“Before I was humbled I went astray,
but now I keep your word.”
— Psalm 119:67 (NRSV)
Nobody wants to be humbled because of the cost of psychological discomfort and the humiliation of pride. But God has his purposes in our humiliation; for none are free of sinful pride.
It is Wisdom, of course, that inspires a person to not run foul of humility’s path. The role of the father and grandfather of Proverbs chapters 1–9 is to instruct the son. The son, it is said, follows the path of humility with diligence and prudence, but all too many sons do not follow that path; they run astray. It is a familiar path.
They who run astray—the majority of us—venture upon a view that life is worth a chance. We try our luck as we throw what God has given us into the ring of life; not cherishing it. We run alone. And we never realise the fall that we have set for ourselves.
God has a purpose in our humiliation. This is not the humiliation that comes to us at the hand of another. This God-purposed humiliation is self-ordained. God’s rebuke comes directly at our hand; our choice has been made; it’s our fault and ours alone.
It’s almost as if many of us need a Prodigal Son story before we can truly understand the way life works and God in the midst of that life. Up until then, no matter how much work we do for the Kingdom the fullness of blessing isn’t, and can’t be, realised.
Until we put God first God cannot put us first for the extension of his Kingdom.
Until we are broken, having had our flesh comprehensively beaten by the ever-prevailing Spirit of God, we are as good as useless for the Kingdom, as we fabricate a front-of-stage presence from a phoney back-of-stage.
There are some who have given their entire lives to Christian ministry who have not yet been broken. They still partake of milk when they could have meat. They pretend they have the meat, but they lead exposed for the discerning to see. Meat they cannot digest. They have not the character forged in humility from an essential and precursory humiliation. They never learned to truly rely on God.
I gather many will struggle with this theology. But I wonder if Jesus would. He wrangled with the religious rulers of the day—the hypocrites.
What comes of humiliation, what produces humility, is the servant of God turning the right way having been humbled. And having turned the right way they are blessed to know God more intimately than most will ever know him. The humbled know that the centre of the gospel is the message of repentance—that humility is borne on truth; God is holy and we are entirely not. These truths are not just motherhood statements. They are real in the Jesus-follower’s life.
God uses humiliation very well. Having fallen, together with the humility to repent, the humiliated person becomes a paragon of God; ever intimate with the Lord’s ways. Humility is a chalice, a divine trophy, but it comes not without humiliation.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.