Blog # 426 Humility
A telephone a computer an electric razor a color TV, all are different in what they were designed to do. Yet all are the same in that they must be plugged into an electric source in order to be what they were designed to be. That is the way humility works.
But before we get to that, think of the most recent time you used the word humility or heard the word spoken in your presence. I would not even think of asking you when it might have been when you most recently read the word in a daily newspaper or heard it on TV. Chances are the word humility is not a frequent or significant part of your daily conversation. If this be so, it is likely to be true that you are not aware of any special value in it for you and that you are not growing in it. The new year might be a good time to check this out.
What comes immediately and spontaneously to your mind when I place the word before you now? I think many people would think of sinfulness, lowliness, or powerlessness of some kind. There is a connection between all of these with one another and with humility, but these words do not capture all there is to humility nor its real essential meaning.
We are to be humiliated in the sight of our sins, yes, but there is a positive and more significant aspect to the virtue. Jesus was without sin, yet was the most humble of us all.
Even with the lowliness, if you want to put it that way, or the simplicity and poverty of His birth in a stable, and His lying as a baby in a manger, Jesus was God, divine, lofty beyond our imagination.
Though we find Jesus walking from Jerusalem to Jericho, and though He wept over the death of His friend Lazarus, Jesus had the power to walk on water, and to calm a storm. Though He was hung on the cross as a criminal, He had the power to tell Pontius Pilate that Pilate would have had no power over Him whatever if it had not been given him "from above". (Jn. 19:11).
Humility can be experienced in lowliness powerlessness, and in response to our sins. But it can also be experienced, and perhaps more perfectly, when we are holy, at the peak of our prayer, and at the moment of our greatest success.
Humility is a natural virtue and can be experienced even by a person who does not believe in God. For such a person the ingredients of humility are truth and honesty, seeing or experiencing life as it is (truth) rather than as we might like it to be, and accepting this truth rather than denying or distorting it. Such a person is naturally humble and naturally happy.
But humility has often been labeled as a characteristically Christian virtue. The basics of
Christian humility include what it takes to make the natural experience of humility, truth and honesty, the acceptance of the truth, but adds the dimension of God and our union with Jesus in our response to God. To the natural experience of humility the Christian virtue of humility adds faith and obedience.
By faith we accept as fact that God is the Creator of all, and that we depend upon God for all that we have and all that we are or hope to be. When we respond to that faith in obedience and accept all that we are and all that is real for us as an expression of the will of Jesus we have Christian humility. We do not look to ourselves for our purpose or meaning but to God. Health or sickness, wealth or hard times are not what determine for us whether we are humble or not, but our relationship to all things in the light of our relationship with God in Jesus.
I am humiliated by my sins. I am humble when I accept forgiveness. In my sin I turn away from God. In forgiveness I am once again the person God desires me to be.
I am humble in the garden as I stand before the plan of God in the power of a seed to grow, shared with me in the here and now of the garden. I am humble before the wonders of my body with so much going on within it shared with me totally yet all belonging to God. I am humble before the sun as it rises and sets. The sun belongs to God. Yet its beauty and power are shared with me. I am humble before friends and before love. God has commanded everyone to love me and me to love everyone. I am humble before this command and rejoice in trying to fulfill it.
The seed would grow and the sun comes up and goes down for the unbeliever as well as for me. But it is God's gift only for the humble honest thankful one who believes.
Now let's go back to the beginning of our blog. We are something like the electric appliances in that in order to be fully what we are designed to be we must be related to God as the electric appliance must be plugged in to an electric source in order to be what it was designed to be. We are real even though we are not consciously related to God, but we are not all we were designed to be. We do not have Christian humility, and we are missing a wonderful experience.
Here is a short prayer Sister Christine Marie taught our class in our first year in grade-school eighty years ago: Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.