Every head bowed. Every eye closed.
Anyone that grew up Pentecostal knows these six words. At the conclusion of every sermon, the preacher gives the “altar call” and sinners and backsliders are asked to raise their hands to come to Christ.
I’ve given a thousand of these calls. But here’s a true confession.
There was more than once when not one hand was raised in my call to Christ. In spite of my passion and seemingly endless plea, nobody even twitched a finger. But not to be embarrassed by this lack of response, you know what I did on many an occasion? I boldly spoke out as heads were bowed all over the congregation, “Thank you for that raised hand! And thank you over there!”
I pretended someone raised their hand. I lied. And it revealed a dark, sinister side of my flagging character in that day — MY PRIDE AND YEARNING TO BE BETTER THAN THE REST.
I was too vain to admit that my entire sermon had not produced one response in the congregation. (as though that was how God measured success) So I took things into my own hands. If God couldn’t produce the results I wanted, I would manufacture them.
Looking back, this was just one of the many ways my pride showed up in my life. I treated people poorly. I saw myself as better than others. It was all about me.
Oh, I knew how to "humble-brag" and all the humility code phrases -- "It's all the Lord"... "To God be the glory"... -- but beneath that shallow surface was a heart with Blaine on the throne.
I believe pride is the most reprehensible of all sins.
And I believe humility is the most distinguishable mark of a Christ follower.
Our culture has become a potting shed for pride. We are producing it a record levels.
Celebrities rolling out their reality shows, celebrating their dysfunction, money and fame. Politicians haughtily gloating over the demise of their enemies. Sociopaths with no regret for the most wicked of crimes. Social media and it’s endless scroll of selfies and show-boats.
And let’s be honest. The table isn’t always level in the church either. It is often tilted towards fame, money and power.
Years ago, the Lord had me ponder this one scripture for two full years. The prophet Micah asked a question.
“And what does the LORD require of you?”
That question haunted me. Burned inside of me for twenty four months. it was like God himself was cross-examining every motive and intention of my heart. And then came the second part of the verse…
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
This one word from God was a sharp, probing, re-shaping, transfiguring, and at times painful — instrument of surgery in my heart.
Because I didn’t always act justly. I often acted in my own best interest. And I didn’t always love mercy. I frequently preferred to hand down judgement. And I didn’t always walk humbly. My path was often littered with the inglorious glitter of my own publicity.
But the Lord carved, chopped and chiseled His way into my heart. And as a recovering narcissist -- here's what I've discovered.
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
As I have done my utmost to live into Micah 4:6, I have been absorbing a depth of God’s grace that eluded me in former years. Grace is a difficult word to describe, but if I had to put it into a few down-to-earth words, I suppose it would be these:
A joyful ease in life.
Absolute contentment in sonship.
Genuine love for the other.
An ability to see significance in suffering.
The wind at my back.
I am more convinced than ever that humility is the first step in conquering addiction, healing a marriage, building a beautiful life or discovering a calling. And dear friend, it is not thinking less of you. Because you are beautifully made in the image of God.
It is simply thinking more of the other.
Your slow-driver in the left lane of traffic.
If you want some help defining humility, here is a beautiful list that is my “go-to.”
I’ve summed up Benedict's guide in short form below. Trust me, I am a work in progress on all of these — there are construction signs everywhere. But I believe God is slowly having His way in my life.
Not my will. But thy will be done Lord.
RULE OF ST. BENEDICT - 12 DEGREES OF HUMILITY
(summarized for simplicity)
1. Fear of the Lord, not man
2. Not my will, but Thy will
3. Live in loving obedience each day
4. Persevere in suffering
5. Confess my sins
6. Live content, without envy
7. I am dust of the earth
8. I am a part of something greater than me - His Church
9. Be slow to speak, quick to listen
10. Avoid entertainment excess
11. Be earnest in my speech
12. Give attention to my way and my work
Grace and the abundance of Christ,