Geoff’s Shell’s Coordinator letter two weeks ago had a wonderful exhortation about deepening the virtue of humility in our lives. He started with a sentence from Phillipians 2- the well-known exultation of the humility of Jesus and His obedience to death. With Palm Sunday tomorrow, what better topic to write about in this letter than the “Humility of God”!
The humility of God is really about God’s love and fidelity to the world, even when the world turns away from Him and denies Him. The persistent mercy and love He shows to mankind is indeed a mystery rooted in humility. Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote:
“God does not simply rule by Power…His power is that of sharing in love and suffering. God becomes small so that we can grasp His nature” The spiritual life is one of perennial contradictions- One must die to live, to be the greatest you must be the servant, the humble will be exalted, you must surrender to gain the Kingdom.. etc etc. In fact Paul crystalizes these contradictions in 2 Cor 12: 9
(The Lord) said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, RSV-CE)
A few months ago, in early January I phoned my mom (who is 90 and has lived independently for many years to check up on her and see how her day went. I couldn’t get hold of her by phone after several attempts. It was a long day, so I had laid down for a short nap and woke up several hours later! I figured I would double check on her in the morning, which I did to no avail. Assuming the worst, I drove out to Mesa where she lived and found her on the floor next to her bed, blood everywhere. Thank God she was alive, but she had been on the floor for 12-14 hours after falling and hitting her head.
Long story short, she had no significant injuries, thank God, but she finally decided she couldn’t live alone anymore. Pam and I took her into our home and she is living with us permanently now. While initially mom really thought she might be able to go back home, she soon realized she was not getting any stronger, and living with family isn’t so bad after all!
I have observed in our new “housemate”, God working to perfect her and draw her deeper into a reflection of His own humility. What do I mean by that? My Mom has always been a fiercely independent and self-sufficient woman raised on a rural farm in depression era Kansas, she has had a hard life, yet the Lord has given her great joy and revealed Himself to her in many ways. She has always valued her strength and independence, but now at 90, with health slowly slipping away, she is coming to terms with weakness and dependence. Every day she lets go of more control and looks forward to eternity with Jesus.
After several weeks of living with us, we took Mom back to her condo to get some of her belongings and she remarked to me “this doesn’t feel like home anymore”. Isn’t that the way the Lord works? He allows us to become small, endure hardships and suffering, so that we too will look at this world, our own selfish will and the vanity of our own strength and say ”this isn’t our home any more”.. we long for eternity with you Lord! I think that is the ultimate humility: to abandon our own way and only desire God’s will above all else. Desiring the will of the Father is what Jesus modeled on the cross. “Father, not my will but Yours be done”!
Living in Covenant Community is one way the Lord prepares us for the life of heaven. Dying to self, learning to think of others before ourselves, becoming a servant….in fact all the ways the “Culture of the Holy Spirit” contrasts with the darkness of our present age, are meant to provide a witness to the world that there is a better way to live. Jesus lived that life and is calling everyone everywhere to share life with Him!
I pray that we all will receive the grace in this final week of Lent (and beyond) to enter into the humility modeled by our Savior so that he will raise us up to be witnesses of His love for the World!