Sunday, June 1, 2014

9. Humbleness is . . .

(This is a series that was adapted from my life-story, Child of Mine, which is at  On this blog, it starts at the bottom of the June posts with “Like a Child.”)

            I have four endearing, rascally boys now.  And in being the parent and by prayer and reading the Word, I think I am finally beginning to understand what it means to be humble like a child.  And the conclusion that I’ve come to is that being “humble like a child” means . . . are you ready for this? . . . it means being (drum roll, please) . . . it means being needy, helpless, and dependent. 
            Needy, helpless, and dependent!  Ugh!  Didn’t I just say (last post) that I fought that for years and that those were negative things?  Yes, I did.  Which is probably why this journey took me so long.  It’s probably why I spent all that time feeling like a failure and not knowing the comfort and joy of being His child; I was too ashamed and confused by my many fears, insecurities, doubts, and questions.  Because of them, I didn’t think that I had the kind of faith that I thought His children were required to have. 

            But childlike humility doesn’t have to do with our beliefs.  It has to do with how we approach God.  It is our decision to live out our faith in a certain way, to relate to Him out of a proper understanding of who He is and who we are in relation to Him.  And it is possible to be humble and to still have doubts and fears.  As long as we let them drive us to the Lord, and not away from Him.      
            Being humble isn’t really about having unquestioning faith, it’s about being needy, helpless, and dependent on God.  And I’m learning that these are actually good things, necessary things, if I want a proper and fulfilling relationship with Him, if I want to be great in His kingdom, for His glory.  Needy, helpless, and dependent! 
            And this is the other, more proper, way of admitting our neediness.  (I bet you didn’t even realize that I didn’t yet get to the “second way of admitting that we are needy” in the last post).  It’s knowing that we are supposed to be needy, helpless, and dependent; and being okay with that.  It’s not denying it or fighting it or being ashamed of it.  It’s knowing that our proper place as a child of God is to admit that we need Him desperately, that we’re helpless to do it on our own, and that we are wholly dependent on Him . . . daily.  And this knowledge humbles us like children at His feet!      
            When the economy took a nosedive and Jason’s hours got cut back severely, we found ourselves in a financial crunch like we’ve never been in before.  We were barely keeping afloat, and we had to skip weeks of grocery shopping just to keep from going under all the way.  I, myself, passed up a few dinners just so we would have leftovers the next day.  I remember being so grateful once when we were able to splurge and buy frozen pizza and lemonade.  It had gotten that tight, and things that we had always taken for granted were now luxurious treats. 
            Although we still managed to hang in there, we were at a point where we weren’t sure what would be for dinner because we didn’t know if we’d be able to afford next week’s groceries.  (And we wanted to buy a house?  Ha!)  But during this time, my mom began inviting us over for dinner on Sundays.  And she would send home whatever leftovers there were or bags of fruit that she had bought.  (I don’t think she knew how tight it was for us.  She was just doing this out of love.  She’s one of the most generous people I know.) 
            Now, it wouldn’t have fazed me to accept them if they were just “extras” to us, like, “Oh, sure!  You can send them with us.  That would be nice.  If it would bless you to bless me, then okay!”  But to have to accept them in humility because we needed them, because it meant that we would have a paid-for dinner the next day was . . . well  . . . humiliating.  Especially so when you’re the type that never asks and who has to do everything on your own.    
            Being in need is humiliating to prideful, self-sufficient people.  I was choking on my pride.  Choking, and yet thankful in a way that I never had been before - humiliatingly thankful, humbly thankful.  I never liked being in need or accepting help because I didn’t like feeling indebted to someone else, being a burden, or feeling like I failed. 
            But I realized, even as I stood there while she packed the food into bags and looked around for more to give us, that I needed to learn this lesson.  I needed to learn how to accept the fact that I was in need, that I couldn’t do it on my own, and to gratefully accept the help that God offered through others.  I needed to learn how to be genuinely thankful.  It wasn’t really about my mom and the food; it was about God rooting out pride and self-sufficiency.  He was teaching me how to be okay with being needy, helpless, and dependent on Him.  He was teaching me how to be humble!
            I think that being needy is hard for most people, at least it is for me.  (Although there are some out there that don’t mind taking from others and living off of other people.  There are some that actually prefer that because it means less effort on their parts.  And for the record, that kind of take-take-take-I’ll-never-grow-up-and-be-responsible, childish neediness is not the same as grateful-thankful-humble-genuine, childlike neediness.) 
            Pride makes us feel humiliated and ashamed when we are in need.  Pride makes us angry that we were ever in need.  Pride makes us try even harder to do it on our own.  But humility makes us bow down at the feet of the Lord and admit that we need Him.  That we need Him desperately, that we are helpless to do life on our own, and that we are depending on Him completely.  Daily!  (I’m going to keep saying it until it sinks in!) 
            And let’s face it, we are all in need in one way or another.  At the very least, we all needed a Savior to make a way for us to get to Heaven. 
            [For those of you who don’t think you need a Savior because you “don’t believe in God.”  Well, He believes in you.  And your belief isn’t going to make Him any less real than He is.  But you’ll never know how real He is unless you want to see it.  He’ll let you choose to not see Him, at least while you’re on this earth. 
            But if you want to know the truth, admit to Him that you don’t think He’s real.  And then tell Him that you want to know if He is.  Ask Him to show you.  But really mean it.  And then watch.  Wait and watch, and look for His answer to that prayer.  He wants to answer prayers like that.  He’s been waiting for it.  Deuteronomy 4:29: “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”]
            But even those of us that call Him “Savior” still have needs.  We need Him in this life: to provide for us, to guide us, to heal us, to comfort us, to discipline us, to keep us, to hold the future for us, and to just hold us sometimes.  Living with the awareness that we are needy, helpless, and dependent (and that it’s a good thing) leads to a closer, proper relationship with Him.  It opens our hearts to Him in a way that being self-sufficient never could. 
            And we become useful to Him when we become humble.  When we get our will and pride out of the way - when we see Him for who He really is and ourselves for who we really are - then we can’t help but be humbled.  And our ultimate goal then becomes making sure that He gets the most glory possible.  The motto of our lives becomes, “May my life bring Him as much glory as possible.  May I never take any of His glory for myself, but all glory be to Him.” 
            This is when we become “great” for Him, because He can really work in us and through us then, by His power and strength and wisdom.  If He can trust us to make sure He gets all the glory (because He deserves it and because it will draw others to Him), He can use us greatly in His kingdom.  And when we are humbled before Him, seeing Him for who He really is and ourselves for who we really are (this is a crucial point, which is why I repeat it), we begin to deeply hunger and thirst for Him and for His way.  Because it is so much more fulfilling than anything we did on our own and for ourselves. 
            I think that the different ways that we deal with neediness can actually be stages: denying it, fighting it, admitting it with shame, and then (if you let yourself get to this point, and not everyone does) admitting it with thankfulness and humility.  Because you know that it is the only proper and fulfilling way to be His child!     
            Childlike faith is not a simple, naive faith.  It’s a hard-won, hard-working, humbling faith that says, “I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t like it, but I will believe and I will cling to You and I will praise You and I will obey You.  No matter what!”  Quite simply, it’s living as though He is God and I am not.  Humility!           
            We were made to have a complete, whole, open, enjoyable relationship with Him.  And we can’t have that if we won’t reach for it.  If we run after others things.  If we hide from the pain.  If we give up too easily when He puts us in the refining fire.  If we retreat in private to nurse our wounds, instead of running to Him and asking Him to hold us and to grow us in the hard times. 
            We need to put the effort and the work into it, into searching our hearts and minds to see where we are trying to “play God” in our lives, into rooting out paralyzing insecurities, fears, and sins.  And we need to be willing to face the pain that comes up when God brings up sins or old wounds that He wants us to deal with.  We need to cling to Him, refusing to let go when the furnace heats up.  
            He won’t settle for only part of our hearts and a piece of our lives.  And so He pursues us.  But He always leaves the last step up to us.  It’s up to us to turn toward Him and let Him into our lives and our hearts.  And oftentimes this means pain.  But don’t be afraid of this kind of pain; let it drive you closer to the Lord.  (Is there a painful issue that keeps coming up in your life?  It may be God letting you know that you have unfinished business, a part of your life that you need to give over to Him and let Him heal.  If you want, look up the “Through the Refining Fire” series to help you work through any issues you may have.)      
            The joy and comfort that awaits you on the other side, in the security of His embrace, is incredible.  While life is still hard, with trials and prunings and difficult circumstances, I no longer feel like I am facing life alone, on my own two feet.  (And yet, I know that there will be other times of silence and waiting in the future.  More opportunities to grow and purify my faith.) 
            As His child, I have the incredible privilege of being able to fall on Him in exhaustion, seeking the comfort of His embrace, and just resting there until I have the strength to face life again.  His arms are always open, no matter how much I feel like I “earned” it or not.  And now I am living with more hope, more peace, and more joy because He is holding me up.  He’s always holding me and loving me just because I am His. 
            You know the verse that says that God will bring you the desires of your heart.  “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  (Psalm 37:4)  I used to think - hope - that it meant that He would bring me what my heart desired.  If I desired stability, I would get stability.  If I desired marriage, I would find a spouse. 
            But this is simply not the way it is.  We don’t always get the desires of our heart.  People don’t always get the much hoped-for child, the healing, the stable home-life, the job, the house.  So how am I to understand that verse?  I mean, if I didn’t get what I desired then I would have to wonder if there was something wrong with my faith or the way I asked or if I was displeasing to Him.  So what was wrong with my faith that I didn’t get the house?  Why wasn’t I getting what I desired?  Was it Him or was it me?       
            The search for a house had become more than just a desire of mine . . . it had become an idol.  It was something that consumed me, that I was focusing all of my energy on and that was negatively affecting my emotions.  I was full of disappointment and envy and depression, and I was not much use to God in that state.   Didn’t He say that I would get what I desired?  What happened?
            Throughout all these trials and the silence, God has been pruning me of my own agendas, my own plans, and my self-sufficiency.  And as He did this, I began to see that verse in a new light.  (I’m not sure how theologically accurate it is, but it makes sense to me.)  I began to read it this way:  It’s not that He would give us what our hearts desired, but that He would give our hearts the desires that they should have.  He will purify our desires, so that we end up desiring the things that He wants us to have. 
            But if you look at the verse, you notice that this happens only when we learn to delight in Him.  Oh, light bulb!  I always missed that part of the verse.  “Delight yourself in the Lord . . .”  Delight yourself in Him first and then He will give you the desires of your heart.  I always went right to the part that said I’ll get what I want.  And I wanted my way so badly.  I really did!  I wanted a home.  I wanted a big garden.  I wanted the answers and the assurances.  I wanted to be out of these trials.  I was looking for delight in all the wrong places. 
            And having any idols is an automatic wall between us and God.  It will take our focus from Him and ruin our ability to hear Him, feel His presence, and see His blessings.  And so it was necessary for God to reveal this to me before I could get into a proper relationship with Him.  No wonder I wasn’t getting what my heart desired.  It was desiring things that would not bring true joy and fulfillment.  And my delight wasn’t in Him.     
            But the Lord knew something that I didn’t.  That deep down, what I really desired was a closer relationship with Him.  I wanted stability not in a home, but in Him.  A deeper, more stable relationship with Him, a greater understanding of what “walking by faith” meant, contentment as I learned to trust Him, and a long-overdue embrace from my Father. 
            I didn’t even realize that these were the real desires of my heart until I let God prune away the false ones.  If God had stepped in to grant my request when I got to the complaining stage or the “depression” stage, I would have missed out on the more important, fulfilling blessings.  I may have gotten what I thought I wanted from Him, but I wouldn’t have gotten Him.     
            And so He waited long enough for my deeply entrenched fears to resurface.  He waited until I was scared enough, tired enough, and broken enough to admit that I couldn’t do it on my own.  He waited until I learned that I wanted to be totally dependent on Him and that I wanted to be His child.  He waited until I learned to seek the comfort of His embrace, just for the sake of being close to Him and held by Him.  He waited until I humbled myself.  He was waiting all along for me to ask! 
            And while it felt like a risk to fall on Him in neediness, helplessness, and utter dependency, there was also a great sense of relief and peace to learn that He was there to catch me.  How interesting to me that admitting our neediness, helplessness, and dependency actually leads to greater security and stability!  After twenty-three years of being a Christian, I finally had a secure relationship with my Heavenly Daddy . . . my heart’s true desire!