That morning in my quiet time, I prayed for humility. I asked God to saturate my life and ministry with it; to protect me from the dangers of pride. Six hours later more steam was coming out my ears than off the onions, and I was convinced it was all Josh’s fault.
We all know we need humility. Christ Himself exemplified it and provided a model for us to follow. So we pray for it periodically, asking God to “make us humble” without really grasping what it is we ask.
Humility characterizes God. His nature is so intrinsically humble, we can’t understand it without understanding how it looks in Him. Further, humility isn’t something we put on and take off; it’s not something we can force ourselves into. Humility is an inner transformation brought about by exposure to God.
I’ve prayed those “Jesus, humble me” prayers many times. I wait for God to make me “feel”humble; for some emotional-spiritual transformation to take place so I no longer feel slighted by the offenses of others. I wonder where He is when I’m standing at the stove – why my heart doesn’t run to humility instead of to the pride of easy offense. But when I honestly look at what my heart has asked Him, the truth is apparent: I want to be humbled, but not that much.
I want enough humility to protect my reputation, but not so much that I lose my rights.
But it is there – the potential loss of right and reputation – that Jesus calls us. It is there that He went, giving up His right to reign, surrendering His perfect reputation, and sacrificing His very self for a person who deserved none of this.
Humility is the sign of genuine religion (Mic. 6:8), for to know Christ intimately is to reflect His character. If we don’t exemplify humility, we should ask ourselves: “When did I last commune with Christ?”
I recently experienced several embarrassing, humbling situations that left me feeling quite the fool. My initial response was to dwell in my insecurity, facilitating a pity party of epic proportions. Thoughts like, “She doesn’t like me anymore,” or “I don’t know how I have ANY friends,” or “Nobody cares,” raced through my mind at regular intervals. Yet in that place, faced with the fact of my own sinfulness, I realized this failure helped me comprehend the greatness of God’s grace.
My communion with Christ exposes me to His humble heart, and I ask for the same in me. Yet like He said to James and John, He often answers: “You do not know what you are asking.” (Mark 10:38) Even in my most genuine request for humility, I fear the cost of it. I know what it will take – and that’s the part I don’t want. I want the character, the beauty, the grace of humility without the pain and discomfort; but they come together. They are one.
If humility is the absence of self, there is an implied pain in its pursuit. Every choice to reject pride is a choice to reject self; to say “yes” to the spirit of God. It is the loss of “me” and the gain of Jesus, even when the gain looks less like Jesus and more like a job, a husband, a child, or a task. That’s why humility won’t be a one-time transformation. Rather, it is the daily-ness of faith; a thousand minute decisions to put Christ first and us last.
When we pray, “Jesus, humble me,” we’re really committing to a lifetime of pouring out. We’re saying “Jesus, empower me to empty myself the same way You did.” To make such a request is bold, and we need to be prepared for what comes next: Not “humble feelings”, but the opportunity to give ourselves up for the gospel. We will be called to die emotionally, spiritually, mentally every hour of the day, for all sorts of people. It will be a daily pouring-out of the riches we have in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
It will leave us poor in spirit, yet abundantly provided for (Matt. 5:3).