Divine Humility

Divine Humility

Excuse me, but have you seen any “Leadership” lately? I mean REAL leadership – like, you know, the kind that requires self sacrifice –  a willingness to listen –  an astute awareness of the fundamentals affecting a situation – with the gumption to make the tough decision – even when it’s not particularly popular . . . Someone who serves in humility - the kind of humility born of obedience that unlocks all the possibilities and potential made available by the Grace of God.

No? Well, Neither have I – for the most part.

But Joshua seemed to have it – and he also had a deep and abiding Trust that was born of God’s promises – and he stood ready to act when the call came. And the very first call was a bit of a dozy.  God seems to need to work on both the practical and the miraculous side in holding back the floodwaters of the Jordan: Practical, because he needed to get the people to the other side. Miraculous, because he wanted them to know that he was still with them through Joshua now that Moses was gone.

Of course, the parallel to God’s greatest miracle worked through Moses’ – the parting of the Red Sea – is obvious enough. Perhaps the similar venues are God’s way of saying, “I am no less with you now, in fact, we will not regress from that previous threshold – it only gets better from here!”

But we need to remember there is a distinct difference in what is happening. Under Moses’ leadership it was salvation that came in the fleeing from the land and their enemies. Now, as the Hebrews are preparing to inhabit the long awaited promised land, the waters have been parted to allow for an “entering into” – so that the people can inhabit the land and overcome their enemies. In both cases it is through the waters they go – a baptism of sorts – and both moments require extreme faith. One does not place oneself in such a position lightly – it requires total commitment.

It has been my experience that God likes total commitments. When we are His – and we know it.

It is also interesting to note that the leaders stood in the middle of the river as the Hebrews crossed over. God’s words indicate that they need only stand ankle deep for the water to part, but somewhere along the way they seemed to have waded out to the middle – furthest from the safety of either bank. Perhaps to assure the people that they were willing to put their lives where their words were . . . Imagine the looks that they might have received: “You and your family go on out there, Jeremiah, it’s going to be fine!”

“Really?”

I am reminded of the words of Warren Buffet when it comes to the so called “leadership” exhibited by our government officials of late. “I could end the deficit in 5 minutes,” Buffet recently told a TV news interviewer. “You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971 – before computers, e-mail and cell phones. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven took one year or less to become the law of the land – all because of public pressure. He then goes on to give what he calls the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011″ in which he advises the following changes be made:

1. No Tenure / No Pension. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. Congress participates with the American people. (Now, there’s a concept!)
3. Congress must also purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.
4. They can no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
7. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term’s, then go home and back to work or whatever it is they were doing before they decided that leading 307 Million Americans was a good idea.

Wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air! I don’t always agree with Warren Buffet – but I do on this on. And the contrast is clear, isn’t it? Especially when you compare the divinely inspired humility of Joshua and his leaders with that of the Pharisees and so many who serve us in Government today. Aren’t Christ’s words advising the Jews to “do what they say but not what they do” right on the mark?!”

“Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries (black boxes that contain the Law) broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.”

Sound familiar? My Goodness.

And the source of this overwhelming lack of leadership – in both the ancient temple and the modern halls of government today? Humility – a simple lack of humility! Jesus never uses the word – but every characteristic he lists is born by a lack of it – which has become the most primary condition of the fallen human heart.

They are: “unwilling to lift a finger” . . . “serve so that they may be seen by others” . . . “love the place of honor” . . . “seek the best seats” . . .  “desire to be greeted with respect in the market” . . . “to be called by a title . . .”

I want to tell you about the most humble man I ever knew – my Father. He certainly had his share of faults and would have been embarrassed beyond belief in what I am about to tell you, but in spite of all of his challenges – and there were many – he was blessed with a deep and abiding humility that he truly lived out in the everyday of his life.

He didn’t care a single lick about being seen or noticed by others. He understood the importance of recognition so that people felt appreciated but he really didn’t need it himself. He knew who and who’s he was – and he knew what really mattered was getting the job done so that everyone could benefit, whatever that job might be. He NEVER sought out the place of honor – often to his own detriment and even the annoyance of others – so demurring and deferring that there were times when you just wished he would, so you wouldn’t have to move up to the seat with the better view or eat that extra drumstick.

In business he was willing to do anything it took. As President of a company with 72 employees he would drive a delivery truck to Covington or clean the toilets when needed and often did. He believed that no man or woman should have to do anything that anyone else shouldn’t be willing to do, when needed. He shunned titles and the arrogance and aloofness he felt they promoted . . . “Just call me Jim,” he would tell a new warehouse worker, as naturally as any new best friend you would ever meet. But I never did – I just called him Dad and I was proud to do so.

When we were being interviewed by the management board of the Wurth Group in Germany – a world-wide corporation with 27,000 employees that acquired our little Fastener business back in 1997, they asked us how in the world we retained employees in our company so well – we had what amounted to zero employee turnover. My brothers and I gave our usual answers about taking care of them and paying them higher wages than might be available elsewhere – and making sure the environment was always as open and positive as possible. And all of that was true – it was the way we had been taught to lead. But we could have just as easily given a one word answer: “Dad” – for it was his leadership  born of genuine humility  that kept those people and their very best efforts coming back through that door every morning. No business school in the country could have taught me a better lesson that that.

I say, “genuine humility” because there is a often a sort of false humility that is lived out for all the wrong reasons. Fred Buechner puts it this way:

“Humility is often confused with the polite self deprecation of saying you’re not much of a bridge player when you know perfectly well you are. Conscious or otherwise, this kind of humility is a form of gamesmanship.

If you really aren’t much of a bridge player, you’re apt to be rather proud of yourself for admitting it so “humbly.” This kind of humility is a form of low comedy.

True humility doesn’t consist of thinking ill of yourself but not thinking of yourself much differently from the way you’d apt to think of anybody else. It is the capacity of being no more or less pleased when you play your own hand well, than when your opponents do.”

Hmm. It all comes back to the self, doesn’t it . . . How do we see ourselves? As children of God alive in this moment by His choosing and His grace – our very life breathed into us by the divine breath of the great creator who – mystery of mysteries – would have it no other way . . . Or do we see our “selves” as kings and queens of everything that has been put before us – so consumed with how might appear to others – so wanting to be perceived as someone of importance, that the very self we seek to promote does nothing but get in the way of the truth and life that God himself keeps trying to hand to us?

Fear may be “the beginning of wisdom” as the Old Testament tells us, but Humility is the vehicle that must carry us on the trip across the broad expanse between that beginning and the ultimate awareness of the true nature of God. For if pride born of arrogance, born of forgetting who and who’s we really are is what separates from God – then humility – TRUE humility is the only thing that can save us from ourselves in the end.

Canadian  Writer David Benner says it like this:

“In all of creation, identity is a challenge only for humans. A tulip knows exactly what it is. It is never tempted by false ways of being. Nor does it face complicated decisions in the process of becoming. So it is with dogs, rocks, trees, stars, amoebas, electrons, and all other things. All give glory to God by being exactly what they are. For in being what God means them to be, they are obeying him. Humans, however, encounter a more challenging existence…With a little reflection, most of us can become aware of masks we first adopted as strategies to avoid feelings of vulnerability but that have become parts of our social self. Tragically, we settle easily for pretense, and a truly authentic self often seems illusory. There is, however, a way of being for each of us that is as natural and deeply congruent as the life of the tulip…. Our true self-in-Christ is the only self that will support authenticity.”

I believe that quote comes from a book entitled “The Gift of Being Yourself,” which is exactly what true humility allows! It is what Jesus himself is trying to get us to do – to become our “Selves” as was originally intended by God – not some empty and hollow shells of what we might be, but rather authentic New Creations – re-formed and redeemed by God’s sacrificial love in Him – made complete by a love that knows no boundary and no end . . .

A love that would call us by name, that says, “Come unto me . . . Don, Leisha, Jean, Peggy, Gussie, Tom, Rayfus, Stuart . . . Come unto me – all of you who are heavy laden with everything from your own self imposed guilt – to the hanging on of grievances long past – to the arrogance that would poison the well of humility by which you are meant to be made free.

” I will give you rest,” He says, from both the busyness and the boredom of our days. But we have to accept it. As the Spirit whispered to me one day when I least expected it, “Don’t refuse the gift.” Maybe it comes down to words just as simple as those . . Don’t refuse the gift of grace in Jesus Christ that makes way for Divine Humility.

- Stuart Revercomb

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