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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Humility and How I Obtained It*

     I once attended a leadership training seminar in which a teacher opened her session with the question, "How humble are you?" I couldn't resist shouting out, "Very!"
     That's the treacherous nature of humility. It is the strange virtue that disallows one to be conscious  of  it. My husband possesses such a virtue. But just to make sure, I once looked at him and pointedly asked: "David Bogdan, are you humble?" I smirked, curiously awaiting his reply. Both "yes" and "no" would have been "wrong" answers. Without too much delay, he said, "It's all relative."
     But there's more to humility than merely not being puffed up. Jesus talked of being "poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:1), i.e. teachable, "needy" in the healthy sense of knowing you have a lot to learn. I thought about this recently while listening in on a discussion about what it looks like to be humble. A man said he cannot receive from teachers or preachers that are a little too pious or self-confident. As he repeated for the third time that he chooses what internet preacher to listen to based on his or her humility quota, the irony of his words struck me: How humble is he? Isn't humility having the ability to hear from anyone, leaving it up to God to handle that person's pride?
    Furthermore, the apostle Peter admonished Christian slaves to honor and respect masters that were harsh and unreasonable (proud), as well as those who were kind and gentle (I Peter 2:18). If God expected that much from first century slaves, should He not expect a humble attitude from me toward a minister who's lacking in humility?
    Some say that you can't be humble and at the same time know that you are. Let me take it one step further: Those that are truly humble are aware that they have an incurable, deep-rooted pride of the most sinister sort.
    So...how humble are you?    

*Humility and How I Obtained It is a fictitious book title, a joke told by the beloved (and very humble) Bible teacher Bob Mumford.

  
     
   

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Love is Not for Fraidy Cats

John thinks the opposite of love is fear. At least that's what he told me in his first letter. I had always believed--no doubt along with most people--that love's opposite is hate. I'm sure that's also true, but consider what the apostle wrote in his epistle (are you tongue-tied yet?):

"There is no fear in love" (I John 4:18). John went on to say that "he who fears has not been perfected in love." That got me to thinking.

Fears what? What do I fear more than anything else? What do you fear the most? Maybe for you it's death, or the loss of a loved one, but if we were to be honest, I wonder how many would agree that we mostly fear something so silly it's embarrassing to admit: We fear the same people who fear us. We worry about what others think while they worry about what we think. We are afraid of fraidy cats--people who blush and  sweat and tremble and get blotchy red necks and butterflies in the pit of their stomach just like we do. No matter how long a string of letters trail behind their name.

What if there were such a thing as "fearless love?" What if we could find ourselves at a place of perfection, completion, in this kind of love? How would it change our lives if we loved without a trace of fear? I've been thinking about this for a while, and I've concluded that with "fearless love" for people I would...

never be intimidated

express myself without inhibition

walk in transparency

not fear being judged

freely admit to my stupid mistakes and laugh at myself

risk reaching out to those who might wound me again

request that interview

ask for that endorsement

apply for that position

start that business

preach that sermon

befriend that neighbor

forgive my husband

engage the cashier

schedule dinner guests (This is huge for me; I have an irrational mental block about hospitality and cooking. Which is indeed silly; I make a mean lasagna. Besides that, I know that people don't come primarily for the food; they come for friendship.)

dance like nobody's looking

avoid the use of clich├ęs

What would you add to this list? What would it look like if you could love without a trace of fear?

Too bad it can't happen. Too bad we have to settle for very human-like human love--love that loves with reservation. Love that loves while carefully protecting "self." Love that is afraid to let go. Love that's chained by fear--fear of rolling eyes, fear of being spent, or "dissed," or under appreciated....

If only there were someone that had this "fearless love" and could somehow work it into our DNA so that we grew in it, became perfected in it. If only we could inherit this kind of love, as a father passes certain genes onto his children. What if there were some type of, say, heavenly Dad who recognized our fearful, less-than-perfectly-loving condition and offered to do something about it.  And we took Him up on it. Of course it would involve quite the transformation. A spiritual heart transplant of some sort. A mystical transfusion of blood. A receiving of that heavenly love in ourselves first. But oh, what we could do with this new and fearless love!

"And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." I John 4:18