Monday, January 29, 2007

humility

What to write? Sitting here in my secondary office, fireplace to the left, commuters on the right, rushing by the window, destined to catch a bus to a brand new week, and the song of espresso in the air, I’m trying to answer that question. I’m determined to make the best use of my time. After all, that’s the driving force of the economy isn’t it? It establishes rules of engagement for everything social, political, economic, and even religious if you think honestly about it. What I mean is, time is money, time is season, time is change, time is connective and restrictive and liberating all at the same time. Time is the great equalizer. It’s very humbling if you think seriously about it.
The acceptance of time and all of its influences can’t help but lead one to a state of humility that helps us realize that we are not as strong as we think we are. We are not as wise, and we’re certainly not as wealthy. This type of humility leads us all to conclusions that can be at best disconcerting and at worst terrifying and debilitating. I’m of the humble opinion that humility is the key to a balanced life. Time certainly helps with that if you let it. Time helps us all realize that we are not as smart as we thought we were.
When I consider all that I didn’t know about life and death and grace and consequence, even 22 years ago when I was married, it’s staggering. It’s humbling, and it certainly leads me to tread more lightly into the future. What I know now was not gleaned through books, seminars, or even timely advice from trusted friends. It came from experience and experience came with time. Dealing with the obnoxiousness of teenagers who constantly declare “I KNOW” also has the ability to draw me back humbly to the possibility that I could have been that way. Of course I don’t remember that. Time has a way of whitewashing our history and making us seem, in our memories at least, like the last great generation. Humbly I must acknowledge this form of mental delusion.
Even though I began my faith journey as a, nearly adult, teenager, it is very humbling to acknowledge the depth of my ignorance back then. And consequently, as I look to the beginnings of my life’s work as a pastor, I cringe at the shallowness of the pool from which I began. It’s not that I’m currently swimming in the deep end to be sure. I’m probably only waist deep. It‘s the place where they still have “no diving” stenciled on the wall. Rather, it’s a reality check. I know that I don’t know now what I will know then, just as I didn’t know then, what I do know now….if you know what I mean.
Between my own life story and those who I encounter nearly daily, I can honestly tell you that the greatest hindrance to spiritual journey, at least the only journey worthwhile and leading to where we’d all hope to be in the end, is humility. I’m referring to the Christian journey. In order to follow Christ, humility is everything. Humility is needed in the beginning, it’s needed along the way, and eventually it becomes a way of living if followed far enough. If you live it truly long enough, you become it, or it becomes you, sort of. You never really get there, but after a time of being immersed in it, you come by it more naturally. I don’t know this by experience of course, only through observation. The paradox is this; When you think that you’ve achieved it, then you haven’t.
To proceed beyond the shallow end of the pool, assuming one desires to do so, requires a great deal of humility. There’s obedience involved which takes humility. We’re asked to “obey” everything that Jesus commanded. I don’t like obey. It’s a hard word. It communicates to me that I have to do something that I didn’t realize was important, or at least didn’t recognize as important. After all, I’d like to think that if I knew it was important then I would have done it without asking, right? When I look at the example of the teenagers in my life I realize that this may be a false assumption. I’m learning everyday that I’ve missed something. I don’t want to think that I was wrong. That’s a harder word than obey. I rest in the fact that time brought me to this point. Time brings experience. There is also serving involved. That’s a hard concept too, because, for me, serving means time. It means my time. It means time that I think that I need for me and my things of life. Humility can overcome this too. Humility gleaned through time has taught me that most of what I saw as my time was in fact wasted time which didn’t live much beyond the moment that it was lived. Time invested in serving in His name though, with a humble spirit, lives far beyond my initial effort and sometimes even beyond my own time here on earth.
In all of this, I wish desperately that I knew then much more of what I know now. It leads me to wish beyond wishing that I know more now of what I will eventually know then, years down the road. It will save a great deal of frustration and heartache and bruised relationships. I could be a better leader. I could be a better friend, a better husband, and a better father. All I have is the knowledge that this can only be realized with time, and that’s a very humbling thought.

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