Lessons in Humility
A few weeks ago I shared a guest post entitled “Humility” written by my good friend Abby. If you missed it, you can read it by clicking here. Before I posted it, Abby and I joked with each other about how we often have to learn all sorts of additional lessons after we post something about a biblical principle. I think we both had our preconceived notions about what it would look like to have to practice humility, and I think we were both surprised at how wrong we were about it all. Some of our lessons were similar and interwoven, and then some were not. Here is what I have been learning about humility in the last few weeks:
- Sometimes God takes your loaf, adds somebody else’s fish, and feeds a multitude. It all started with a small gesture – Abby had asked me to write a post for her blog, and I thought it would be nice to reciprocate. It isn’t as if I have a million followers that would read her essay, flock to her site and make her an instant celebrity. I could share my handful of followers with her, I could encourage her writing, and that would be about all I could do. So that was my loaf. Then, Abby’s father-in-law added a couple of fish. He sent an email to Tim Challies suggesting he take a look at the guest blog on my site. He chose to send his email at a time that would benefit both Abby and me. Tim Challies is a blogger extraordinaire. He cranks out two or three posts a day, and writes reviews for World Magazine, and he pastors a church (overachiever?). Abby’s father-in-law doesn’t know Tim Challies personally, he is just one of thousands of people who follow Challies’ blog. Who knows how many people send emails to Tim requesting that he read this or that? Who knows how many he manages to read in a day? But he read Abby’s blog, and he liked it enough to add it to his A la Carte list for the day. And thousands of people came to my blog and read the words that Abby wrote. It was a humbling experience. It was one of those times when I actually got to see my small gesture become something far bigger than I could have imagined. You might think that the humbling part was that this happened when someone else was writing for my blog. But while I saw some humor in this, I never felt envious or frustrated over it. I just felt amazed that I had been a part of something beyond what I could have ever done on my own.
- 15 minutes (of fame) lasts about 15 minutes. The day Tim Challies posted a link to Abby’s essay, Abby and I got very little done as we watched the stats skyrocket for our sites. We would text updates every few minutes. We began to notice that links from other sites were showing up in the stats. It was a heady day. Still now, a month later, I am still collecting the “left overs”. Every day, a few people stop by to read Abby’s essay. This amazes me, because Challies puts out an A la Carte list every single day, and still we are getting hits for the one posted on February 18. But when the dust had all settled, the results were less than impressive. Of the 3000+ people who read the post, 100’s went on to look at Abby’s blog. 10’s read anything else on my site besides that one post. Less than ten became followers of my site, and one new person left a comment. For half a minute that week, I considered what I might need to do to perpetuate the hits on my site. But then I realized that none of it had been due to anything I had done, so what could I possibly do to influence it? I determined that I would just continue to crank out the same stuff at the same pace and that I would be content with the smallness of my blogging world. This experience, along with a discussion I had with a friend who is about to publish her first book, helped me to have a more realistic picture of what it would take to actually make any money from my writing. I think it put to rest (for the moment) any thoughts that I could make any meaningful income through a book, short some kind of miracle. This doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to work towards writing a book. It just means that I won’t often dream of supporting myself in that way anymore. This was not a painful lesson, it was helpful -but humbling once again. I know that God will use me to reach the people he wants to reach, and that needs to be enough for me. I have read the wisdom of the day on how to grow a platform, how to sell books, etc., and have decided that this approach is not for me. I realize that this decision may actually mean that I never get to publish. However, I needed to be reminded that my life is not measured by the number of people I reach with my message. It is measured by my place in the kingdom of heaven. Beyond that, what is important is my obedience, not the honor of man.
- Sometimes you have to let other people do things for you that you do not deserve. I got exactly one post written after Abby’s before my plans went awry. I managed to spill water on the keyboard of my laptop and because I didn’t catch it right away, the laptop was ruined. What a frustrating experience! I knew better than to have water around my computer. On top of that, I had already had a pretty frustrating year in terms of finances, so I knew I didn’t really need to be spending money on another computer. The voices of accusation in my head were shouting pretty loudly at me by this time. “Why can’t you be more responsible with your finances so you don’t get into a fix like this?” “Why did you spend money on this and that?” “Why didn’t you shut your computer off immediately and put it in tons of rice you should have had on hand for just such an occasion?” “Why haven’t you been good about backing up your documents so that they don’t get lost when you do something stupid like spill water on your computer?” And on the voices went. I immediately had offers from two friends to borrow old computers they couldn’t remember why they had stopped using. These I accepted gratefully, as they gave me the opportunity to put off for a while the daunting task of finding a computer of any worth that would be in my price range (which was the total of the change I have collected in the bowl where we put our car keys). It was at this point that my youngest son said, “Let me buy you a new one.” And I protested that he didn’t need to be spending his hard earned money on me. I think one of the hardest things about my life as a caregiver is how very often I am put in a position of needing my kids to help me. I just don’t think that I am old enough to be that needy. I always thought there would be more space between the time I stopped taking care of them, and the time when I started depending on them. For sure and for certain I don’t want them bailing me out of fixes that I have created for myself. And yet, here I was again on the needy end with my son saying, “Let your children do this for you.” And so I swallowed hard to push down that awful tasting pride and I let them. And what they did was put their loaves together with the fishes of other people who love me for whatever reason, and they bought me a computer. What a beautiful picture of grace has been presented to me in this experience. Not only did I not do anything to earn it, I did things that make me very undeserving. Even so, I sit at this moment writing on this:
Isn’t it pretty? And I am reminded through this gesture of some amazing things. People love me in spite of my flaws. My children love me in spite of my many failures as their mom. My Father in Heaven loves me and provides for my needs in ways I could not imagine. None of this is deserved. As Pastor Jarrett reminded us on Sunday last: If I had everything in this world I would still have nothing to offer this kind and merciful God who has redeemed me, and placed his love upon me. Humbling? I am face down in the dirt.