Friday, February 20, 2009


Very recently, I listened as a friend was admonished to approach a certain situation/ conflict in their life "in humility." Afterwards my friend turned to me and asked me, "What does humility look like?"

Good question. My first visual was of a dog who'd been reprimanded, head low, tail between his legs, but I knew immediately that wasn't what humility should look like. I didn't really have an answer for my friend. Today, however, I know I experienced what humility does not look like.

Disclaimer to men, I'm about to gently touch on a girly thing here, so if you're not the kind of guy who can go to the store and buy feminine products for your wife, be warned you may be a little uncomfortable, but I think the story is valid, so I am going to try to be as delicate as possible. I hope you can bear with me, but you have been warned.

So today was my annual "female" appointment to the gynecologist. It's an obligation, and all women need to go, but I sincerely doubt a single one of us looks forward to it. Men, you know that exam where they tell you to turn your head and cough? It's like that, only at least ten times worse, and we are supposed to experience ours like an anniversary. A very unhappy anniversary.

So I got to my appointment early, as is typical for me, and found the new office location, which to my displeasure now requires paid parking. I signed in a good 10 minutes before I was scheduled, found a old magazine to peruse and began the wait. I hate the wait. I waited a good hour, and watched several ladies who came in after me go before me before I was finally called.

For me the actual worst part of the whole appointment comes even before I have to go through the whole disrobing process, it's at the scale. You knw, the scale that often reads out a number a good ten pounds higher than the scale at home (and you thought that scale wasn't your friend.) I am a "big girl." In this case I mean that in the "fat" sense, not the "maturity" sense, but anyway. I'm not proud of my wight, and I could give you the whole laundry list of medical circumstances that make it hard for me to do anything about it, but the fact of the matter is, I know I am overweight.

For some reason in this new office they have chosen to station their (evil) scale in a corner, which makes for even more uncomfortable quarters. (I suppose it could be worse, I went to one doctor where they kept it in the lobby, but I digress.) Now, as an overweight woman, the only slight silver lining I can say I can choose to find is that I am in fact, large chested (breasted?). And "the girls" often camoflouge nicely my rounded middle, at least from my viewpoint, when I'm not actually standing in front of a mirror. Honestly, I often think to myself, if I still can't see it (my belly) when I look down, there remains hope.

Well apparently my "girls" were a bit in the way for the nurse as I stood on the scale in the corner today because she couldn't see past them to read the measurement. She said to me, "What are you trying to do, hide it from me?" in this really snide and snotty tone. And then she laughed. Suddenly I felt a little like that puppy who had been reprimanded, my head down, and my proverbial tail between my legs. It wasn't humility I felt, it was humiliation.

Immediately following this, I had to follow this nurse into an exam room where she barks orders me to disrobe and how to put on the garments she's given me, and which switch to flip when I'm ready, etc. After I did what she asked I was left sitting alone in the room, now completely vulnerable, humiliation taunting me. I suddenly became overwhelmingly aware of every single excess ounce of fat on my body. I lost all comfort in my own skin, and I felt ashamed.

For some reason it took me back to my friend's question. What does humility look like? My answer, it does not look like humiliation.

Humiliation is being put in your place. Humiliation is being devalued or degraded. Humiliation is the sense of being shamed, or belittled. Humiliation makes you feel like the butt of the joke, or being laughed at and not being "in on" the joke. Humiliation brings discouragement, hopelessness, embarrassment.

I only experienced a tinge of humiliation in the grand scheme of things, but you don't need more than a taste of it to know it's a poison to your soul.

Humility, however, is something entirely different. Humility is knowing your place, and not with resolve, but with confidence.

In John chapter 1:26-27 says, "John answered them, saying, 'I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.'” This is John the Baptist speaking about Jesus. John the Baptist was a humble man. There is no "woe is me" martyr syndrome in what he's speaking here. He just simply knows what his purpose is, who he has been called to glorify, and he's at peace with it.

That's what humility looks like, confidence without arrogance. It's a peace in one's own skin, without thinking too highly of one's self. There is a humility in acknowledging one's shortcomings and struggles, as well as knowing one's giftings and strengths. Humility is the balance of that. Humility is open and real, humiliation tries to put on a show, and keeps secrets.

I remember a few years ago Jake was briefly under the principalship of a woman in grade school. I went to a chapel service at the school where she spoke to the children there for the first time. My heart sank as I listened to her speak to the kids and she proclaimed to them that they could be "anything they wanted" if they "just put their minds to it." It's my personal opinion that is a lie from the very pit of hell. People get so caught up these days in political correctness that they are lying to kids.

Later I took my son aside and had a talk with him. I wanted him to know what had been spoken to him wasn't true. God has given each of us gifts, strengths and talents, and they are to be used for His glory. No matter how hard they try and work at it, there are just some kids (like my Jake) who will never be able to be the next Derek Jeter (Yankee's shortstop.) But Derek Jeter will probably not ever write the next great American novel, or sing the song that becomes the anthem of a generation. Humility is knowing where your strengths, gifts and talents are, and working to be the best you can and do the most you can with what God has given you. And humility is knowing God has indeed given those tools to you.

With humility comes hope. When you are humble, you know you will fail, but there is a willingness in humility to try again, and to risk the same failure again. Humility is willing to take ownership of one's own sins and failures. Humility has a teachable spirit, it makes one realize there is always something to learn, to improve. Humility gives the respect of at least listening to those who've gone before, and who have been put in your life. Humility heeds the Word of God, and those who impart it to you.

Most of all, humility comes with selflessness, willing to not only acknowledge, but to put ahead, the best interest of someone else ahead of one's self. Humility is willing to die to ones own agenda, schedule, comfort, need, want. Humility is willing to die to self.

Philippians 2:3-8 says this, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!"

What does humility look like? It looks like Christ.

I wonder if it isn't the fear of humiliation that keeps so many of us from humility. I wonder if it isn't the fear that if we don't place value on ourselves, no one else will. But humility isn't lack of value placed, it is value understood. It's knowing that your value comes not from what you do, but from who you are.

This very same verse in Philippians alludes to the inherent value within each one of us that enables us to be humble. It was because of our great value to God that Christ even had to go to the cross. He went because to Him, we worth it.

The bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time." We are called to make a choice for humility, not to lead to humiliation, but in confidence that God will lift us to the place He's purposed for us in His time. I cannot help but wonder if it isn't our own unwillingness to heed this admonishment from Him that hinders us from being lifted up to the place He's chosen, for our good, and the good of others.

Don't let the fear of humiliation thwart God's purposes for you. Have confidence in His call to your humility.

"But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" James 4:6

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