This past weekend, I had the opportunity and privilege to lead a big, complex event that was a big success. In so doing, I was given a great gift from God – humility. Humility from the goodness of others when I did not deserve it.
I have been wanting to write about humility for a few months, but it is a tough topic to tackle. This past weekend I felt a kind of humility different than my normal experience and it prompted the thoughts below, which may be nearly indecipherable to anyone who has not experienced these two paths to humility.
Now, in the past God has brought me to humility by two different paths. One path to humility went through bright fields ripe with my failures. The other path I walked towards humility went through some quiet darkened hallways of my heart. I want to try to explain these two types of humility, because I have unknowingly longed for the second path but only ever walked the first path.
I have frequently walked through the fields of my failure and found humility on the other side, but it was always a sort of tainted humility. Whenever we are humbled by our failures, I believe it is an intrinsically selfish sort of humility which will not bear lasting fruit. I say this because it has been true for me. I have always struggled against my pride, and I have routinely experienced this sort of humbling that comes from looking at your failures. But it never produced a lasting humility that resulted in peace with the active sort of failures yet to come, and did not even touch the far more pernicious ontological failures within my heart. The path of exposed failure ultimately produced a fear of future failures, and a simultaneous confidence that I could do better than I did in the past. My focus automatically went to protecting myself in the future and overcoming my weaknesses of the past. This type of humility is intrinsically selfish.
The other path towards humility was through the darkness of my heart. This path to humility was not about my failures, it was about my failings. What I mean is this: God took the focus off failures from the work of my hands and turned a light onto the failings of my heart. When I finally saw how the brokenness of my heart grew into brokenness in my efforts, I experienced a different sort of humility. This sort of humility forced me to look outward for help instead of inward for solutions. I looked outward to God to fix my needs, and in the process I saw others who could help me along the way. Thankfully, Jesus was the first one I saw willing to help in my failings. He would not only take my failings but He let me take on His perfection. All of a sudden, my future failures were not to be feared – they were already atoned for. My failures in the past were not there to help me learn to do better – they were there to allow others to do better than I ever could. They allow Christ to be made more glorious in my failings. That is a very different type of humility. That type of humility is intrinsically outwardly focused.
God is made strong in our weakness, not by fixing our failures, but by fixing us.