Humility is a strange concept to us Americans. We are so self-sufficient and self-directed and motivated, that we almost can’t grasp what humility is. It is not a cloak that we wear to subdue ourselves and look like we are “humble” and pious. It is not an attitude that we have to be a doormat and just say yes to everything that comes along, because we’re supposed to be humble, doing “good works” and helping others. I used to think that humility was about being equal to every other person on this planet, not above anyone in any way. But what I have come to understand it this:
Humility is about walking on holy ground, as if we’re called to take our shoes off before the burning bush, to take off anything that comes between God and us, as if God is present in everything. So that we are grounded before the Lord, bare feet to the earth. Our head is bowed before the presence of God. Our eyes recognize the Lord in everyone and in everything. Our heart is engaged in what is before us. And our soul is at one with the presence of God.
Humility is about awe and reverence in large part, the awe of serving something bigger, outside of ourselves, and of reverence for God and all that is his. It is overwhelming at times that God trusts us with his kingdom, his purposes. “Who am I?” we ask when we are given the privilege of serving the Lord in what we do. “How can he ask knowing how flawed I am?” “Are you sure you’re calling me?” And we look around us for the person who is everything he or she should be. Humility is not about being perfect before God. It is about a life lived in the sight of God.
A second source of the awe associated with humility comes from our willingness to sit in God’s presence, not just in the sight of an incredibly beautiful sunset, but in our every day lives we sit in his presence and, therefore, we can access that presence at any moment we are open to it. We can consult with God about what we are to do and how and what to say to this person and that one. We can call on his name and he is there for us. Can you imagine a God who wants an intimate relationship with each one of his creatures? Who wants to walk along with each of them in their joys and sorrows? Wow! That is awesome.
Thirdly, awe leads us to value the person before us as if he or she were the same as we are—flawed and divinely created and called—to love, take joy in, have patience with, be gentle, good and kind to, share ourselves with—treat as our equal, because it is true: each of us human beings is created by God. Each person, no matter whether homeless or rich, is an equal of ours; all are made in the image of God.
A fourth source of the awe that produces humility is the connectedness of all life, human and animal and plant and even inanimate things, all created by God to be interwoven, to be interdependent on each other in this vast universe that is self-sustaining, because God provided all that we would ever need. We are creatures of God, but so is every other living thing. When you think that there are some 8,000,000+species on this earth alone(scientists’ current estimate), how many do you think there are in the whole universe? Feeling humble yet? We’re one of 8,000,000 species on Earth. We’re somewhere near the top of the food-chain, but every single microscopic being and every single large animal has its place in the scheme of things, too. We’ve made way too much of being the best and brightest. In all humility we’re just one species in millions. God didn’t give us dominion over all life here on Earth, he asked us to take care of, to honor all life.
It’s the ego that is the center of our difficulty with humility. The small self, the ego, craves attention, always wants to be important, the center of things, wants its needs to be primary. The ego knows nothing about humility, can only cloak itself with it, parade it, call attention to it—all of which are totally opposite of humility. It is when a person begins to bring forward the soul’s agenda and the ego finds itself under the aegis of the soul, that humility can arise in a person. That happens when a person who has surrendered her life to Christ, and in making some 10,000 smaller surrenders, begins to really make way for Jesus within herself, when he makes more and more room for Christ to lead in his life.
Then true humility takes hold in her. At about the same time the fruit of the Spirit begins to show up in him—for aren’t love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness and self-control natural companions of humility? Think about it. It’s the gentleness and self-control(not from a rigid self-denial, but from a deep understanding that God is providing all our needs), the faithfulness and kindness and love that distinguish the humility. The person in whom the fruit of the Spirit have really taken hold is also the person who is humble: she knows that she is always second to God along with every other human being; he stands in awe of the Creator; she is deeply connected to the Source; he is expressing the fruit of the Spirit towards every other human being.
So…when you even have the least suspicion that the Lord might be present…
Take off your shoes(and any other encumbrance)
Bow your head
Let your eyes see what is truly there
Let your heart engage with what is
Let your soul be one with the Lord.
Then you will know what true humility is.
Questions to ponder through the week: Have I ever experienced true humility? When do awe and reverence overtake me? Do I acknowledge that every, that is every single human, person is made in the image of God? Is that awareness prominent in my being when I encounter someone who is different, be that in religion, in race, in class or any other measure?
 Exodus 3:1ff when God calls Moses to free his people from the Egyptians.
This week’s blessing: May we take off our shoes and other barriers to feeling the holy ground on which we walk. May we live in awe of and reverence for our God. May we see the image of God in every other person we meet. In faith and love, Pat