A Lesson in Humility

airplane_take_offContinued from here.

I continued my meditation on the enormity of God as I flew to visit a friend out of state. As I looked out the airplane’s window, I considered the reality that God fills all of this space! He fills the plane, the atmosphere as far up as I could see, all the way down to the earth thousands of feet below, and every house peppering the landscape below.

And that was only as far as I could see! In that moment, He was also surrounding the Alps in Switzerland, the tropical fish at the Great Barrier Reef, and the penguins in Antarctica. Our God is truly massive!

Then, I thought about myself in comparison. I was taking up this little sliver is space in the middle seat of one airplane, wedged between my son and a stranger. The God of the Universe is EVERYWHERE, and I’m in this teeny tiny space. So, why do I often act as if the world revolves around me?

When I consider the mammoth size of God (actually, He makes a mammoth look teeny tiny), how distorted is my world view when I behave as if the world is supposed to cater to my desires? How could I possibly have any expectation that the rest of the world should defer to my whims?

And then consider my arrogance in trying to bend God to my will. How dare I tell God that He should do X, Y, and Z when my perspective is so severely limited. He sees EVERYTHING while I cannot even see through the seat of the person sitting in front of me on an airplane. How ludicrous of me to presume to know better than God how my life should go.

In my humanity, my own comfort often fills the frame of my perspective: what I want, need, or desire. So, what I view as “good” or “bad” is based on this teeny tiny sliver of space that I inhabit. Only God sees the whole picture. Only He is in the position to know what is truly “good” or “bad” because He sees the needs of EVERYONE. And He is good, so He cares.

C.S. Lewis said,

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

When I think about the enormity of our God – that He is, quite literally, EVERYWHERE, I am deeply humbled as I take my eyes off myself and place them onto my God, where they belong.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace waving through an airplane window above the words, “Ready for take off.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

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Becoming a Humble Person

true_storyContinued from here.

I ended my blog entry yesterday by saying…

Here’s the best part – even though you will do these things to develop humility, the point is not about what you do so much as who you become.”

Let me give you an example to serve as a parallel that is easier to explain than humility. I used to be a very passive person. I was a people-pleaser and would twist myself into a pretzel to avoid offending anyone. I had very few boundaries and no concept of what boundaries even were in many areas of my life. I would let people take advantage of me, and I had a very difficult time saying no.

My “homework” during my therapy years was learning how to set and enforce boundaries. This required me to do what assertive people do, even though I was not assertive. Let’s say that someone asked me to volunteer to do a task that I didn’t want to do. Before therapy, because I didn’t want to upset anyone and wanted everyone to like me, I would agree to do the task but stew and complain about it. Through therapy, I practiced doing what assertive people do – I would force myself to say no, but I would experience an enormous amount of anxiety leading up to the no, and then I would replay the conversation in my head and worry about whether the person still liked me.

This is the state that the Pharisees stayed in, which was why Jesus was so hard on them. They did righteous acts on the outside, but they were not righteous on the inside. They made a point of doing righteous acts, but they never transformed into being righteous people.

In 2014, I had the epiphany that I had become an assertive person. I was no longer a passive person doing assertive things. God had transformed me through my obedience to Him and practicing doing what He called me to do, and I had actually become an assertive person. The assertiveness that people see on the outside flows naturally out of the assertiveness that has developed on the inside as God has transformed me from a people pleaser into a God pleaser.

Humility develops in the same way. As you choose to do what humble people do (defer your preferences to God and others), God will transform you into a humble person on the inside. You won’t be doing humble acts to impress other people – humble acts will naturally flow out of the humble person you are becoming because you love God and have made Him the center of your life instead of yourself.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting on a chair in front of a fireplace holding a book and saying, “True story.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

How to Develop Humility

yes_or_noContinued from here.

Humility is a choice that (sadly) few people choose to make. We live in a “me” culture that focuses on our comfort, feeds our pride, and lures us with its temptations. Choosing humility is counter-cultural, but it’s the key to the Promised Land living that God wants for us – a life filled with joy, peace, contentment, and purpose. Those are promises for Jesus’ disciples, and you cannot be his disciple without humility.

The obvious question (assuming your goal is humility) is how to grow it. The critical first step is choosing discipleship. You need to decide once and for all who you are going to live your life for – yourself or God?

The Bible exhorts us not to be deceived because Christians can be deceived by the father of lies. Either you are living for God or you are living for yourself. There is no third option. Either every word out of your mouth and every action that you take is being filtered through what God has to say about that word or deed, or it is not. Don’t let yourself off the hook for this, which is my tendency when confronted with something I don’t want to face. No more excuses.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” ~ Deut. 30:19-20

Your options are life (living your life for God) or death (living life for yourself). Unless and until you choose life, you aren’t going to experience Promised Land living.

Once you make this decision, you need to do what God tells you to do in the Bible. The seven fundamental practices are a good start.

Here’s the best part – even though you will do these things to develop humility, the point is not about what you do so much as who you become. More on this tomorrow.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up two signs: “Yes or No.” Courtesy Bitmoji. ]

Developing Humility

growing_in_humilityContinued from here.

When you make the choice to pick up your cross and follow Jesus, you will begin the process of growing in humility. You will become less full of yourself, and that space will be replaced by more of God. God is love, joy, peace, and contentment, so you will experience those attributes progressively as you fill up with God,.

For example, my first big act of discipleship was setting aside the first hour of my day for God, no matter what. This one act of humility invited such a flood of God’s love that I remained on a “God high” for months! Forgiving my childhood abusers required a huge step in humility and brought me the peace I had been seeking for decades. As I humbled myself in my marriage, I experienced joy, peace, and contentment that was not there when I was full of myself.

The key to humility and discipleship is taking that first step. It feels unnatural to live for anyone but yourself, but when you take your focus off yourself and place it on God, an important shift takes place inside of you – your selfishness (pride) starts to shrink, making room for God. As you experience freedom from that first step, you become more willing to take the next step … and the next … and the next. It feels unnatural to “shrink yourself” to make room for God. However, that’s exactly what is needed so you can fill up with God and shine His light into the world.

To help me with this, I started looking for ways to defer my preferences. For example, I would purposely defer my preference for the more comfortable chair and offer it to someone else. I would choose the bruised banana so my husband could have the better fruit for his morning snack. While these are small acts of humility, they helped me chip away at my natural self-centeredness and value others above myself.

You cannot be a prideful disciple of Christ because Jesus was not prideful: he was humble. Transforming ourselves into the image of Christ requires us to develop humility. While humility feels unnatural, it’s the key to developing the fruit of the spirit.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Outline of body is filled with yellow to represent God. Cartoon of Grace fills  roughly one-third of the space in the body outline, and a yellow heart is over Grace but much smaller than she is. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]

Lack of Humility: Being Full of Yourself

humility_stage_2.PNGContinued from here.

Let’s talk about being a baby Christian, which has nothing to do with how long ago you invited Jesus to be your Savior but has everything to do with whether you have ever chosen to call him Lord. Sadly, a large number of Christians only embrace Jesus as their Savior but not as their Lord. There’s a huge difference between the two. Either you are a disciple of Jesus, or you are not. If you are not, then while you might look forward to heaven in the afterlife, you won’t experience all of God’s promises of joy, peace, and contentment because those blessings are reserved for his disciples – for those who are conforming themselves to the image of Christ.

The graphic shows what a baby Christian looks like. While Jesus has come to live in her heart, this person is still full of herself. There’s no humility – she is living her life as she wants and not picking up her cross and following Jesus.

Unless and until you choose to embrace Jesus as Lord (to do what God tells you to do), you will remain in this state, as I did for decades. I received Jesus as my Savior at age 8, but I didn’t make the decision to become his disciple until age 44. During the decades in between, I had a lot of knowledge about the Bible, but I didn’t actually do most of it. I was too full of myself and was more interested in what **I** wanted than in what God wanted. The Bible’s word for this is pride.

I was so filled with pride that there was little room left for God. Ironically, I believed that I couldn’t have a problem with pride because I had low self-esteem, so I sure wasn’t “puffed up” about how great I was. I was shocked to learn that pride is thinking about yourself all the time, and boy did I do that! I always had myself on my mind, and it made me miserable!

Disciples of Jesus have humility. As they do what God tells them to do, they take their focus off themselves and place it on God and on others. As they do this, they stop being so full of themselves and start freeing up room for God. Unless and until you choose to start living your life differently in deference to God, you will remain a spiritual infant, and the blessings of joy, peace, and contentment will continue to elude you.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace taking up all of the space in the body outline with a small yellow heart at the center. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]

Promised Land Living: Importance of Humility

If you want to experience Promised Land living, you are going to need to become more humble, which is the key to Christian discipleship. Most of us balk at the term humility, but we wouldn’t if we understood what it actually means. The Bible tells us to walk humbly with our God and that humility is the fear of the LORD, which brings us riches, honor, and life. Considering that humility is the vehicle that brings us riches, honor, and life, shouldn’t we at least ask what it is?

Let me start by explaining what humility is not. It is not humiliation. God promises us a double portion instead of our shame, so He’s not telling us to humiliate or shame ourselves. Humility is also not weakness. C.S. Lewis defined humility best:

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

I’m no C.S. Lewis, but I’ll give you my own personal definition of humility: It’s choosing to stop being so full of yourself so you can start being full of God.

While I am no artist, I took a shot at trying to illustrate the stages of humility in the graphic.

progression_of_humility

The first graphic shows someone before receiving Christ as Savior. As you can see, this person’s body outline is completely filled by the person. In other words, the person has no humility and is completely full of herself. To quote Joyce Meyer, nothing makes you more miserable than thinking of yourself all the time. Sadly, this is our default setting without Christ.

The second body outline shows someone who has received Christ as Savior but not as Lord. Notice that she now has a yellow heart but otherwise still fills her body outline with herself. God has planted the seeds of the fruit of the spirit inside of her, but she is too full of herself for those seeds to bear fruit yet. Unfortunately, far too many Christians never progress from this infant stage. They can check “going to hell” off their list of worries, but their daily lives don’t look much different than the lives of those without a relationship with God.

The third graphic shows a Christian who is bearing spiritual fruit through discipleship. She is no longer full of herself, so her body outline is progressively filling up with God. Her life looks different from the lives of those around her, and people can see God’s light shining through her life. She still struggles with self-focus, as can be seen by contrasting this stage with the fourth graphic, which shows someone with perfect humility, a state that only Jesus ever accomplished. While you and I are never going to achieve perfect humility, we can choose to grow in humility by becoming less full of ourselves, leaving more room for God to shine His light through us. This is the key to discipleship.

Continued here.

[Graphic: “Progression of Humility.” Shows four body outlines. First: Cartoon of Grace taking up all of the space in the body outline. Second: Same graphic as the first but with a yellow heart at the center. Third: Yellow heart is the same size, cartoon of Grace is much smaller, and yellow fills the rest of the space in the body outline. Fourth: Grace’s body is so small that it is almost hidden behind the yellow heart. Almost everything in the body outline is yellow. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]

Grace’s Journey: Submitting to Other Authority

drivingContinued from here.

The next leg of my journey probably caused more groans in my friends than in myself as God expanded submission to obeying governmental authority. For example, God placed heavily on my heart that I was to submit to the posted speed limit. Note that I learned how to drive in the metro-Atlanta area, where the flow of traffic is generally 15 MPH over the speed limit. I have always had a lead foot and was impatient with anyone who didn’t.

After decades of driving above the speed limit, I felt the Holy Spirit’s conviction whenever I drove even a few miles over the speed limit. Learning how to slow down as I drove was not an easy process for me. Nevertheless, I did it because I love God more than I love speeding. I was surprised to find that obeying the speed limit makes me a more relaxed driver, in part because it’s rare for anyone else to be responsible for slowing me down anymore.

While I did undergo a period of adjustment, it now feels natural for me to obey the speed limit. I am relaxed as a drive and love listening to Contemporary Christian music and focusing on worshiping God as I drive. I am no longer impatient when I have to wait at a traffic light. I allow more time to arrive at my destination, so I feel no anxiety about arriving on time. Obeying God in this area has resulted in many benefits that I never would have guessed I had been missing out on.

However, obeying governmental authorities for minor issues, such as not speeding, is not a popular choice, which is why I joked about this probably causing my friends to groan more than me. To my knowledge, none of my friends have received the same conviction to obey the speed limit, and some of them find it annoying to ride with me since I “drive like a grandmother.” I tell them that if they want to go faster, then they will need to do the driving (and some take me up on this offer!).

I am careful not to judge my friends for disregarding the speed limit. Just as happened with me, the Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of convicting them if/when that’s an area that God wants to work on in their lives. That being said, I’m also not going to allow anyone else to talk me into disobeying God in this area, so I wind up being the passenger more frequently these days!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car with a license plate “L8R”and waving. Courtesy Bitmoji.]