Before I start this post, I would like to thank, again, anyone who might be praying for me! It has now reached the stage where I am scared of starting to sound like a broken record. So I’m thinking through a way to express my continued gratitude without referring to the unidentified pray-er on each post… In fact, things have now progressed to the stage where I am pretty much at the point of asking this mysterious pray-er to reveal their identity. So if you are out there, and you are praying, and all this has not been a huge elaborate expression of wishful thinking on my part, will you please let me know who you are?! I think the reasons why I have not requested this before are 1. firstly because I’ve been pretty sure that I know who it is and 2. secondly I was scared that it might not be this person after all, and I was reluctant to have to face that reality…(and possibly embarrass myself hugely in the process, by revealing whom I’d like to be the pray-er!)
I was only thinking through the topic I will discuss here just this morning. In truth, it reveals a side to me which is not very attractive. When I was first thinking through the subject, I thought to myself that this for once, was probably something that originated not from someone else’s prayer, but rather from within my own thoughts, my own meditations on the subject of humility. That is because I have often thought on humility, it is one of the spiritual concepts I think about the most, so it is not as if the need to be humble resoundingly crashed into my heart from nowhere, as has happened with other times when I’ve felt sure that someone was praying for me. To be honest, I was a little relieved, that for once I would not have to acknowledge this mysterious pray-er! And yet, as I was thinking about it, I suddenly remembered something I had shared via social media not too long ago. And then I realised that in this topic too I might have to thank this person again!
I am going to be exceedingly cheeky just now. If there is indeed someone responsible for all this, and if as that person you will insist on keeping your identity hidden, and if for whatever reason you do wish to continue praying for me, could I please ask a huge prayer request from you? If you could please pray on this same subject for me, that my life would be immersed in earth-shattering Christlike humility, now and on an on-going basis I would be so grateful – honestly I would be so grateful. Thank you and thank you and thank you and thank you.
So yes, today’s post is about humility.
As I was reflecting today, it occurred to me that there are at least two distinct kinds of humility: humility towards God, and humility towards people. Perhaps they don’t really need to be considered as two separate things, but in my mind it is just easier to think of them this way. I was thinking then that humility before God is like humbling yourself to listen to the Spirit of God. By this, I mean making yourself smaller, your own thoughts, your own opinions, your own achievements to focus instead on what God says, and to worship Him in your hearts rather than your own self. Sometimes we think we are so big because of who we are or what we have that we don’t have to listen to God. We also get so full of our own achievements that we direct our praise, our adulation and our awe towards these things until all we can see is our own self. All we can focus on is our own self. I know that I do this. But here is the thing: humility is not really about making yourself smaller than you really are; rather it is about seeing yourself in true perspective, relative to God. If I were to literally gain the whole world, if my achievements were as big as even the entire universe, still, relative to God I would be nothing. He is that big. Wow, what an awesome God we serve. And then there is also the fact that God Himself is the One who has given us these abilities and achievements in the first place, which is all the more reason to give Him all the glory in our hearts and minds.
But then I got to thinking about humility towards people, and I finally, finally saw/recognised something so ugly about myself. On the whole I endeavour to be humble towards people too. However, when people have treated me badly, or have demonstrated themselves to have poor character, then I freely allow myself to think of myself as being better than them; I allow myself to look down on them and despise them as being lower than me. And I have happily cultivated these thoughts in my mind and heart for so long. So today the scales finally fell off my eyes. I finally realised that 1. This is an issue of pride/humility and 2. It cannot possibly be of Christ. And then I’m asking myself: “How could I possibly not have known?!” (Come on Tosin, no excuses!) And then you know the reason why I have felt so justified in all this, and beyond challenge from anyone? Because the people concerned genuinely did act horribly, and because they genuinely do continue to display dreadful character. And yet, it occurred to me that just because someone has acted this way in the past, and continues to act this way 1. This does not make me better than them. This does not make it acceptable for me to look down on them or lavish on them my most potent disdain. 2. This does not mean that they are worthless. They are still valuable and precious human beings, and God requires me to care about them, and to interact with them this way.
So obviously if this is the way I am to interact with them, then all of this has to start from the heart. All these evil meditations in my heart on my own supposed superiority compared to their supposed worthlessness has to stop. There is absolutely no-one on earth who is worthless, no matter what they have done, to me or to anyone else. And then there is also the fact that I too have done my own stupid things, and I would pray that no-one would write me off because of those things. Additionally I am not superior to anyone else, because everything that I have is from God. Everything that would make me want to look down on people is a gift from God. It has always seemed more acceptable to me, even necessary, but despising people because of their poor character or behaviour (that is, what they actually have done and who they actually are inside) is to God just as bad as looking down on people because of their financial status, or anything else which does not necessarily reflect on who they are inside. That is, having no money does not mean that you are a bad person, but even if you are a bad person, even a bad Christian, a whopping hypocrite, (of whom I have met so many) then you are still a precious person in God’s eyes, and from now on my own eyes too, and I am to relate with you in that way, looking at and focusing on your precious value, rather than on whatever you may have done to me. Perhaps that awful day will come when I realise, and have to acknowledge, that I too am as much a whopping hypocrite as all these other people, but in sincerity, I currently do not believe that that is what I am. I do sincerely pursue obedience to God and the Bible as hard as I can, and on the whole my actions and my heart (and my blogs!) reflect the truth which I claim to subscribe to.
To be honest, it was quite awful to think how I have been willfully cultivating these thoughts in my heart. However, it was also empowering and encouraging to think on how things could be different, how my interaction with people generally could be positive moving forward. This changes my focus when I’m thinking about these people, moving from a fixation on what they have done, and the way they generally behave, to a focus on the fact that no matter what, they remain precious people whom God loves, whom Jesus died for, whom I also need to love. With that comes the possibility of quick and speedy forgiveness, as I’ll be teaching my mind to focus on the value of the people, not on what they have done. This is breath-taking for me.
Here is the difficulty though. To be candid these people do have habitual poor character. Experience tells me that it is wisest to maintain some kind of distance from them and their fake faith. However, I really hope that this following is not a very, very bad or insensitive analogy: protecting myself from their bad character is a bit like when the doctors in the current Ebola outbreak wear those special suits to protect themselves from the Ebola virus, while continuing to care desperately for the people who currently have the disease. So in the same way, while doing my best to protect myself from the poor character demonstrated by these people, I’ve still got to care so desperately about them.
He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, But a man of understanding holds his peace.
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