During the Easter season, my wife and I attended a church service where the participants sought to model the events that Jesus and His disciples experienced on the night before He was crucified. As part of the service, the church staff members washed the feet of some of the church volunteers. As I watched, I wondered which was more humbling in our day—to wash another person’s feet or to have someone else wash yours. Both those who were serving and those being served were presenting distinct pictures of humility.
Chris Langan has an IQ higher than Albert Einstein’s. Moustafa Ismail has 31-inch biceps and can lift 600 pounds. Bill Gates is estimated to be worth billions. Those who have extraordinary abilities or possessions might be tempted to think more highly of themselves than they should. But we don’t have to be wildly smart, strong, or wealthy to want to take credit for our achievements. Any size of accomplishment carries with it this question: Who will get the credit?
Where is Mary Poppins when you need her? I know this sounds as if I’m longing for the good old days when cheerfully unrealistic movies featured characters like this fictional nanny, but what I’m really longing for are people with a vision for the future that is realistically optimistic. I yearn for joyful, creative people who can show us the positive side of what we consider negative, who can remind us that “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
Many people love to play games that test their knowledge. Recently, a colleague and I were testing a Bible-knowledge game. Since we were seated in an open area of our office, those nearby could hear our conversation. Soon questions ranging from Noah’s ark to the woman at the well were being answered by those within earshot of us. It was a delight to hear various staff members volunteering responses to Bible questions.
God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason,” the saying goes. The ability to listen is an essential life skill. Counselors tell us to listen to each other. Spiritual leaders tell us to listen to God. But hardly anyone says, “Listen to yourself.” I’m not suggesting that we have an inner voice that always knows the right thing to say. Nor am I saying we should listen to ourselves instead of to God and others. I’m suggesting that we need to listen to ourselves in order to learn how others might be receiving our words.
When a sudden change in technology made his job obsolete, a highly trained scientist found himself working in a fast-food restaurant. One evening after our Bible study he described the situation as difficult and humbling. He said, “One good thing I can say is that the young people there seem very interested in my faith.” A member of the group responded, “I admire you for being humble. I know your faith must have something to do with it.”
After I had minor eye surgery, the nurse told me, “Don’t look down for the next 2 weeks. No cooking or cleaning.” The last part of those instructions was a little easier to take than the first part! The incisions needed to heal, and she didn’t want me to put any unnecessary pressure on them by looking down.
In The Screwtape Letters written by C. S. Lewis, a senior devil urges his young protégé to divert a Christian’s thoughts away from God and focus instead on the faults of the people around him at church.
When a general returned from a victorious battle, ancient Rome would stage a parade to welcome the conqueror home. The parade would include the general’s troops, as well as trophy captives who had been brought along as evidence of the victory. As the parade made its way through the city, the crowds would cheer their hero’s success.