My Fitness

Saturday, February 1, 2014

reflections on humility

[Please read the with the idea that I am speaking to myself. Writing out my thoughts helps to form and clarify them. If there is anything here that edifies or encourages you, that's just an added bonus!]

For the month of January my church leaders wrote a devotional called "It Is Written." The main focus  of the devotional, and what I assume the leadership was hoping we would get out of it, was to learn Scripture. We had Scripture we were to memorize. We were taught to apply verses to our lives. And we were encouraged to meditate on Scripture throughout the day. I really enjoyed the structure.

One particular point that seemed emphasized or at least stood out to me was that when you meditate on Scripture you simply cannot meditate on anything else. This reminded me of a discipline I once practiced (and have since forgotten and should pick up again) of memorizing verses so that when my mind wonders or goes blank my thoughts will naturally float to verses instead of anything else less worthy. Do you ever remember a conversation and think to yourself, "I should have said this!"? You can't change the past; so why meditate on those memories that frustrate and anger you? Learning from mistakes is good. Plotting revenge is not good.

This idea on meditating on God's Word is repeated in my Life Under Control Bible study that I picked back up today. This week we are specifically addressing pride and self-esteem. "With your focus on the Holy Spirit, you don't have time to develop arrogance, pride and selfish ambition in your life." How can you better focus on the Holy Spirit but by memorizing and meditating on His Holy Word?

Philippians 2:3

Charles Stanley elaborates on humility saying, "Humility is quick to confess sin and slow to point it out in others." I've known so many Christians who have deluded themselves into thinking that they are somehow being loving by constantly telling people that they are in sin or wrong in doctrine or otherwise not true to the Word, and thus not truly living for God and perhaps not even a real Christian...like them. These issues are "peripheral", not salvinic issues and are greatly a matter of opinion and interpretation. To claim total authority on the Word is arrogant in the most deluded way. If you say, "If this verse doesn't mean what I think it means, then I cannot believe the rest of the Bible either." that puts you as the ultimate authority, not the Bible, not God. You are in essence esteeming your view as higher than God's. This might be the ultimate arrogance. Instead, be like Wayne Grudem who has often said that he believes he's right, but it's possible he's made an error.

Then there's this idea, that I grew up with, that humility means never saying anything good about yourself. Whether it was an intentional mis-lesson or accidental, I had a definite confusion of what humility meant based on what my parents taught me. It also lead to a lot of other confused individuals in my life. I think the idea comes from Proverbs 27:2. But this verse doesn't mean to cover the truth by downplaying your abilities. It means don't be boastful. I am good at dancing. I am good at singing. I am good at math, science, and critical thinking. This is not boasting. This is not praising my abilities. This is not pride. It's simple fact. Pride would say, "I'm so good at dancing. You will never see a better dancer. When I point my foot, it's going to astound you!" Pride is bloated. Pride and arrogance are brothers.

Being proud in the Biblical sense is also not the same concept of taking pride in one's work. The word "pride" is not sinful. And yet I grew up around people who refused to say they were proud of their children. Why? Because they thought taking pride in their children's accomplishments and even congratulating them or complementing or even acknowledging their accomplishments was a form of pride and therefore sin. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. And completely not what the word means. Taking pride in your children does not mean you are arrogant about them. When written this way, the error in thinking is much more obvious. These two prides are different concepts.

Also, humility doesn't mean praising everyone around you. Humility doesn't flatter. I mention this because I recently saw a sermon online where the speaker seemed to believe he deserved better than what God had for him. Every time I see this man there always seems to be something off about him. He finally spoke the problem himself by admitting that he was still learning humility and that he was naturally quite arrogant and proud. I think it is wonderful that he is at least humble enough to admit he isn't very humble. But I feel, perhaps erroneously, that one does not learn humility by constantly flattering those around him.

But what do I know? I'm certainly not among the top 10 humble people. In fact, I doubt I know 3 genuinely humble people. I certainly can't think of anyone at the moment. It's ironic how those closest to me who think of themselves as humble come across as anything but humble. It was C. S. Lewis who noted that true humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking of yourself less.

So, what to do about this? Meditate on the goodness of God. Reflect upon his mercy. Memorize those verses that speak on God's greatness and our smallness. Remember Job?  "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding..." (Job 38:1-4 ESV) And so it goes on for quite awhile with God basically saying, "Excuse me? Who do you think you are?" And finally Job responds with, "Oops. I'll shut-up now." “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. (Job 40:4 ESV)
One final point is on the impossibility to be humble if you are insecure. Insecurities surround almost everyone. I recently received an apology for something quite harmless but it was immediately negated by the person's sarcastic remarks on how she's "so sorry" that this was even something she needed to apologize for. I didn't ask for an apology for anything. This person called me. A humble person would have apologized and let that be the end. But this person was obviously shrouded in insecurities and couldn't allow herself to be viewed as somehow less and had to try to knock me down to where she felt. (I just said, "oh ok" and hung up.)

When things like the phone apology happen to me, I try to take note of how the other person made me feel so as to not treat others in the same way. Sometimes I write blogposts because of how significant these events were. If I could go back, I wish I had shared Christ's peace with her. I wish I could tell her that she didn't need to be insecure about what people think about her. God is the only person she ever need please. She doesn't need to worry about how I view her. And as I think of this event it reminds me to be patient, kind, and loving.

I'm much more quick to apologize to people, to ask forgiveness, and to admit mistake now than even just 6 years ago. I'm extremely grateful for friends who allow me to be contrite and love me through my humbling blunders. Also, I'm grateful for my husband who has inadvertently taught me that arguing is pointless: either I'm wrong and should stop talking, or the other person is and they will not be drawn to sense so leave them alone. The third option is that the other person will be drawn to sense, but that takes patience and wisdom both of which I often lack and thus only engage in these type of arguments of more serious matters.

In summary, be humble. Also, thanks, friends, for allowing me to make a fool out of myself even while you love me through and through.

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