whether to live as wise men or as fools. Shortly after 9/11, I remember reading a debate over whether commercial pilots should be allowed to carry handguns in the cockpit. It seemed like a perfect solution given what happened after the terrorists took over the airline flights. However, the debate was very complicated and extremely heated. Tempers flared. The thing that caught my attention was when the lead spokesman for one of the two camps changed his position. He was an advocate for one side of the argument, but then he switched before the issue was resolved. A lot of people felt betrayed. What he said afterward caused me to respect what he did. He said, “It appears that there was still more to learn.”

Have you ever noticed how infrequently people change their opinion about something? I have. Have you ever been frustrated at someone’s closed-mindedness, particularly when the debate centers around one of their prized soapboxes? I would be surprised if you haven’t. Frequently, once a person has made contact with their emotions or feelings on a particular issue, the matter is settled in their mind. In some cases, when you dare to differ with them, they may become defensive, critical or even hostile.

As a pastor for over twenty-five years, I’ve seen this happen all too often. One extreme example I remember was while trying to help save a marriage. The wife was having an affair. According to her, she was happy, therefore it wasn’t wrong. In fact, she blamed her husband for pushing her into the arms of another man. I was unable to pry her mind open with the Word of God or with warnings about the inevitable consequences. Like Icarus, she experienced a hard landing and lived to regret her choices.

How can you be certain that you are in the path of truth and not error? The stakes are pretty high. Start down a wrong path and you could get horribly lost. Fly like Icarus and you may experience a crash landing. I want to give you some practical tips that will help you avoid the pitfalls of pride and self-deception. You’ll find them in “Hard Falls,” Part 2.

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