Archive for the ‘humility’ Tag

Lessons in Humbling   6 comments

For five years I have worked in Lynchburg College Library as a circulation supervisor at night (8 pm to 2 am).  It has been a vital part of my emotional survival because it is low stress, but I get furloughed at Christmas for a month and 3 months for summer, so it has put a strain on us financially.  Last fall I finally landed a second part-time job, selling fridges at Home Depot for $9.25 an hour.  My career has been a slow but inexorable descent by demotion.  From respected missionary to struggling pastor to harried social worker, and finally out of ministry of any sort into secular, unskilled labor.  From minister’s collar to blue-collar… to no-collar.  From meaningful work to trivial, from salaried to part-time poverty wages, from insured to Obamacare.  And as long as I’m confessing my low-status, I also have a job as substitute janitor in junior high school: even on the toilet-swabbing team I’m a bench-warmer.

As a 54-year-old with two Master’s degrees, I felt humiliated with my entry level job for teenagers, and it took me two months to work through the shame enough to admit it to my fellow librarians.  It is quite possible that some student I have supervised in the library will be the junior high teacher next fall who is spitting his gum into the trash can as I pick it up to empty.  I’ve acclimated enough to my new roles that I think I could handle it without chagrin… or maybe I’m kidding myself.  Like coming out of the closet, any closet, the initial shock of exposure is the hard part, and after that it is just a matter of learning a new level of humility and the grace to remember that my worth has no connection with my occupation.  It is freedom and growth through downward mobility.

It’d be a lot easier to wash dirty feet if I could take up the towel of my free will instead of being handed the towel and told to wipe down.  A leader who volunteers for menial labor can earn high praise for his humility, augment rather than diminish his reputation, and so ironically can undermine his growth in grace.  Being humble contrasts with being humiliated precisely because the latter is out of our control, like being nailed to a cross.  It is a rich person choosing to wear rags in contrast to a person who only has rags to wear.  In my experience, actual poverty, though it is more scary and painful, has more power than voluntary poverty to open me to grace.  Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Posted April 28, 2015 by janathangrace in Personal

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Practical Humility   4 comments

“To live in community with others, which is what God created us to do, means I not only don’t always get things done the way I would prefer them to be done, but that I am called to something much higher; to show grace and kindness toward others and to even get happy about things being done in a manner that I do not prefer. Sometimes, there’s a greater right than being right.” (Randy Booth)

Randy makes an important point, one that I would take even farther by throwing a question over the very certainty of my “right”-ness.  I have discovered over the years that “right” is far from clear in most situations.  Here are a few of the things that make me more tentative about my correct assessments:

1) My overall idea might be right, but I might be wrong in important details which throws the whole thing off.  The words they spoke were untrue, but this came from an honest misperception, not intentional deceit.

2) I might know a truth with certainty but apply the wrong truth for this particular context (because I don’t know all the circumstances, the minds and hearts of those involved, the right valuation of priorities, the plan of God, who often takes a much less direct route than I).  Who knows whether mercy or justice should be applied, for instance.

3) The truth might be the right one to apply, but I may apply it with the wrong motive, the wrong method, the wrong timing, the wrong perspective.  Ungracious truth is untruth.

4) I might be certain I am right (about the principle, the circumstance, the person, the act) and discover later that I was wrong.  This has happened often enough to me that it makes me a bit more humble in my assumptions and assertions.

Truth in the abstract (principles) is such a very different thing than truth in the application.

Posted October 28, 2011 by janathangrace in thoughts

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