Saturday, April 12, 2014

Daily Thought For April 12, 2014 (Embracing Our Weakness―The Key To Humility)

Eat Some Pie

     One dreaded job interview question is: "What's your greatest weakness?" Because it's so feared it's often not answered entirely truthfully. Either the one answering will offer something bogus, such as "I work too hard," or attempt to present as a weakness something that's really a strength, like "I used to procrastinate, but now I'm more disciplined." At best, one might reveal a minor character flaw just to prove that he or she's not an egomaniac. 
     We typically hesitate to share our weaknesses, be it to a  potential boss or anyone else. Sometimes we don't wish to admit them even to ourselves. We fear being rejected, ridiculed, exploited, put down, or taken advantage of. And so we put on masks to disguise our weaknesses and hide those parts of ourselves from the light of day. 
     Because our culture prizes power and influence, weaknesses are viewed strictly as liabilities. In our hypercompetitive world, it's feared that weaknesses can prevent us from successfully swimming with the sharks; they serve no good purpose in this cutthroat, dog-eat-dog climate. The problem is that this climate can turn us into nervous wrecks! It can also warp our understanding of God. 
     The confusion arises when we assume that God would use his power in the same way the world around us uses power. For instance, we might expect God to crush his enemies, fix all the world's problems with a wave of his hand, or force people to do what he wants them to do, like bow down and worship or get their act together. But when that doesn't happen, we can become frustrated and confused, and our faith can get rattled. At other times, we may assume that because God is so powerful, God looks down upon us as unimportant. He's "up there," so to speak, and could care less about us insignificant peons "down here." 
     Yet the truth is that God doesn't look down upon us. Quite the opposite! Instead of looking down upon us, he came down to us. In Jesus, God came to be one with us and to share our humanity. Jesus came to us in weakness, not in power. Although he is almighty, he chose to become weak in order to share our weakness and then save us from the mess our weakness has made. 
     While this is good news, it can also confuse us at the same time. As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, "We can understand the majesty of God; it is very difficult to understand the humility of God." We can be comfortable believing in God's power, but the idea of a humble, suffering God can be hard to swallow. That's why it can be such a challenge to our faith. If we had a choice, we probably wouldn't want to see Jesus on a cross. We'd rather see him on a throne! But that's for the end of time. Not now. 
     We struggle to accept that God embraced weakness because our world sees no value in weakness. But God didn't reject weakness; he embraced it. God invites us to embrace our own weaknesses, so that we might understand him more and grow in faith. Doing this is called "humility." And Jesus himself shows us the way: " . . . coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8). 
     Humility can be misunderstood, and for some has acquired something of a bad rap. We might confuse it with putting one's self down, thinking badly of ourselves, or how we feel when we've been humiliated. But true humility, properly speaking, is none of those things. The word itself finds its roots in humus, the Latin word for "earth." To be humble, then, is to be "down to earth." Humility is liberating: it means that we don't have to pretend that we're someone we aren't. When we're humble, we can accept who we are and, because of that, we can accept that we have a need for God―a God who became weak―because at many times and in many ways we too are weak. 
     Embracing our weakness is a key to cultivating humility. When we try to deny our weaknesses, we delude ourselves into thinking that we're self-sufficient and have no real need for others, including God! But when we can accept that we can't stand alone, that we have needs, that we'll always be far from perfect, and that there is a hunger in our heart that we can't seem to satisfy on our own, we'll become "down to earth," and humility will flourish. Because of this, we can understand our weaknesses to be strengths, as they remind us of our need for God. That's why Saint Paul could say, "I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me" (2 Cor 12:9). 
     Part of being "down to earth" is being good soil, receptive to the seeds that God wishes to plant in us. The flip side of that coin is accepting that all we have, any good we might do, and any noble thing we achieve or accomplish is a gift from the hand of God. It's not we alone who do such things; it's God who does them in us and through us. And should we come to accept that, we'll find ourselves working and acting no longer for our glory, but for the glory of the Lord. 
     "What's your greatest weakness?" need not be a question to dread. Whatever the honest answer might be, we can rejoice that it's a key to growing in faith. That greatest weakness isn't a liability, as it can truly be our greatest strength, because through humility our humble God can bless us with both happiness and holiness. And so, as the English say, "Eat some humble pie." Or better yet, as Scripture says: "Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you" (James 4:10).

from When Faith Feels Fragile―Help for the Wary, Weak, and Wandering by R. Scott Hurd pp. 39-42