So many counter-intuitive truths in the Bible:

-It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting (Eccl 7:2)

-If someone takes your tunic, give him your shirt also (Luke 6:29)

-Happy are the poor in spirit for they have the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 5:3)

-God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6)

 As Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church puts it, the way up is down.

I’ve been thinking a lot about humility these days.  The brain is funny (and so again is the Holy Spirit as He works with the brain and our seeing).  Once your brain widens the filter to notice something, you start seeing that very same something all over the place.

My friend and I have been reading a book that including a chapter on humility and submitting to God.  Another friend gifted me with a book about purposefully humbling one’s heart when God sends suffering.  “Father, are You trying to communicate something to me?”

Earlier in the week, I ran across this two-word sound byte from God’s Word:

  “ …..seek humility……”  (Zeph 2:3) – it’s just a bit of Zephaniah’s advice to the people of Judah in around 625 BC.

Why would anyone CHOOSE to seek humility?

  • Only to avoid having the God of the Universe as your enemy
  • Only to avoid falling
  • Only to get more grace

God is so pragmatic. He WANTS us to seek rewards. He WANTS us to count the cost. He purposefully offers incentives.  We are stupid when we don’t do what is in our own best interests.

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God always seems to illustrate His commands with real-life examples. Just last week He gave me a ring-side seat to witness the payoff for humility through my husband’s vocational life.  Mike just retired from 32 years of government service.  He has fought hard to make a difference on a daily basis.  But divine providence, aka God, has constrained him most of those years. In fact, I would say that Mike has enjoyed only about 2 years of government work.  One year involved him researching, writing and then presenting a briefing multiple times to senior leaders.  This cutting-edge intelligence analysis focused on the Soviet military’s tech threat in the 80s. Mike loved that work.  The job that followed was equally satisfying.  After some schooling at the Army’s intelligence center and school, he taught current doctrine to successive classes of senior leaders. The other jobs wearied him.  Right-brained, intuitive introverts who like to think don’t find their home in bureaucracies.

Why would God keep him in jobs that frustrated him?  In hindsight, I can see the rich blessings that have come from this L-O-N-G vocational desert.

  • He has been protected from the danger of work becoming an idol.
  • Safe from the siren’s lure of ‘work harder to climb the ladder’, Mike has had the time to invest in his sons.  Present for ball games, swim events, theater performances and parents’ nights at school, Mike communicated to Graham and Wes that he loved them and cared about what they were doing.
  • Long hours of rich dinner-time discussions, background music playing, exposed the boys to conversation, argumentation and the world of music.  The daily dinner hour provided a relaxed forum for all of us to practice the art of reason and articulating our beliefs.
  • Working for the government guaranteed Mike both the means for periodically taking a couple of hours off to catch games, but also time for family vacations.  God blessed us through my dad who was financially able to share trips with us.  We travelled to Europe, Alaska, and the Caribbean and Viet Nam Veteran reunions with Pop. Thankfully, Mike had vacation days to be with us.
  • No chance of a swelled head.  Not seeing much fruit for his labor kept Mike pressing in to God, crying out to Him.  We both prayed hard, day after day, to understand why he was so stymied in his vocational desires.

All those circumstances humbled Mike.  Hence his (and my) surprise at the accolades he received from multiple sources in the weeks leading up to and the day of his retirement ceremony.   Colleagues and supervisors started gifting him and taking him to lunch as his last day drew closer.  Then at his official ceremony, the speeches by his two big bosses affirmed him by detailing his unique contributions.  There was also a short movie prepared by our son Graham that included all sorts of family photos and video messages from Mike’s mom, favorite cousin Terry, son Wes who is deployed and his dear brother, Steve. From the perspective of time, the overview of Mike’s life let him (as well as others) see that his life since age 18 HAS been rich. Friends and family who travelled to witness/share his retirement also gave testimony to his contributions. The cards, presents and remarks were all pure gift.  This was evidence of the impact that Michael has unknowingly made these past years. 

God DOES give more grace to the humbled.  And this MORE exceeds what one ‘might’ lose by not trying to ‘make it.

Seek humility?  Doesn’t sound like fun, but who are we to know best? As Graham was saying last night in a moment of shared reflection, “It’s exhausting trying to make a name. How do you know when you’ve done enough?”  But the humble way, which involves serving others and putting others first, turns out to be easiest.  As we start to go lower, God gives us help and praises us for our stumbling, impure efforts in that direction.  Like an encouraging parent applauding his little one taking that first step, our heavenly Father praises us for all our faltering steps toward self-imposed humility.

It’s not rocket science figuring out what we have to do to earn God’s highest praise:  “Well done, good and faithful servant!”