"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -Emerson

Monday, January 2, 2017

The year of HUMILITY

The start of a new year excites me. I love to think of all the possibilities that could happen before I find myself back in the grind of the daily. January 1st is a blank page, a whole year to be written. I was never a big "resoluter." I always failed within days of making demands on myself. So, when the idea of choosing one word, one thing God was going to focus my heart on and do a work in me with, I loved it. I also loved it because it became popularized by a local pastor at a local church of which I love to pieces.
Last year was the year of ENOUGH. It was time for me to recognize my limits and that God was saying that He was far less interested in my doings and so much more concerned with my being. The thing is my works-righteous tendencies pull my heart and mind so astray most days. I have a weird, crazy tally point system attempting to keep me in good girl standing. Except there is the fact that I can't even keep up with that system and then it all tumbles down and I realize, I'm just a mess. I placed value on how much I was able to do, always putting the most pressure on myself, trying to keep a level of perfection in all things. It was the realization that so much of my weariness was directly connected with this idea that I had to do in order for people to love me and for God to love me. The year of ENOUGH meant He started to unwind those threads that were starting to suffocate. It meant letting go of some of the ministries and doings that I held so dear, that I had intertwined my worth and value all up into. It required allowing "good enough" to stand, instead of striving for perfection. It was painful and there are pieces of me that are still struggling with this idea that today is enough, that I am enough, that He is enough. The work continues I suppose, even after our one year is over.  
In the midst of all that work God was doing, He started to reveal an even deeper rooted problem. My issues with perfection and doing, especially doing good things, was really the manifestation of a cancer of sorts: pride. Most people think pride is merely this mentality of seeing oneself as better than others or an arrogance. That isn't my pride, although in some ways it is. No, my pride unveils in the secret places where no one sees: my thoughts and attitudes. My pride says, "why did they get that special thing? I do all this good stuff for people." Or "I've done everything for everyone. Why isn't anyone doing what I need right now?" It creeps as I scroll though social media and analyze the parties I didn't get invited to or the shout outs I didn't receive. It lurks in my house when I compare my day and work to my husband's. It says I've done more and therefore, I deserve more. It concocts these sick score keeping games that do nothing for the relationships I have and that has slowly eroded me from the inside out. C.S. Lewis said, "If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize one is proud." Step one is rough.
But God was preparing me for the one word He had for me in November and December as I was preparing for a lesson I was teaching on humility in relationships. Even after the lesson was done, there were these verses in Philippians that kept coming into my stream of consciousness. You know, those verses that keep popping up over and over again in what you're reading or listening to. It's God's way to get the attention of those of us who are less than quick:
 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:3-11
You see, pride so often reveals itself namely in our relationships with others. Things can look so smooth on the outside, but underneath the surface, our inner dialogues and calculations of who does more or owes what, can be multiplying at an exorbitant rate.
C.S. Lewis said it this way, "Humility isn't thinking less of ourselves, it is thinking of ourselves less." You can do everything in the world for other people and still be thinking about yourself the whole time. And the worst part is, no one will ever really know so you look like a really great and nice person. If there is nothing I have learned more through marriage and motherhood, it is that I am the most selfish human being I know. Relationships merely expose exactly who we are. Close relationships, like marriage and motherhood, rip the lid right off it and show all that festers below.
It has been funny as I've told people my one word. Most people share their fear for me. It's like picking patience, asking God to mess with you so that you have the opportunities for exhibiting patience. Many people said they already see me as a humble person, so why would I pick such a word? But this kind of humility, the kind I know God wants to cultivate in me, comes from a place much deeper than the outside shows. It's the kind of humility that Jesus had. The one that lays down position and rank and picks up a water jug to wash the dirt and smell off the feet of one's followers with a heart of joy. It's the kind that doesn't come into a world demanding pomp and circumstance, but rather drags a cross to death with gladness. It's deeper than just not being arrogant or self-righteous. It's a hollowing out of oneself to make room for so much more. It is the kind of humility that lays down every entitlement and earned reward and seeks to look to the other and what is needed for them in the moment.
I'm not scared of my word because I know my God isn't the kind of God who is waiting to crush me under the weight of this. He works tenderly and kindly. He knows the right balance of grace and discipline. He is tilling soil beneath my heart so that the harvest of His ways can take root deep in my soul. It's not about Him messing with me to get me to be better or me willing myself into behavior modification. He just is allowing us to together focus on the heart work He has for us to do, the dirty and messy stuff people don't see from the outside. The stuff that runs the risk of eroding our inner lives.
So today begins the year of HUMILITY. It will be hard, I have no doubt. He is going to keep revealing my pride and exposing the dirt and grime the deeper we march into the new year and the opportunities to exhibit humility will be endless. But I have no doubt, He who has started a good work in me, will carry it on to completion.
How about you? What's your one word this year?
Until next time-

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