Monday, October 30, 2006

Flunking Humility

I recently ran across a quote which has become my current favorite. To prove this, I have placed it in my e-mail signature. The line is as follows:

Humility is always truth.

Concise lines have a tendency to unexpectedly and intentionally stop us cold. This one hit me pretty hard. The words are from Brennan Manning's The Ragamuffin Gospel, in which he briefly continues his point by saying that this humility, this truth is "the blunt acknowledgement that I owe my life, being, and salvation to Another."

Given the assumption that one believes in god, there is nothing spectacular here. Almost by definition, the concept of "god" involves creation, power, and the general quality of being bigger and better than us. Accordingly, we are at least partially indebted to this being (who is more [every good adjective] than us) for creating us. What pot would think itself more powerful than the potter? Thus, one can only brag on onself but so much.

Yet, Manning uses the word "always." In a "True or False" question, we are taught to always put a big ol' "F" if we see the word "always," as there are (ironically) always exceptions. Should Manning's line receive an "F" from us as readers? After all, certainly we can rightly claim some credit for our deeds some of the time.

Saturday night I found myself in the beloved role of Designated Driver, affectionately known as D.D. I spent the hours between 11p.m. and 1:00a.m. carting people around South Charlotte. Everytime I re-emerged at the bar for another load, I was lauded with compliments about my character and sacrificial nature by my peers.

On the outside, this was a situation where it appeared I was doing some good and deserved credit for my actions. Perhaps my utter humility was not the necessary response in this situation. What my lauders did not know, however, was the condition of my heart at this time - the bitterness with which I cruised down Ballantyne Commons Dr., the curses that were internally (and at one point, verbally) directed at the people I was "serving," the jealousy I had for those who were not driving. Had they known this, they would have been disgusted. And rightly so. Heck, if I hadn't known people were watching, I probably wouldn't have even volunteered to drive.

All of a sudden, the compliments, the credit, and the un-humility seem ridiculous.

The truth of the situation was that Jesus was serving these people, and I simply bitched about it. I had a front row seat to the Almighty God doing what he does best, and all I did was wallow in my own sense of entitlement. Jesus got those folks home, in spite of me, not because of me.

And this is always the case in my attempts at servanthood. When I am honest with myself, I rarely ever serve people out of love. And when it does happen, it's an accident. I don't even realize it in the moment. Personal gain, glory, and pride are always present, as I feel like I'm passing Christianity with flying colors. All the while, I'm failing humility, servanthood, and Christ-likeness. It is Christ doing the holy, pure, and righteous serving, not I.

So where is there room for boasting? Even in my "good deeds," where is there ever room for boasting? Manning really pegs me pretty well because, in my life, humility really is truth. God is surely responsible for my "life, being, and salvation." But he is also completely responsible for any good that I might do, for it is God "who alone does great wonders" (Psalm 136:4).

Always.

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