I heard a wonderful story about humility this past week.  Richard Rohr was sharing about a time when he was studying as a teenager in a Franciscan monastery.  He was 14.  Trying to impress.  Working hard to earn chips.  Counting and calculating his every step so he would impress and move up.  The one problem was that the head of the monastery was a sports nut.  He was always trying to get the monk- in-training outside to play baseball or soccer or rugby.  And Richard Rohr was totally not into sports.  He wasn’t athletic and he just has never been able to understand the human need for competition.  

One day the head of the monastery announced that all the monks-in-training were to report out to the front lawn for a game of baseball.   Imagine the scene!  18 young monks-to-be in their Franciscan robes (Richard Rohr shares that they even wore this hooded wool robe to bed!) with baseball gloves in hand!  Richard Rohr shares that because this was such a sight quite a few of the outside community pulled up in their cars to watch.   All this brought quite an angst to the heart of poor Richard…he knew nothing about baseball!   But as he watched folks warming up, he thought to himself, “Now Richard, you are a smart, intelligent human being.  You may not know all there is to know about baseball, but certainly you can fake it for one afternoon. It can’t be that hard, right?”   Well wouldn’t you know Richard was the first batter up.   And miraculously (Richard still to this day doesn’t know how he got there) he ended up on first base!   Now, the question was, what was he supposed to do next?

Well, the next batter hit a pop fly and it sailed right over to first base.  Richard watched that ball and watched that ball all the time wondering what he was supposed to do.  And then he remembered watching warmups.  He remembered watching folks throwing and catching pop flies.  So, what does he do?   He steps off first base and catches the ball!

Richard shares what happened next.  “The whole crowd just went totally silence.  It was like one of those movies where everything goes in slow motion.  And I watched as everyone…I mean everyone…turned and watched me catch that ball and then turned in utter disgust away from me!  Like one collective and silent “UGH!” It was then that I realized what I had done.  That this was definitely not what an accomplished baseball player would have done.  I felt like an utter fool.  I wanted to crawl under a boulder and hide forever.  But in the end, I learned from that moment.  In some ways these kinds of moments have been my best learning tool.   I’m pretty smart you see.  And sometimes in the academic setting I can get kind of arrogant…in fact pretty darn arrogant.  But just when I get a bit too big for my britches, I remember that moment when I tried to fake my way through that baseball game.  And I laugh!  I have a hearty laugh about myself.”

Richard Rohr says that a hearty dose of humiliation is necessary for the human soul.  He goes on to share that now he prays for one moment of humiliation to happen to him every day!

I don’t know about every day, but I do agree with Richard Rohr.  We do need to be humbled sometimes.

While I was in Honduras, I was feeling very proud of myself.  I had helped some of the team paint the kindergarten building in the little village of Cerro Chele.  As I was looking around, I noticed all the paint brushes laying there in the heat and a pan of what I thought was blue pain just sitting there.  And so, I went to work righteously cleaning the brushes.  All the while saying to myself, “What would this crew do with out me looking over their shoulder and cleaning up!”   My last act was to take the pan of blue paint and pour it back into the 5-gallon bucket of blue paint.   And just as I finished up, Carla Woodworth, a member of our team, gently said, “You do realize that you just poured green paint in a pail of blue paint, don’t you?”

UGH!  Sometimes its hard to be humbled.   But, in the end it is helpful to be brought low.

By the way, I’m color blind.  But why is it that I didn’t ask someone about the paint before? Can I simply say my own puffed up pride?!?

Your pastor and friend, thankful for humble moments that deflate my over-importance, Brook


Tim Schaaf