Upside Down Gratitude

Upside Down Gratitude: Humility

Humility is the posture of faith. 

Many people struggle with the concept and application of humility. They might think humility lessens their strength and increases their vulnerability. In a way, they’re not wrong. But humility is not cowering. Humility is not allowing abuse. Humility is not opening ourselves up to manipulation. Humility is not becoming powerless. Quite the opposite. Humility positions us to access the power and protection of God. We don’t hunker down and hide in his presence. We turn toward him and boldly stand. 

Humility is putting ourselves aside and intentionally standing with God. We don’t do so to accomplish our own will but to discover his. We don’t do so to get what we want and count ourselves successful or rich but to consider everything as his and steward it as such, however that looks in each season of our lives. 

Humility can be a challenge to people who struggle with authority. But God is unlike any other authority. Humility can be a challenge to people who have been victimized. But God never victimizes. He compassionately reaches out to the oppressed and marginalized. Sadly, because many people have harmed others while using the name of God, choosing to trust the true God can seem overwhelming to many. Humility can be a challenge to people who have grown up with privilege, because who wants to give up what has been seen as what is mine and due to me? Humility can be a challenge to hard workers who have been taught everything they want and need is dependent on their own sweat or leadership.

Humility can be a challenge to the healthiest of the faithful, too. It seems counterintuitive:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

So, wait. If I deny myself, who is going to take care of everything? Am I being a slacker? Is that irresponsible? I am harsh with people who work the system; is that the position I’m putting myself in? 

No. It is not. Humility is less of a settling into than a stepping into. It’s active and it’s ongoing. It’s trusting God even when we don’t get it, even when we’re uncertain. And as we get to know God, it can become easier in the sense that we know God’s character well enough to know he is not going to abandon us or whatever else our concern is. However, he doesn’t wipe away all pain and harm that we experience, and that is difficult. What’s the point in following a God who doesn’t do everything I feel I need him to do?

What’s the point in following a God that does everything you want? Where’s the need for someone who rubber stamps your requests? What kind of growth possibly comes out of that? What kind of faith does it require?

God is who he is. He’s not going to change for any of us. And that’s amazing. He is more than we can ever be, more than we can ever fathom. And…he is good! Humbling ourselves in relationship with him is an act of faith and trust. It stretches and strengthens us. It’s an ongoing choice. After all, any ongoing relationship is. Only this one is different, because God commits in ways no person can. And he receives our commitment is ways no person can. 

I have found humility to be a major component of faith as well as a significant reflection of faith. When my humility is out of whack, I see frayed edges of my faith. And I take those frayed edges to God. I don’t try to fix them up to present them to God as a show-and-tell of my responsibility. I carry them right in front of him and say, “Well, look at this mess. Any thoughts?” And somewhere along our conversation, whether it’s a moment or over much more time, those frayed edges become beautifully braided and coiled. I’m never quite sure how it happens. My posture has something to do with it but it’s not my specific actions, as if I could duplicate them the next time and try to fix it on my own. And God’s wisdom and compassion and redemption has something to do with it, but he never completely takes over. It’s as if he makes it seem like it’s something we could only accomplish together, when I know he could totally do it all on his own.

I’ve noticed something else. When I have a gratitude problem, I have a humility problem. Always, without exception. Humility is one of the most certain gratitude-blockers. We cannot embrace authentic gratitude without authentic humility. Not that inauthentic humility is even possible, but it’s a show of mimicked humility. We can appear humble without being humble. Our words and actions eventually reveal the truth. Humility is rooted deep inside. It involves our mind, including our thoughts and attitudes. It involves our heart, our passions. And it involves our soul, the core of who we believe we are and the purpose of our lives as a whole and through daily interactions and experiences.

Practice humility daily. The best way to practice it is to apply it, live it. Posture yourself in God’s presence—the best place to be every moment of every day. 

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