The Biblical call for humility among believers is common, well-known, and needs no citation here. The implications of humility, though, require some attention.
Humility is not saying, “I’m bad, I stink, I’m a loser. I’ll never accomplish anything for Him because I can’t.” Statements like this simply assert that the Spirit has bestowed nothing on us and that Christ did not die for us. There’s a technical word for that: heresy. Oh, and lest you think I am wagging my fingers at others who have behaved shamefully, allow me to add this:
To the best of my knowledge, I’m bad. I stink. I’m a loser. I can’t imagine that I will ever accomplish anything for Him because I don’t think I can.
Humility is not, “People say I’m smart, but I’m not. They also say I’m pretty, or a great artist, or a wonderful teacher, or a fabulous servant. Oh, if only they knew….I’m not any of those things.” This, my friends, is spitting on God’s gifts to us. Refusing to admit intelligence or creativity or ability is not an act of humility; it’s cognitive dishonesty. And lest anyone think I am unfairly criticizing others, allow to me to add this:
People say I’m good at this or that….but I’m not. They just think I am. They need to get out more, ya know?
What is humility? In recent years I have developed a personal definition for humility: knowing exactly who I am before the throne of God.
Knowing the answer to this requires that we see ourselves as He sees us. Remember, humility is knowing who we are as we stand in His presence. It is seeing ourselves as He sees us. In the midst of my schizophrenic approach to the subject, my Romans 7-esque attitude of knowing the truth yet being unable to behave as though I know it, I think we can see the hardest part of humility: standing there and accepting His definition for me as being final. The last word. Period.
I am at a crossroads of sorts in my work. I am uncertain, for the first time in years, as to what the next step is going to be. I cannot envision success along any path before me not because I lack knowledge, but because I lack humility. That is, I lack the ability to set aside my own view of me and accept who I am as I stand before His throne. My repeated internal claims are, “You can’t do it. Don’t bother hoping, because it is impossible. No, you won’t overcome that temptation. No, you didn’t do that thing well. People just tell you that because they like you, bizarrely enough. God CAN use you, but there’s no implication that He WILL use you.” And yet, I don’t think that is how He really sees me.
There’s an arrogance in low self-esteem. Few people think that, but there is. Part of the perpetual low-is-me attitude is an assertion that I get to define me, regardless of what He might have to say on the subject. The usual imagery of humility is that God brings us low to kneel before Him because we presume to know too much. Usually, though, our definition of “too much” doesn’t apply to those who think they are worthless. Traditional thinking goes like this:
“It’s the big-headed guy; the woman who believes she can do no wrong; the rich man who depends on his cash; the smart woman who is going to solve her problems all alone; the Calvinist who has found all the answers; the Arminian who knows the truth; these are the arrogant ones, the ones who puff themselves up. Those who are low, discouraged, and unconvinced of their own skills and knowledge are not prideful; just the opposite, in fact.”
And yet, if I claim to know my worthless self better than He knows me and I belittle myself as a result, I do presume to know too much.
What is the key to our prayers to be lifted from the place of believing we’ll never make it? Humility. The key to knowing we really can be free of this or that sin? Humility. The key to realizing that we are truly children of the King? Humility. In humility we set aside what we have decided about ourselves, and leave ourselves open to His definition of things.
Prove me wrong, oh God, prove me wrong. Show me who I am as I stand before You. Teach me who I am as I kneel before your throne. Show me somehow, some way, everything I am and nothing that I am not.