Monday, 21 November 2016

aspiring to humility

I've been wanting to write about humility for several weeks now but have been stalling.  The truth is, thinking about humility theoretically is good, but it is not enough.  Writing about it is not enough.  Every moment I spend time pondering the extraordinary quality of humility, I feel called to turn my thoughts into action, to move from the cerebral to the practical.  And while humility is a quality I want my life to be defined by, I realize that there are no short cuts to becoming humble.  From my experience, the best opportunities to actually practice humility hurt.  We can practice humility when we've been wronged or treated unfairly, when we've been misunderstood, when we find ourselves clinging to the applause of some or shrinking at the disapproval of others, when we are faced with the choice to assert ourselves or put others first.  All of these opportunities and many more like them seem to have one thing in common: they come in times of difficulty.

a modest or low view of one's own importance; humbleness

Humility is beautiful, but it is not weak.  Humility is not to be mistaken for low self esteem or an inferiority complex.  In fact, the portrait of humility I find in the Bible, especially in the person of Jesus, requires immense strength of character and an ongoing commitment to choose love every time. The bible issues a wild challenge to every follower of Christ:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death --even death on a cross!  (Philippians 2: 5-8  NIV)

Humility requires of us.   

It requires forgiveness, mercy and kindness.  It requires self-control and a willingness to step down in order to elevate others.  It requires speaking softly or not at all, when it feels more natural to raise our voice and be heard.  It requires listening, caring and for most of us, it requires a lot of practice in consciously choosing to do the hard thing.  

I wish it were otherwise, but the practice of humility does not come naturally to me. I constantly struggle internally with things that work against humility:  insisting on my right to be heard; my over-concern with what others might think of me; my desire to set the record straight, to be understood and accepted; my tendency to put myself on centre stage rather than being content as supporting cast. 

And so.... I've been praying A LOT.  I've been asking God to help me change my mind, to help me choose to think and respond differently than what comes most natural.  The bible has a really cool term for this whole process, it is called the "renewing of your mind."  In Romans 12:2 Christ followers are encouraged in this way:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is --his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV Romans 12:2)

There are different ways to understand the phrase "pattern of this world" but I think the easiest way is that it simply represents the road that most of us travel naturally and easily:  the ME-first road.  In this verse, I think believers are being challenged to choose the hard way -- the way that requires a different model of thinking, literally a new mind on the matter.  And as for what is God's "good, pleasing and perfect will," that can be answered easily:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 NIV)

Oh goodness!!  Even as I read and write in this moment, I let out a heavy sigh.

I have such a long way to go in this process.  And the hardest part of all is that practicing is really hard.  Am I willing to commit to this kind of rigorous training?  Is the outcome, a life characterized by humility, something I am willing to keep in my sights?

If I truly want to walk daily in humility, I know it means facing difficult things.  It means summoning the courage to invite opportunities, submit to this growing process, and to remind myself:  Don't just think about it.   DO IT!

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