June 24, 2009
Who Wants to be Humbled?
Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18: 9 – 14
Have you ever picked up an interest or hobby you’d set aside for awhile? At the encouragement of fellow editor Meghan Kleppinger, I revived my love of horse back riding earlier this year by signing up for lessons. It’s been five years since I climbed atop a horse and cantered over jumps as part of Virginia Tech’s equine program. Thing is, horse back riding isn’t exactly like bike-riding – your muscles forget. I’ve swallowed more than my fair share of humble pie as my new instructor “teaches” me skills I already “know.” It seems all the prior knowledge in my head won’t translate to my muscles – not without serious practice. In fact, my experience seems to act as a hindrance – heightening my sense of self-consciousness and upping the frustration factor.
After one particularly frustrating lesson, it occurred to me how often my faith journey resembles these hour-long lessons. I became a Christian when I was 19. The first few years, I had a natural love for the Lord, and I wasn’t too bothered when I stumbled – after all, this was new to me. But after 7 years of following Christ, I find there are days I can explain theology and doctrine inside and out yet actually living out sacrificial, Christ-like virtue feels downright impossible. My spiritual muscles are paralyzed by fear or contorted by sin. My prior knowledge only serves to condemn as I wonder, “How is it I can spend years following the Lord, and yet still wake up such a sinner every morning?”
It’s easy to step into pride’s trap - especially those of us who have been Christian for awhile. We’ve run the race for a stretch, and holiness may seem just around the next corner. Or, conversely, we lose steam as we slip into despair, discouraged and shocked at our sinfulness when we should “know better by now.”
I think we often mistake the gift of humility with this latter struggle. We think if we hate ourselves enough, somehow it’ll make us better Christians. In the process, we throw out the good with the bad and find ourselves running – or riding – on empty. But my father once explained humility to me like this: Humility is the antidote for both pride and despair because humility is the simple act of acknowledging who you are in relationship to God.
Imagine yourself standing in the Presence of God. Pride instantly melts away as His beauty, purity, and glory overwhelms our small, sinful selves. Yet Scripture tells us that God loves us as His own children – so we have no right to despise ourselves, no matter how flawed, because God Himself loved us enough to die for us. Our job is simply to acknowledge the truth of who we are today, no more and no less. Once we embrace genuine humility, the door opens for God to do great things through us
Intersecting Faith & Life: Does a lack of confidence prevent you from using your God-given gifts? Does your past hinder your present spiritual walk? What are some ways you can take what is good and leave the rest in order to move forward?