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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Three Ways God taught me humility


When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things (Mark 6 vs. 34).”

 

 

I took the same class for ten years. Before you start asking yourself, how is that possible, allow me to explain. It was the kind of course that had a three-part final examination: the lab, written exam, and practical. The first time I took the test I failed all three parts, later I’d pass the lab but not the written or practical. Then I passed the written but not the practical or lab, and so on so forth. I came really close to dropping it until the professor, an incredibly kind and very patient man, spoke to me. He didn’t shame me about failing His class repeatedly instead He was encouraging. After talking to him I realized, some things you get delivered from others you’re delivered through. There was no avoiding this class, I’d have to pass it to move forward, I would need what I’d learn for where I would go next.

 

The kind, patient, compassionate, yet stern teacher, is Jesus. The class I took for ten years, humility. The three-part exam: financial, physical, and mental. I told you in my first blog, that the promise comes before the process; today I’m going to share with you how that process included a decade long lesson in humility.

 

“Wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of peace” are all names of Jesus. Another name Jesus is often called is, teacher. In the New Testament, numerous times He is referred to as ‘teacher’ or specified as being in the act of teaching. In every interaction or exchange Jesus had there is a lesson, some more straightforward than others but always a moral. Two thousand years plus later Jesus is still the teacher, instructing those He’s called for His purpose. Learning genuine humility has been difficult though by the grace of God I have, here’s how:

 

Financially

 

I started working nearly full time at age fifteen; money was tight at home, to put it mildly. I was fed up with always being without- the latest sneakers, a cell phone, clothes, food. Shortly after deciding to find work, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a sales position at Oakley sunglasses. I called the recruiter, got an interview, a second interview, got hired, and started my first job. I loved it until I didn’t. Two years later, I quit to move on to better; it just so happens that better, was right next-door. I took another sales position at the neighboring boutique. What did I care that it was in poor taste, the money was good.

For the first time in my life I was able to afford most of the things I wanted: clothes, shoes, bags, if I wanted it, I bought it. Having the means to walk into stores I used to have to walk pass was rewarding; financial freedom was better than I imagined. Still, I left that job too, without giving two weeks notice or a backwards glance. Better opportunities were on the way. It didn’t take too long after quitting for those ‘opportunities’ to dry up leaving me unemployed, unable to find work, penniless, and hollow. I’d been working full time since I was a teen now as an adult I couldn’t support myself. That shame ate at me and furthered my self-imposed solitary. How could I tell my peers I was failing miserably at adulting?

 

I left both jobs feeling above it all; scoffing at the means God gave me to no longer suffer lack. I was haughty-- in my attitude and about my departure believing sales was beneath me. Without a hope of a check I learned to value every gift from God. You can want something different but there is no need to be arrogant or ungrateful. Furthermore, God always gives you what you need, I wasn’t mature enough to receive what I wanted but I was too blinded by pride to see that.

 

As God taught me humility He also taught me His grace. In spite of being in a dry season, I was never without a roof over my head or food to eat. I may not have been able to indulge my every whim but all my needs were met. When I had nothing to my name and shame at being without, God taught me to value all I have and to confidently rely on Him alone, the good shepherd.

 

“So I went down to the potter’s house and saw him working with clay at the wheel. He was making a pot from clay. But there was something wrong with the pot. So the potter used that clay to make another pot. With His hands he shaped the pot the way he wanted it to be. Family of Israel, you know that I can do the same with you. You are like the clay in the potter’s hands, and I am the potter.”

Jeremiah 18 vs. 3-4, 6

 

 

PHYSICALLY

 

Humility is defined as having a modest or low view of one’s importance. Through my personal experience I’ve learned there is a natural and spiritual application; the former occurs in the flesh the latter inwardly in the spirit.

 

For most of my life I didn’t think too highly of myself. Like most young girls I imagine, I wasn’t always satisfied with my reflection. In fact, it was so bad that between the ages of twelve and fourteen I did my best to avoid mirrors. I was so convinced I wasn’t anything enough, that I couldn’t even take a compliment. I’d either proclaim it as false, change the subject, or look away because it contradicted what I believed about me; for whatever reason it was easier to see my flaws than my virtues.

 

Well that same girl, who thought very little of herself began receiving a lot of attention. In my eyes nothing changed but suddenly I was desirable and it was gratifying. I became shallow and vain, fueled by a false sense of self worth, built on the feeble foundation of compliments. I who hated mirrors could no longer resist staring into every reflective surface hoping to see something more though always disappointed when I didn’t. Nonetheless I played the part of conceited girl convincingly until I no longer had an audience to prop me up.

 

In hurry up and wait, I touch upon becoming a social hermit post graduation, once it became clear that all my grand plans would stay plans. What I didn’t mention was, part of the reason I hid away was that I began having terrible breakouts. Up until that point I hadn’t had to really deal with acne, as a teen I had very little skin concerns. Now my face, the glass house my confidence was built on, shattered with a thrown stone. Words cannot convey the humiliation felt at having someone stare then ask, “What happened to your face?” I felt like a monster that should be hidden out of sight, so I hid.

 

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry of fine clothes. Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight (1 Peter 3 vs. 3-4).”

 

During a conversation with a friend (after my skin cleared up - thank God), who was going through a difficult moment, I understood my own. Before that ordeal my whole identity was based on an earthly standard, I weighed my worth against a worldly criteria but God wanted to give me heavenly value. A beauty, that doesn’t age and cannot be purchased, that shines from the inside out. If your self worth is derived solely from your looks and net worth, you’ll never be content. But Jesus the validator of those He calls sees value in you even and most especially when you can’t see it in yourself. God was making me into a woman of character and substance. To become her I had to be stripped of vanity, which was truly a humbling process.

 

 

 

Mentally

 

Devoid of every major way I defined myself I broke down. Everything I believed was valuable and good about me was taken away. I was heartbroken, depressed, and afraid to face myself in the mirror; when I did, I saw a shadow of who I once was. Initially I lamented all that I’d lost, for some time I even reverted back to that thirteen-year-old girl, who avoided mirrors. I cried feeling lower than low, ground down into fine dust, I was nothing and nobody. However, God had a purpose for my pain. I got to see with unclouded vision the folly in whom I was before, all bravado no substance.

 

God deconstructed my thoughts about myself and rid me of my identity to remake me into a humble servant. When I speak of humility I don’t mean playing small and being afraid of your own shadow. The humility I’m talking about is, freedom from the quantifiers of the world for the sake of being able to brag of your own greatness. Nowadays I’ve learned, “God has made everything beautiful in its time,” it takes greater discipline to listen than talk, if I can be trust worthy with little than God can trust me with great. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” If I boast, it is of Jesus and the blood that’s redeemed me from myself.  My value or identity doesn’t come from the world’s opinion of me it comes from my heavenly father who has given me the heritage of being called His own.

 

The bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverb 16 vs. 18).” I had to fall to learn many things about serving God and about myself. I wasn’t a good steward over all God had given me; I was too vapid to enjoy His provisions, how could I be trusted with more? It took me ten years but I finally understand the importance of a humble spirit. In 1 Peter 5:6, we are reminded to “humble ourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift us up in due time.”

 

I don’t know where you are in your journey with Christ but I encourage you to preserver, be a good student putting into application all God has taught you. Every lesson may not be as drastic as mine (we all learn differently) but humble yourself to receive it.

 

My son, do not make light of The Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastens everyone He accepts as a son (Hebrews 12 vs. 6).”

 

As always I’d love to hear from you, what are some lessons Jesus has taught you in your personal journey?

 

 

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