I had just graduated from Yale University a few months prior, when I moved from my hometown of Los Angeles to New York City to begin working as a fixed income analyst at an investment bank. I had spent my time in between graduation and the move going to the beach with friends, golfing with family members, and making new friends at church and elsewhere. It truly was a time of peace and relaxation, time that I never took for granted knowing that I was soon to begin working long hours in a high-pressure environment. Of the many things I wanted to do during this time, a particular priority was to grow closer to the Lord and to prepare for myself for the inevitable distractions and temptations I would experience in NYC. I knew that finding a solid church, developing friendships with other Christians, and becoming involved in the Christian community would be of especial difficulty due to a busy work schedule and fast-paced lifestyle. It did not go unrecognized that in order for me to bring these intentions to fruition, I would have to do a very seemingly simple thing: devote the time and effort. I believed that doing so, combined with spiritual preparation (i.e. growing closer to the Lord) during my time in Los Angeles, would be all that was needed to succeed. However, there was a not-so-small characteristic of mine that went unnoticed until it finally slapped me in the face: pride.
There are several forms of pride in regards to how they are expressed. I am not referring to the kind of outward and obvious arrogance, evidenced by someone who loves talking about their accomplishments and constantly feels the need to prove themselves superior to others. I am talking about a much more dangerous form of pride, that which remains on the inside, hidden behind the facades of insecurity and selfishness. I never found myself gloating about the sort of degree that I earned, the college I went to, or my extracurricular achievements. In fact if asked about them, I often publicly gave credit to God, claiming it was only because of His grace that I have accomplished anything. However, what I did notice was my incessant proclivity to compare myself to others, always coming to the conclusion that the one to whom I was comparing myself was superior in some way. When living with this sort of self-centered mindset, it is virtually impossible for one not to compensate by placing an unwarranted amount of value on past personal accomplishments and an exorbitant amount of pressure on achieving future ones, whether in their interaction with others or simply within their hearts. For me, this compensation occurred from within. It is this kind of pride that I brought with me to NYC. It was not intentional; it was barely even realized at the time.
I still maintained my desire to grow in my faith and become involved with the Christian community. But lingering behind that was this pride.
As a result, and probably unsurprisingly to you, all of my plans to flourish as a believer and get connected with other Christians imploded. My life, for some time, did not look much different than that of someone who could care less about God. I didn’t even shop around for a good church, let alone consistently attend one; the only friends with whom I spent time were unbelievers from college or work; accountability and fellowship were absent; but worst of all, in order to fill these voids, I immersed myself in the materialistic, success-oriented, wealth-and-power driven culture that is so prevalent in parts of the financial world. Aside from all the clubbing, flirting with girls, and excessive drinking that accompanies a “work hard, play hard” lifestyle, I began to take pride in the fact that I attended an Ivy League school and relished in the idea that I worked on Wall Street. The redeemed, Spirit-led, Christ-centered person that I became at salvation was slowly withering away, being choked to death by my pride. But, as Romans 5:20 says, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
I have long been an advocate of the notion that once a person is genuinely saved, there are two options: a Christ-centered, God-governed life, or death. Assuming a desire or idea that goes against God’s law or providential plan, God will bring a believer’s life to an end before he allows them to have such a desire. He is too loving and too jealous of a God not to act in such a manner. Yes, he may allow a believer to stray or self-indulge for a time, but ultimately He always brings that person back to Him, even if it requires physical death. I cannot count the number of times He has brought me back. And little did I realize shortly after my move to NYC that it was about to happen again. The very things that I so cherished and idolized, my career success and my social standing amongst peers, were ripped away from me. He humbled me. About three hours after half of NYC lost electricity due to Hurricane Sandy, while I’m sitting in the pitch black trying to stay warm, fed, and sane, I received a call from my firm saying that they were laying off thousands of people, and unfortunately I was one of them. Over the course of a two-minute phone call, the foundations of my self-identity and self-esteem were shattered.
In as far as I was concerned, my life was over. I was worth nothing. After all of the displays of self-centered ambition and hard work for the purposes of personal achievement and popularity, I had nothing to show for it. It was all gone.
1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” Now I certainly did nothing of the sort. But where I fell short, God came through, for His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He, in His infinite grace, took it upon Himself to carry out what I am commanded to do in Scripture. He humbled me. In doing so, He took away my self-centered foundations upon which I was building a life and replaced them with a foundation upon which I could build a life of humility. That foundation is Him. Andrew Murray, a mid-19th century South African pastor, wrote a book called Humility and in it is one of my favorite quotes. Regarding the practical application of how believers can “humble themselves,” he says, “We know the law of human nature: Acts produce habits, habits breed dispositions, dispositions form the will, and the rightly-formed will is character. It is no different in the work of grace. As acts, persistently repeated, beget habits and dispositions, and these strengthen the will, He who works both to will and to do comes with His mighty power and Spirit.” His point is that a man’s character is cultivated in the garden of his habits, but habits carried out in the absence of God, are nothing more. Habits built upon the foundation of God Himself are what guide a man down the path of true humility.
It was by His grace that He humbled me, and it is by His grace that He sustains me in that humility. Even as I am writing this, 5 months after being laid off, I still do not have a job. But it is not a job that He is after; it is my heart. He has spent these past few months bringing me closer to Him in ways I had never imagined before moving to NYC. He has provided a church; He has provided fellowship and accountability; He has provided a number of Christian friends; He has given me the life I had always planned on having here, although I know His work is far from finished.
While I attribute all of the glory and gratitude to God, there is no doubt about how extensively He has used Cru Millennials to carry out His work. It is through Cru that I have found the accountability and fellowship I longed for, the church I desperately wanted, and the close relationship with God I needed. My time with David Robbins and Carrie Walker has been invaluable. From the encouragement and support I’ve received from David during our consistent meetings to the love and kindness Carrie has shown me during our Thursday night home-cooked dinners, I can honestly say that without them, I wouldn’t be who and where I am today. It is my hope and prayer that I can one day serve and influence others the way they have done so with me. His providential plan to bring the two of them, such gifted and inspiring people, to NYC is evidence of the unimaginably magnificent plans He has for this city. I am so grateful for this initiative and the two of them, through whom God has shown me His unceasing love and grace.