The Funny Thing about Humility

The funny thing about humility and arrogance is that they can masquerade as each other.

When I made my first serious venture into writing, I entered my unpublished novel in a writing contest but didn’t even make the finals.

I arrived at the writing conference where the winner would be announced worried that the trip would be ruined if I gave into envy for those who did final. I asked God to show me the way through jealousy.

Shortly after I arrived, I met another conferee and we hit it off immediately. On the shuttle to the hotel, someone identified her as a finalist. I felt a pang but turned it over to Jesus. She and I ran into each other at every turn and became fast friends. God whispered the truth to me, that she would win the prize I had sought.

When her name was announced, I was beside her. After she claimed her publishing deal and her large check, she returned to her seat. I whispered, “Your life just changed. Don’t you want to call your parents and let them know?” Sitting alone again, I felt genuinely happy for her. I’d grown to care about her and God showed me that love is one pathway through envy.

As other winners were announced though, I felt passed over, over-looked, set aside. My thoughts sounded like humility to me, “I guess I’m not good enough, that’s all. Prizes aren’t in my future. I should stop aiming so high and just focus on God.”

As I indulged in self-pity, I asked God for comfort. At that moment, my new friend returned to her seat and whispered, “My parents were so excited! And I told them that God was so kind to me, He even arranged for me to meet a nice older lady to celebrate the moment with me!”

I remember turning to God (in my mind) and asking, “Seriously? That’s my comfort! Not only am I a loser, but I’m also OLD?”

But, He revealed the truth to me. I didn’t need comfort, I needed humility. I wasn’t being overlooked, I was being schooled. The loss didn’t make me a loser, my attitude did. Far from being humble and unseen, my arrogance and sense of entitlement threw a glaring spotlight on me that could be seen from the throne of Heaven.

God showed me by that loss that I had a lot to learn and I didn’t like that. I wanted an easy victory. I felt entitled to it because He was my Father. But, here I was in a room full of His children all with the same desire.

Right there, I humbled myself before Him and asked Him to make me a good student – of writing and of Jesus. He gave me the gift of writing and I knew better (because of His Word) than to bury it in the ground.

Fast forward a few years and a few hundred rejections that continued to whittle away at arrogance, as I learned. My lessons weren’t only in writing, though, but also in humility and warfare.

One strategy God gave me against discouragement was to visit a local Christian bookstore and stand dead center. As I looked around at the stacks and stacks of books, I would say to myself, “If all these people made it to this place, there’s no reason you can’t, too. They had doubts. They had lessons to learn. They worship the same mighty God. He saw them, and He sees you. If they made it, why can’t you?”

You see, along this writing journey, I learned it’s not at all about me. This work, this ministry, is and always was about Jesus.

There’s nothing special about me that didn’t come from Him. There’s nothing I write or know that doesn’t find its origin in who He is. What looks now like self-confidence is not that at all. It’s God-confidence. It’s the security of having Him fully in my sight and knowing He sees me. In the corridor of His gaze, I know all things are possible, not just for me, but for any of us who follow Jesus.

The gospel writer, Luke, tells a short story about a woman who had grown accustomed to being overlooked. She’d had a discharge of blood for twelve years, which in Israel would have been a very public, private problem that rendered her continually unclean. No one had been able to heal her.

As the crowd pressed in around Jesus, this woman came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment. She was healed instantly. But, Jesus is never satisfied with partial healing – He wants us completely healed.

He stopped walking and turned to the crowd – “Who was it that touched me?”

Luke says that everyone denied it.

Peter tried to return Him to His task saying, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”

I love how Luke describes what happened then. “And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.”

And when the woman saw that she was not hidden – what a powerful phrase.

You see, pretending God doesn’t see us is a way of indulging in self-pity. It’s a kind of arrogance we embrace to excuse our inaction.

When she accepted that she actually was seen – known by the God of the Universe, she testified to what His power had done in her. This, I believe, is the act of faith that Jesus says healed her completely – the faith that her testimony mattered even though everyone in the crowd might have silenced her. Jesus called her out and she spoke the truth at His call.

For that moment, she had to let go of herself and think only of Him. And that is the foundation of humility, loved ones.

And humility leads to God-confidence that frees us to live and speak the truth even when the crowd presses in.

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8 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Sandra Allen Lovelace says:

    Thanks for this penetrating account. And I’ll add that your writing has gone on to earn several awards. 😀

  2. Dee says:

    Lori, this is my constant struggle! At times, I do well watching others achieve what I hoped for; but other times…yikes! Thanks for sharing your perspectives—I need to have this reinforced. Evidently, over and over!

    Bottom line, I want to live the truth of this phrase I read recently: In our love of Jesus and his Father, we truly have abandoned our life to him. Our life is not an object of deep concern.

    That includes my writing life.

    Thanks again!

  3. Michelle says:

    I love this, Lori. And I especially love your observations about the woman who was healed while touching Jesus’ garment – one of my favorire Gospel stories. I’m gonna save that one. Your comments made me think that in that situation, I would RATHER be hidden … in a crowd. I get nervous in front of groups of people. I sometimes tremble like this woman did. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I want to be free from this and would appreciate any thoughts you might have on this.

    Also, as far as humility goes when I look at others who are succeeding in their gifts, I try to remind myself that it isn’t a competition, but that we are all on the same TEAM. And we’re all doing our best to magnify Him before the world. Together, on a team, with our many, many unique giftings. Sometimes in our culture, there’s too much emphasis on a particular person’s gift, whether it’s this Christian singer’s voice or that writer’s eloquence or that athlete’s abilities. Too much focus on who’s “making it to the top”. Even on Facebook, one feels euphoria when their post gets a ton of Likes. I get tempted with that too – but I try to divert myself from that temptation by asking the Lord to direct my posts to the ones who need it most, who would really be encouraged or challenged in their growth by it … even if it’s only 5 people. I love that about Jesuus too – He wasn’t into big numbers as much as He was (is) the individual. (And yet, He wants the masses because He sees the masses as large numbers of INDIVIDUALS. The more individuals He can be reconciled with and bring into eternity with Him, the better).

    Well – thanks again for your blog today. I really enjoyed it.

    Michelle P.

  4. Maxine D says:

    Thank you

  5. Cher Gatto says:

    Thanks, Lori! Beautiful reminder this morning of how we can get swept away into our own self-pity and discouragement and what happens when we lift our eyes to Him :).

  6. Karen Anderson says:

    Thank you, wonderful woman, for sharing your heart. It really touched me deeply. God has been telling me that the reason I keep stopping myself, as an artist, is because I care more about what others think than what He thinks of my work. As you said, “…pretending God doesn’t see us is a way of indulging in self-pity. It’s a kind of arrogance we embrace to excuse our inaction.” …See? The Master must be pleased with you or you wouldn’t be reaching so many, including me. So, please, keep serving our King by painting pictures with the wonderful words He gives you. Someday, you’ll receive prize of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” and I’ll be there, in the crowd, cheering you on and praising Jesus!

  7. Kim Wilbanks says:

    This is something I need to work on myself.

  8. d says:

    Thank you ~ very thought provoking.