I come today in deep humility. I don’t use that term lightly. In fact, I’ve often been not quite clear what it meant to be humble. I have struggled with this term for years, and actually would have to thank a strange source for giving me the, what I think is correct, interpretation of it. Mother Angelica is well known to those who are drawn to the more extreme traditionalism of the Roman Catholic Church. For the most part I disagree with her on most issues, but her definition of humility was I thought the correct one.
Humility means that you know that whatever good you do, that for which others try to give you praise, is not your doing, but in fact is the outpouring of God’s grace that you have graciously allowed. In other words, don’t laud me, but thank God, who really is responsible.
Previously I has thought that humility was but a cheat. People who insisted that they should not be congratulated for their accomplishments, were, in my eyes, those who actually wanted more acclaim, and by seeming to reject it, made themselves look even more worthy of praise. And I suspected, they enjoyed leaving that impression and receiving even more hearty backslapping.
But it is not like that at all. Humility is recognizing that the ego is drawn to deeply selfish motives at all times. It’s only desire is survival and that life be as pleasant a circumstance as possible. Rarely, the selfish desire of the ego coincides with the general good of other humans, but even then, it takes nothing from the fact that we are acting in self interest.
We have only to note the remark that the volunteer usually finds they receive more than they give. Is that not self-interest? Now I’m not arguing against volunteerism of course, that would be silly. But I am saying that we find the doing of things for others more to our liking when some good to us is also pointed out.
Humility is simply admitting that when I do something totally altruistically, it is not me, since there is no personal advantage to myself, but rather, it is but me giving permission to my God to shine forth from me in service to his people. And that is truly a humbling and understandable thing.
I struggled mightily yesterday to get to church. We got about two inches of snow, but out in the country, the roads are not cleaned as quickly as the city. It was a precarious journey, filled with alternative routes necessitated by slippery roadways. Still that is not my humility today. It but set the tone for what transpired as the day progressed and into today.
You see, I am not a winter fairy. I have grown to dislike it immensely in fact. I have never lived without snow and winter, yet I am tired to death of it all. I’m tired of the struggle, tired of the dark and dingy days. Tired of roaring winds and icy drafts. Tired of snow covered cars and sliding along roads. Tired of grouchy animals and the loss of use of my kitchen table as the cold settles in and makes the farther outreaches of the house unpleasant.
And the end result of this all, is that I begin to suffer a mild depression as the days, then weeks, and finally months ensue. I felt it clawing at me as the day progressed yesterday, and as the winds picked up over night, it began to roar in my ears. What to do for dinner tomorrow I mused? Who cares? Too lethargic to contemplate. Putting away leftovers in the freezer? Too hard to think about. Who cares?
This is something I have become well familiar with over the years. I’ve come to learn to accept it, try to move with it in a sense. But it is hard, it is well, depressing. Today is the first day of winter the way I calculate things, and I awoke a very unhappy person. Time to alert the Contrarian that I am fragile, as I attempt to grip this problem and wrestle it into submission. Or go with the flow. Whatever works.
I was deep in the bowels of this realization when I watched the morning news. The news of Mumbai continued, with interviews of Americans who lived through the assault. Now first, let me say, that entirely too much attention is being given Americans, after all the brunt of the attack fell on native Indians. But aside from that important fact, I listened as an Indian born woman, now American, and her American born husband related their tale of terror.
She related at the end something most important to her. Namely that the terrorists don’t deserve to be assigned some religion, they are renegades in some sense, and not to be confused with Muslims in general. A fine sentiment, and one I share. But as she related the horror of those hours and their final escape, separated from her husband, as they sought to maximize the possibility that one of them would survive for their children, I grew ashamed.
My shame was that I was so self-involved in my own drama that I failed to see the reality of the world around me. My petty concerns about snow and cold are minor when compared to the tragedies that envelope this world in so many guises. I was brought up short and exposed naked to the truth of my ego. My resolve came to me immediately and strongly.
Wherein, only an hour or so before, I had prayed to God that he would help sustain me through this time of growing unhappiness, and in fact lift this burden from me, I now saw God’s answer come to me dramatically and so quickly. God showed me Mumbai, and allowed me to compare the two miseries. Mine, quite obviously, came up short, as God hoped that I would so discern.
God is like that, if you pay attention. Yesterday, we began the Advent season. And the beginning of Advent stresses the issue of being alert. We are never to know the timing of the Lord’s return. We are to be alert and ready for it at a moment’s notice. I guess I was paying attention. For that I am grateful for the wonderful grace of God.
As I came on the computer, determined to write about this experience, I noted a comment on my last Godly Humor post. A lovely lady named Jennifer, left a comment. As I read it, again, it was as if God wanted to reinforce the lesson. There are things so very much more important than weather and its aggravations. There is the knowledge, that we small creatures, finite and so full of flaws, have, when we open to God’s grace, the happy opportunity to make a difference for another person.
It happens in the most unexpected ways, and by the most unexpected means. We often never know of what we do. Perhaps that is good, lest we become too full of our own abilities. For indeed, they are not ours at all, and we are prone to forget that. Jennifer thanked me, as I thanked those who had opened my eyes to a better solution.
She was really thanking God and so was I. Thanking God for his patience and perseverance in never giving up on his fragile and prone to failing children. He waits in perfect mercy for me to crack the door, inviting Him forth. And when I do, he does marvelous things, many of which I no doubt am unaware. It is never me, though I might wish it were. It is my God. That is a very humbling business indeed. Praise God, to Him be given the glory!!! I am but his vessel, the means of his mercy. Praise God indeed!