Monday, December 10, 2012

Humility 101

"In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, 'There is no God.'" - Psalm 10:4

I read this scripture this morning while working through the first chapter of Jones and Fontenot's The Prideful Soul's Guide To Humility.  I've read through the Psalms probably half a dozen times so this scripture wasn't exactly a new one to me, but when I read it in the context of the book, having a better understanding of where I struggle with pride, my heart was convicted.  My pride blocks me from God.  My pride prevents me from seeking him and drawing near to him.  My struggle with pride lies primarily in my self-sufficiency and insecurity.  While I may be able to do just about anything and balance any kind of schedule and having the attitude of believing I don't need anyone'e help... I also really struggle with believing anything I do is ever good enough.  I'm in a constant battle with old expectations of perfection.  It's a long story, but suffice it to say my pride is clear when I, or others, take a look at my habits of stubbornness, independence and the way I tend to disappear when I've failed, disappointed or hurt others.

Having made this discovery, I face the challenge of putting my pride to death and embracing humility in my present circumstances.  How do I shelve the old ways of thinking?  How do I renew my mind as I'm called to do in Romans 12:1-2?

I have a friendship that's been a constant encouragement since it began a few short months ago, but recently I've learned that my heart simply isn't ready for the path the friendship is on.  I have to communicate this to my friend, and in my pride I want to say, "I need space and time and I need you to be okay with that."  I want this friend to be okay because I can't stand the idea of hurting someone I care very deeply about.  Humility calls me to be vulnerable and explain, to a certain degree, what I need and rather than trying to make him be "okay" with my needs, be humble enough to accept his feelings as they are.  Though what I need isn't wrong, it's not going to make sense to my friend, and it is going to be hurtful.  Humility doesn't make excuses, and humility recognizes the consequences and affects it'll have on others, even when the decision is a good one for me.  Humility allows others to have their needs, to feel what they need to feel without condemning them for it or telling them they need to reach the point of surrender and acceptance you've already achieved.  It means putting others before myself, even when its uncomfortable and painful and not trying to fix or change someone just so I can be more comfortable.

I don't pretend to have all the answers.  I'm at the beginning stages of learning about humility and how to apply it.  Without a clear understanding of the "why" behind the "do," I have no conviction.  Conviction enables me to do the right thing when I know it's going to be painful for myself and others.  Such is the walk of a disciple of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An Impossible Task

For the first time in my life I’ve faced a situation where I don’t know what to do.  I’ve always believed I would be a great person to have in a time of tragedy.  Despite my good intentions and idealistic notions, I’m facing a situation where someone I love deeply needs love and encouragement and I don’t know what to do.

In order to leave this woman anonymous I’ll call her Momma B.  Momma B was the first woman I ever allowed myself to love like I’ve always wanted to love, and be loved by, a mom.  She was the woman who inspired me to go after my dream of being a writer, cried as she held my hand and said, “Do it, Sam.”  She’s held me as I wept through pain that has no remedy, laughed with me to the point of tears, shared her life with me, and listened and loved as I shared my heart with her.  I’ve never allowed myself to offer my heart to any woman like a daughter should with her mom until I met Momma B.  She gave me my first safe place after years of never feeling safe.  Finally, after years of praying to have a mom who would love me with all of my weaknesses, and be that woman I could share my heart with and not just my to-do list, I had her in Momma B.

She was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer this previous September.  Less than a year after I began to experience this wonderful relationship with her.  The cancer has metastasized and she now carries spots on her spine, pelvis, ribs, and lungs.  She has chemotherapy treatments every week, three weeks on, one week off, for six months.  The first woman I ever let myself love the way a daughter loves her mother, and I’m starting to lose her less than a year after I really began to get to know her.  I wept when she told me the news.  I swore to myself I’d be there for her through everything, I’d go to appointments with her, I’d hold her hand when she was crying or throwing up after the chemo, I’d clean her house, read to her from the Bible like she loves so much…. In three months I haven’t been able to visit but three times.  Two of those times were with other people who asked me to go with them.

I’m ashamed that I haven’t seen her more.  After all she’s done for me I haven’t been able to convince myself to just sit with her.  Each time I visit, she’s been steadily getting worse, and as I watch each stage progress and hear about others’ visits with her, my heart begins to scream.  The idea of losing Momma B… the first woman I’ve learned to love wholeheartedly with no fear or reservations… it cripples me.  I can’t bear to visit because the times I’ve sat in that chair beside her, I leave emotionally paralyzed and feel like screaming at the top of my lungs and uprooting the trees in the park.  I feel like wailing, “Why her?  Why now?  Of all the women in the world why her?  She has two grown boys who need her.  She has a heart our church family counts on, relies on, and loves.  Selfishly I even find myself asking, “Why must it be my heart to bear this constant pain of loss?  I can't bear losing the one woman I prayed for since I was a child.” 

I fear losing my faith.  I fear I will never recover if I have to watch her slowly die.  I fear the idea of my own fear being the reason I wasn’t with her as she went.  I fear what she thinks about my not visiting, and I fear telling her the real reason.  So much fear is wrapped up in my heart about her being sick.  I try to focus on the good in my life, I justify my not visiting with the fact that others are visiting and she’s being taken care of, and I tell myself that no amount of visiting will ever make this easier so why begin?  Then I think about her face, her smile, her heart, her hugs, and even as I write this tears come to my eyes because I miss her.  So much.  What kind of friend, what kind of daughter, am I to abandon her in her time of need because I can’t handle it?

As I write this I consider 1 Corinthians 12:8-9, which reads, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take (the thorn) away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me.”  Matthew 25:36 reads, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  When we do this for the least of these, it’s the same as doing it for Christ.

I need to be willing to be weak, even if it shatters me, because somehow, even though it doesn’t make any sense, God will be my strength through the experience.  Momma B isn’t the “least of these”… she’s the woman who’s been mother to me the past year.  Even if taking care of her while she’s sick means getting her a glass of water or holding her hand or being present while she sleeps, it’s something.  Even if it breaks my heart, God will, somehow, be my strength. 

I pray I can take this knowledge and have the courage to apply it.