clothes for the journey

Last week we looked at how God uses our “day jobs” to transform us into people who embrace our callings. Colossians 3:12-14 became a job description of what it means to put on “spiritual work clothes” and show up with love in the lives of other people. This week, let’s look at one of those spiritual garments that may determine whether we move forward with maturity in our relationships or stay stuck where we are, smacking into the same obstacles. It’s the garment of humility.

Humility. Everyone’s favorite, right? I don’t know about you but when I’m in a relationship standoff, humility is the LAST thing I think about. What I’m learning, though, is that if I let Colossians 3:12 play through my mind (“…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience), many times humility will jump out at me, prompting me to wait before reacting to the person that just hurt me. I’d like to say I usually think through that verse before I’ve made a verbal jab, but the reality is I’m not always successful. See, it’s not just my feelings that are hurt. My pride has been wounded, and my default setting seems to be fiery self-righteousness, what the Bible calls “human anger [that] does not produce the righteousness God desires” (James 1:20). That’s an attitude that doesn’t permit helpful change as it stubbornly guards my pride. And my tendency to default to stubbornness? That means I get to repeat this lesson. A whole bunch. Sigh.

So, I admit I often arrive late to the party when it comes to dressing up in humility, and I’m definitely tripping over the hem of that garment as I learn to wear it well. But you know what? I’m willing to learn how to wear it well. And our God moves in with grace and support when we humbly admit we need help. Don’t believe me? Check out 1 Peter 5:6-7.

Do you know where else I struggle with humility? It’s in the face of correction. The Message version of Proverbs 9:7-8 says that if you try to correct an arrogant cynic, they’re gonna slap you for it, but if you correct those who care about life, they’re gonna love you for it. I DO NOT want to be marked by an arrogance that won’t take correction. I can’t fully live out my “day job” if I won’t humble myself, apply correction, and even learn to love it.

So what else does humility look like besides waiting to react or learning to take correction well? Let’s get practical here because our culture glorifies fame and self-promotion to epic proportions.

I find it funny and sad that one name for the post-millennials like my kids is iGen, which I’m pretty sure means little-i-with-my-iPhone-who-feels-like-the-littlest-i-unless-i-have-100-likes-Generation. 

And you know what? They’re learning this weird mix of self-obsession and people-pleasing from US!

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My iGens (who really DO put down their phones and interact in real life)

We must model something different. Am I willing to do what’s compassionate even when no one notices right now…or later on social media? To look up from my phone and meet people? To roll up my sleeves and help? Humility is also very much about letting people see the real us—flaws and all—so they know we’re all in this together. It means being honest about failings, being willing to listen to other people, being quick to help out without being applauded. It is living out our “day jobs.”  And if we’ll let it, humility also means having a good belly-laugh at ourselves.  As a friend said, “Life is serious, but that doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves so seriously.” Humility looks for humor and common ground so we can walk alongside others. When was the last time you shared your own silly goof with your family and let them see how beautifully human you are?

However, sometimes humility calls for much more than just walking alongside. In the most difficult relationship struggles of my life, I’ve needed to embrace humility that completely surrenders before the Almighty in order to wage spiritual battle on behalf of my loved ones and myself. It is knees to the ground, followed by the rest of me, as I cry out to God.  It is rising again in faith to serve others who, in blindness and pain, may have nothing to give in return. And nowhere is there a better example of that kind of humility than in the person of Christ:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

It strikes me that Christ is STILL taking the very nature of a servant, still being made in human likeness, by pouring out His Spirit in us. He chose us, these humble clay pots (2 Corinthians 4:7), to showcase His glory and reach the world. He’s just as much living out His “day job” as we are, and He’s doing it through us.

So are we willing to clothe ourselves in humility? It’s tough sometimes, but thank God, I can ask Him for help. Christ humbled Himself for me. I can clothe myself in His humility. I can learn to love when it’s hard, forgive when it’s unfair, and wait with patience when it’s taking awhile to see God’s plans in action. And by the way, that patience? That’s something else He’s been working on with me. But more on that next week.

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