We proceed today to the third part in my little series inspired by this talk at a conference I went to back in November and using Micah 6:8 as a way to talk about stuff that I think is important.
So. Walk humbly.Our daily lives should be characterized humility at all times. I don’t recall the post in which I talked about “characterized” but I still like that word, it makes me feel better about evaluating myself on-the-whole rather than in-this-instance.
The point of this, I think, it to model ourselves after Jesus who, being literally actually God, was also just some random Jewish peasant. But foremost in his actions is taking care of others, no matter what it looked like. Meeting people’s needs, going to where they are–physically, culturally, mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually. I want to strive to care for others. Gently, humbly, individually, joyfully. Careful to try my best to ensure that they do not feel like a burden.
And here’s a big part of what I think is tricky about that. The difference between service and humility. Anyone can serve, all you have to do is do something. But like last week, when we had to not just do mercy but actively love it, to be humble is to serve for the right reasons, not just go through the motions. Jesus was big into this, the whole idea that when you give, do not even let your right hand know what your left is doing. Or something like that.
Finally, to walk is a directional verb, unlike do or love. We are meant to be going someplace. Which to me means two things: do not expect perfection, and be open to correction. On the first, that means that we ought to go easy on ourselves and on others because none of us are there yet. On humility, or on justice or mercy. I guess that is itself a little humility though, look at us we’re getting somewhere!
And on the second. When we get hurt by people, it can make us extra sensitive to correction. When people have used cudgels in the guise of guidance, especially in church settings, it can make any words of wisdom sometimes feel painful. But it is our work to listen to valid correction and strive to move forward–to heal our wounds and to walk further every day. On the reverse, we have to be sensitive to the hurt in others, to serve and guide them appropriately. Do not underplay or ignore or cheapen the experience of others in the pursuit of betterment (but also don’t give up that pursuit).
I think this correction piece is really key for religious settings in particular. The church offers boundaries and guidelines that the secular world doesn’t, exactly, and I think that’s a strength (when it is not abused). But this element of humility also means that (and here’s my little queer moment on the subject) the church must be able to look humbly on itself and take correction where it can be brought closer to the justice and mercy of God.
Let me tell you, applying for jobs has been a rough time. Being rejected over and over again from scores of places, month after month, isn’t great for one’s self-esteem. But that’s not humility. Working at Michael’s, cleaning bathrooms on the odd occasion–and not minding too too much, and at least there’s a paycheck. But that’s not humility.
I don’t mean this to be the kind of thing where I’m like, I’ve been stripped of everything that’s important to me and that’s how I learned to rely on God because a) I have not been so stripped, nowhere near and b) those stories always kind of annoy me though I’m not sure why. And also c) I don’t think that I’ve learned any better to rely on God than in the past few years (which is maybe a personal failing but that’s neither here nor there).
What I think I have learned a bit is a better perspective. First, on the very tangible scale of Capitalism, learning that I am and always will be replaceable and that a job will never actually care about me because it’s just a job (people can, but people are not jobs). And instead of this being depressing (though not having a job is kind of depressing), it is liberating because I am free to derive my value elsewhere. Like God, theoretically.
And second, perspective in a more global, cosmic sense. To be humbled by the knowledge of God, as far as I have come on that question. To know that while I certainly oughtn’t derive my own worth from a job, God definitely doesn’t. Not from a job, or a relationship, or actions, or words, or thoughts. God doesn’t consider any of those things when estimating my value–not even for an instant. Not a single thing.
The only thing that God considers when charting my value as a human being is that I am. That is the humility that I have been trying to learn. It may sound kind of counter-intuitive, the humility of knowing my worth, and maybe I haven’t explained it well, but I know what I mean.