By Ward Shope
I’m reading a book on humility. Please don’t applaud.
Over the last months, I’ve been astounded at my own levels of irritation, frustration, and anger at almost everything and everyone. Debbie has convinced me that our dog is not bright enough to actually carry out conspiratorial attacks against me, but he has drawn my wrath. I’ve practically given up paying attention to the news to avoid ranting about the fact that there is no distinction between opinion and fact these days. When I read in the paper today about people trying to jump the vaccine line for all kinds of frivolous reasons and then read, “But there’s no doubt that when demand is high and supply is limited, people are capable of outrageous self-regard, experts say”, my cynical response was, “Who needs an expert for this opinion? That fact was established millennia ago by Jesus.”
See what I mean? I pretty much know it all. I’ve not even spared myself from the chastisement, particularly after my ranting. Clever person that I am (sarcastic response), I realized that there must be something behind all of this because it isn’t just what I say—or as an introvert—what I think in my head. The problem is clearly that I believe I know better.
Better than my dog (keeping the bar low), better than the news outlets, better than other people, better than God. If I’m the target, I should have known better. Yes, I have to admit that I know how to interpret circumstances, fix every problem, and approach others better than what anyone else out there is offering. The problem isn’t a lack of humility. It’s actually an overabundance of pride.
Which is why I am reading the book on humility. Of course, trying to be humble is actually fruitless. How do you explain to yourself and others that you are getting good at humility?
It turns out that humility is something that God gives us—a fruit of the Spirit we are given as we pursue Jesus. So instead of regularly taking stock of my humility, the course of action is to cultivate an environment where I am looking at Jesus and forgetting about myself.
The author suggests several simple disciplines to get our eyes on Jesus. At the beginning of the day, we need to remind ourselves of God’s greatness. Look at his characteristics that are unlike ours. He is Creator, all knowing, present everywhere, eternal, and guides all things providentially in His wisdom. I am none of these things and find it almost impossible to control any of the simplest of my circumstances.
Look at Jesus and the cross. He gave up His glory to become human and die on the cross because of my sin. None of this is due to my importance, but only due to His love. He is moved by my misery to the point of humbling Himself to the point of death so that I might have endless fellowship with Him and others. To start out the day reminding myself of these things removes the option of complaint of even the worst “injustice” I suffer. He has suffered far more at my hands.
Then the author suggests reassigning all the accomplishments at the end of the day to Jesus and His work in us. If there is any good within me, or if I have accomplished anything of eternal value this day, it is all because of Him. He gets the glory. I enter my sleep putting Him on the throne of my heart as He should be. In these ways, God becomes greater as we become of less consequence in our thoughts. And ultimately, as we take on His humble character, it leads to humble service like His instead of human judgement like mine.
By the way, the book is Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney