A Lesson in Humility

Tree in snow.A few days ago, during a respite from one of the many polar vortexes that have blown through Louisville, I took my dog for a walk. My neighbor called me over.

“Hey there! I saw you fall the other day.”

“Oh, yeah. I slipped on the ice.” I laughed nervously and stared at my dog.

“Yeah, you fell. Then you laid there a while. You looked like you were hurt, and I thought you might have moaned a little. I was about to come over and check on you, but you stirred a bit, fell back down, pulled yourself up, and then limped slowly inside your house. I thought it was best not to disturb you, since you were probably icing your wound.”

Thanks, neighbor. He keeps an eye out for those around him and not a lot makes it past him, but I could’ve done without the painstaking retelling of one of my most recent examples of clumsiness. The only thing that makes this story even more embarrassing is that I was running back inside the house to change my shoes when I fell. I had realized I was about to take my sick dog to the vet in my house shoes instead of my snow boots.

We’ve all been there—tripping on the street and moving quickly along like we just decided to change our pace, as if anyone besides children would suddenly decide to start skipping instead of walking. Or maybe we spill a drink on our shirt and then decide to wear our coat to cover it for the rest of the evening. “Oh no, I’m not uncomfortable. I love sweating.”

But here’s the thing: life is too short to pretend we are perfect. As a recovering perfectionist, I should know. This means that where I would normally get very anxious about completing a project or meeting a new group of people, I now just try to do the best I can. If I fail or people don’t like me, so what? Neither of those so-called potential failures should be the measure of success to Christians, who are commanded to love their God and their neighbors as themselves. That’s easier said than done, and I can still get very anxious about the smallest things. But having a mantra of “so what?” has been helpful during those moments when I screw up or my neighbor slowly regales me with tales of my face plant or I just can’t seem to get it together.

Paul advises a church in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Paul’s point is that we are all part of the body of Christ, and each one of us has gifts and a role to play. We don’t have to be perfect or have it all together. We are meant to work in community to help one another and embody the love of Christ. We can fall down, mess up, be awkward and fail. Each one of us is beautiful despite (and even because of) our shortcomings.

You are a member of the body of Christ. You are gifted and special. Let’s work together to share this message with all God’s children.

Laura at ordinationLaura Barclay is an ordained minister and author. She holds an M.Div. from Wake Forest University School of Divinity and a B.A. from the University of Louisville. She spent five years working with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina as their Social Ministries Coordinator. Barclay is currently at the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship working on communications and networking. She is active at Highland Baptist Church, where she assists with adult education and children’s ministry. Her first book will soon be released soon by Smyth & Helwys entitled “With Us in the Wilderness”, and she blogs at The Winding Labyrinth. She is married to a fellow minister, Ryan Eller, a community organizer. She can frequently be found decked out in red and cheering for the Louisville Cardinals.

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