Sunday, August 5, 2012

Humility

It's been hot here. Hot for us, I should say. Up here in the NW where we live, we don't get much humidity, and if the temp climbs toward 90 (F), we all begin to panic. Most of us little folk don't know what it's like to have them new-fangled air conditioners, you see.  We just don't need them with all our rain and such.
So we're heat-wimps. That's the gol-durn truth of it. Just plain heat-wimps. We sit around with fans blowing on us, thinking we're about to expire, when really there are nice sea breezes here all the time, and the air always cools down at night. And I know how fortunate we are to live where we do. I know that the rest of this country (and a whole lot of the rest of the world--much of the year!) has suffered heat waves like I can't imagine in my worst moments.

And I know some pretty bad heat moments. There was one summer when I took my blind grandmother back to Kansas where she'd been raised (yep, a Kansas farm-girl) and we spent one night in Kingman, Kansas with her best friend from childhood. Her best friend, named Fern, didn't have air-conditioning in the little brick house where she'd lived all her married life, raised her kids and lived into widowhood. And it was hot. Prairie hot that night. We ate a cold supper of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers straight from her garden that were luscious and sweet and make my mouth water to think of them. Some cold ham, potato salad. You can imagine. At bedtime I was given the front bedroom, like the best guest, while my Grandmom and Fern talked up a storm in Fern's room at the back of the house.  Fern had placed an old black rotating fan in the room to help cool it off for me, but all it did was move the stale air around. The hot stale air. I lay there in my underwear, sweating up a storm, with the fan going back and forth, thinking I'd about expire between moments when it touched me. Finally, at about 2 AM, I got up, went to the bathroom and ran a bath. Sank into cool water long enough that I began to drift off right there in that old iron tub. Then I climbed out, didn't even dry off, and finally fell asleep.

That's what I call hot.

That isn't what we have here in NW Washington.
Certainly not when we have a 3.5 ' pool on our patio to dip into whenever the sweat starts to overtake us.  Yep, we are spoiled around here.

Which leads me to what I've been thinking about today.

Humility.
Odd segue perhaps, but with the Olympics on, it's impossible not to notice how these many athletes respond to success. Or just the possibility of success. There's a gambit of reactions, of course, but what strikes me is that confidence can easily puff up into pride. It's almost impossible, perhaps, to remain humble when the whole world watches every move one makes. A whole wall of cameras set up to mark every swim, every vault, every run, and one begins to think that greatness is due. Or that it's not a combination of God-given talent and God-given drive. And as much as the world might say that humility is a virtue, our very actions and responses to celebrity (of any kind) conspire to a different truth. "Aim high; accomplish much; take ownership; be proud of who you are, where you've come and where you're going; don't let anyone get in your way." Aren't these the messages of our culture?

But Christ tells us none of this counts.
So where do we find our better models of humility? Where do we learn the gospel truth of actually putting the interests of others ahead of our own, of giving preference to others?

Now and then, of course, there are those around us who do exemplify the character of Christ in this way. People who humble themselves. We do well to pay attention to them.
I have a friend, for example, who was recently awarded a very prestigious award in her profession. But if you met her, you'd never know that she's nationally renown. This is because she pays more attention to others than she does to herself. she's about as other-oriented as anyone I've ever met.
Other-oriented in the particular--even when she got the award, she actually was more interested in telling her husband about how thrilled she was that others she cares about were honored in other ways.
Other-oriented in daily dealings--she asks more about others and their lives than talks about her own; and thinks--constantly--of how to minister to those around her. Her family, her church, friends.
Other-oriented in her work--she does what she does as a calling. This is profound. Not many people, in ANY job, have a stronger sense of calling than this woman, and she never deviates in desiring to please God in response. Work as worship--I see this in her.
And, of course, other-oriented in her relationship with Christ. She's a disciplined a disciple as you can meet. Daily spending significant time with Him before she goes off into what is surely one of the busiest lives you can imagine.  She just doesn't know how to manage ANY of it without first seeking Him. She knows who she is, who she needs, and doesn't waver from Him.

And...she has every reason to be proud. If you knew what she's accomplished in her life, you'd agree with me. You'd be in awe. But her goal is to be faithful. To be a servant to Him who has called her.

This is what humility is. She might say I don't know all that's in her heart. But I say, I don't have to. I know who she is. I know she isn't perfect, but she seeks a perfect God to empower her. God knows what's in her heart. And He is very, very pleased. Faithful is He who has called her...

"Seek to follow my example as I follow Christ," Paul tells us in Phillipians 3.  This woman--and others like her--is the person I should train my lens on, keep my eye on. Watching her life, aiming to make her model inform my own.