I’ve been thinking about humility lately. One of my favorite camp songs is “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord. And God will lift you up. Higher and higher. And God will lift you up. Higher and higher.” One of the stars in my “religious-experience constellation” is a moment when the Spirit of God pulled me to the altar of grace at a campfire in the summer of my first year as a pastor. It was a rough year. I had just finished up seminary and kind of thought I knew it all. But a year of ministry in the small town of Geddes had made it painfully obvious that I was really Sergeant Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes: “I knew nothing!” And so humbly, broken, defeated I limped forward and with tears in my eyes I kneeled and felt the wings of God’s love raise me up.
I love the idea of humility. It has at its root the idea of learning; of having an attitude in which we are willing to be taught. It also has at its roots the idea of getting close to the “ground”, hence the physical act of kneeling. Personally, my favorite time to pull out the idea of humility is when I’m teaching! I want people to let my words work in their life! I often complain to Cyndy when folks, especially leaders in the church, won’t show humility.
I find it much more difficult to embrace humility when it’s me who needs to learn. I find that as I get older, and supposedly “wiser” I have requirements for being taught. People have to “possess the goods” and “meet my standards” for me to listen and learn from them. They need to have degrees and titles.
I often wonder how I would have approached Jesus in the day. Would he have had enough title and degree for me to stop and listen? if I would have just passed Jesus right on by if he were on the street preaching. After all, what degrees and certificates did he possess? Would he his “street cred” be enough for me to stop and bend?
One of the things that would have made me at least consider bending towards Jesus would have been his actions. If I had seen witnessed him stepping in front of the woman about to be stoned and saying “Let ye without sin throw the first stone,” I think I would that would have helped me bend a little more.
This week I read that Microsoft is putting out 500 million to help solve the homeless crisis here on the East side of Seattle. I will be honest with you. That gesture helps me bend more willingly to their products!
The “church” has always been frustrated with people who don’t listen to us, who don’t bend our way. Maybe we should take a page out of Jesus’ book! Does our church have “street cred”? Where are we willing to get our knees dirty so that people see us not just as words on a billboard, but real and life-giving?
May God give us the humble spirit to continue to learn from this itinerant street preacher named Jesus.
Your friend, struggling always the embrace of this life-long relationship with humility, Brook