Humility, the Reclusive Virtue
I had coffee with a pastor friend this morning. Our conversation ranged from catching up with each other to what was happening in our lives and ministry. I shared with him that I was learning some lessons about the work of pastoring, specifically around humility. I needed to learn humility so I could better pastor the people God has placed in my life.
Humility is an elusive, and even reclusive, virtue. It is a virtue that we all know is important and ought to strive for, but a virtue that we don’t necessarily pay much attention to. At best, we assume we have it. At worst, we don’t care.
There is a story about a desert monk who had the devil appear to him as an angel. The demon said, “I am the archangel Gabriel, and I was sent to you.” The monk was humble, and his reply came out of his humility: “Make sure you were not sent to somebody else, for I am not worthy to see an angel.” At this, the devil immediately disappeared.
It was because the monk was humble that he did not become prideful when the demon appeared to him as an angel. Instead, out of his humility, he was able to reject this spiritual attack.
I’ve often confused confidence in my abilities with a false humility that hasn’t served me well. Acting pridefully, I took comfort in myself by telling myself that I was just good at my job, while believing myself to be humble.
It has taken the almost-exclusive relational work I’ve done the last two years for God to teach me humility–serving others, learning how to listen deeply, and putting the needs of others ahead of myself.
My first instinct upon learning this was to feel shame. But God reminded me that growth begins at the point of need, and there is no need to feel ashamed of where we have come from. The only shame is in refusing to grow.
This, too, is humility–learning to be who you are, and being comfortable with that, while being stretched to grow in new ways.
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