24 October 2011
The Pursuit of Humility
A few years ago on personal retreat at a cabin I set out to catch some moles in the garden of my heart. I was not at rest going into that beautiful cabin with a warm and raging fireplace. I was anxious and unsure what God was doing in me and through me. After a couple days of digging I sensed the Holy Spirit setting a new agenda for me to live into. This new agenda was concerning my own humility or lack of. Inspired by Peter Scazzaro and Henri Nowen’s writing’s the following was what I wrote down in my journal. New tracks were being layed down for my character; humility does not come naturally so it must be an intentional pursuit. I revisit this journal entry quite often to refresh my focus on pursuing humility.
The Pursuit of Humility
1 – Recalibrate under God’s acceptance more than seeking acceptance from others – I’ve often felt the pull to be measured and valued by my skill level, my charm, the strength of my knowledge, my accomplishments and whether people agree with me. My Application: In response I will massage into my life a rhythm of solitude and space where I intentionally seek to be still, recalibrate with God, vent, and listen to what He says about me. I don’t study in these times. I purpose to sit still for a long period of time. Once a year I go to a monastery to have a few extra days to reclaim my emotional status before God. To be honest this is a gear grinding discipline for me since I’m an ADD type dude.
2 – Live in transparency and authenticity – I’ve noticed if I keep enough space people begin to idolize me and assume I’m a spiritual giant without doubts, fears, honest struggle and insecurities (this is one of the reasons we won’t podcast our sermons at Axiom). My Application: Be more regular in my teaching and counseling to mix in “this is how I’ve blown it”. In my closest relationships initiate sharing my present fears, doubts, struggles and discouragements even if for a moment that someone thinks I’m a weaker pastor because of it.
3 – Be willing to subject myself to authority – I’m a rebel by nature so I’d rather be independent. My Application: seek to submit to someone even if you don’t agree with everything they are about.
4 – Don’t injure those who inflict harm on you – The drive to retaliate in some way is in all of us, it feels powerful. I do this by talking slightly negative about someone who has wronged me. The last thing I want in my soul is bitterness that creates a cynical, disillusioned outlook on life. My Application: I’ve embraced a life principle of not seeking justice for the ways in which people treat me but only for the injustices done to another. This one frustrates my wife sometimes. She says “I wish you would defend yourself.” Thomas Aquinas said “To desire the good of another” was the definition of loving our enemies.
5 – Speak Less (with more restraint) – Its easy for me to think my opinion needs to be shared because I have one. It’s also a temptation to talk instead of actively listening. My Application: Hold my tongue for as long as I can. Tell myself I’m not the smartest one in the room. Validate what someone is saying first before I express my thoughts on a subject. Don’t talk over someone else. “The wise are known for their few words.”
6 - Be deeply aware of being chief of all sinners - After 15 years of successful ministry, a healthy marriage and family and 100's of hours of study it is a serious temptation to compare myself to the brokenness in others and think “I’ve got a lot over them.” My Application: Reflect concretely; reciting my sins, secret motives, ugly thoughts and heartless dispositions before God by writing them down in my journal to see them.
7 - Think in terms of serving instead of leadership - As a pastor, power and status are a currency that stirs up ugly stuff in me. My Application: Work to prop others up by coaching them to influence. Deflect attention sent my way towards others achievements and worth. Recount in front of others what other people are doing right. Lead in such a way that those you are leading believe they discovered change on their own. Don’t seek to take credit for ministry I’ve done,
8. Lean into conflict instead shying away from it. - When someone in my community has a problem with me sometimes it makes me nauseous other times it make me defensive. I've found that self-righteousness and arrogance breeds in me when I avoid a person who has hurt me.My Application: Don't let the awkwardness linger. Don't wallow in self pity and don't allow myself the lazy space to mentally rip them apart. Seek out a cup of coffee with that someone who I think has a problem with me. Ask them point blank "have I done something to offend you?".
Some stuff I’ll be working on for a long time. Thoughts?