“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”
Humility is often seen as weakness in our culture and it makes sense to me; so often, it feels like a betrayal of our own ego. However, as followers of Christ, we are invited to discover the counterintuitive, elevating force humility carries.
When I was a younger follower of Christ, I got a front-row seat in someone’s life. I remember seeing this man I had come to respect be disrespected through gossip and backbiting. I didn’t think it was right, so I asked him why he wasn’t confronting the problem. He told me he was bothered by what was being said about him, but he was confident the Lord was a better defender than he was. He wanted to see what God would do as he humbled himself. I wasn’t in a position to do anything about it, so I watched what followed rather intently.
God didn’t smite the person who was gossiping. Over time, though, people came to recognize the true character of my friend and no longer trusted the gossip’s words. God deepened the integrity and substance of the person who humbled himself in that moment. Here we are, nearly 20 years later, and my respect for my friend has only increased. Humility is a powerful force available to any follower of Christ. It positions us to receive substance only God can give.
My friend was modeling something far more significant than I realized at the time. He was modeling a humble ego, rather than a fragile one.
Tim Keller described a fragile ego in The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness so well. He said:
If we are puffed up by air and not filled up with something solid, then to be overinflated or deflated comes down to the same thing. A superiority complex and an inferiority complex are basically the same. They are both results of being overinflated. The person with the superiority complex is overinflated and in danger of being deflated; the person with an inferiority complex is deflated already. Someone with an inferiority complex will tell you they hate themselves and they will tell themselves they hate themselves. They are deflated. To be deflated means you were previously inflated. Deflated or in imminent danger of being deflated – it is all the same thing. And it makes the ego fragile.
That quote may be worth re-reading.
Perhaps this is why Peter said, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7.
Any position outside of humility only inflates or deflates and makes us susceptible, fragile, and insecure. But when we humble ourselves before God, three things happen:
- It positions us to receive true power and substance.
- We discover how caring God is as He comforts and encourages us.
- In due time, we will ascend securely, without the danger of having our balloons popped.
As we face challenges, may we find ourselves in the shelter of the One who cares for us and is able to help us rise up above.