It’s so Hard to be Humble

stainedglass_nativity_xsmThis past year, I have started a new job, moved to a new town, enrolled my children in a new daycare, and bought a new house. That’s lots of “new”, which has brought with it many opportunities to be completely unsure of what I’m doing. Not knowing people’s names, office procedures, or even where to find the clipboard to sign my child into school has required me to do something I usually hate: admit I don’t know the answer, and ask a question. This season has required depths of humility I haven’t had to call on in a long time, and I still struggle. I would like to report that I am a humble person, but I still don’t like not knowing the procedure. I really don’t like not knowing the answers. And I pretty much hate having to ask people’s names again and again.

During Christmas, examples of humility abound: Jesus, the King of Kings, coming to earth as a helpless baby. Mary, an unwed teenager, graciously welcoming the confusing and unlikely future the angel professed. Joseph, celebrating Mary as his wife, knowing the child she carried was not his blood. And we hear of God elevating the humble: the shepherds, ever the outsiders, being invited first to know of Jesus’s birth. The wise men, foreigners from afar, offering gifts to Christ. I often hear of these stories, and even tell them, but this season they have burrowed deeper into my heart in a different way.

After a work meeting where I felt I was in over my head, a co-worker sat down next to me and said, “I really wish I’d understood everything that people were talking about in there.” And just like that, she expressed humility and extended grace to cover my own. Her acknowledgement that she also was out of her element told me that it was okay if I was in the same position. That statement freed me to admit my own confusion and engage with her in a helpful and meaningful discussion.

This is the story God tells us at Christmas, I believe. Mary knew what it was like to have unanswered questions. Joseph knew the shame of people’s whispers and comments. The shepherds knew the nerve it took to show up at a birth with sheep and naïve hope, with no other explanation for their presence besides, “the angels sent us here.” And of course, Christ shows us his own humility, reminding us that He, too, knows what it is like to be in need, knows what it is like to ask questions. And while He was and is the Messiah, the Christmas story reminds us that He also knows what it was to be born in a cold stable, to be rocked in a blanket that was probably borrowed from a donkey, and to be welcomed by sheep and their unkempt keepers. He knows what it is to not be understood, to be alone, to ask questions but receive no answers.

The challenge this brings to me is to be truly humble in spirit, not just humble in actions. I have to be humble to ask questions because I don’t know the answers, but my spirit is a different story: I can be resentful, I can be annoyed, or I can graciously accept what I do not know. This affects my work, as I willingly admit what I do not know how to do and accept guidance. This affects my parenting, as I acknowledge the depth of my children’s understanding of life and let them teach. This affects my marriage, as I truly serve instead of tallying up who has done the most. And this affects my relationship with Christ, as I recognize the humility it must have taken to decide to be humble, not to be forced into a situation but to willingly embrace coming to this earth as a naked, needy baby and to trust God as the ultimate lifter-up of humanity.

“Blessed are the humble in spirit”, Matthew says, “for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. This Christmas, may God’s grace abound in your humility, and may you extend that grace and humility to others. That may mean admitting you don’t know where the wrapping paper is, or accepting circumstances you did not anticipate. It may mean washing dishes when it is not “your turn”, or it may mean extending grace or a meal to a hungry person. Hopefully, it will allow Christ’s story to burrow deep in your heart and take root, extending humility and grace to those whom you encounter—from the mall to the manger.

Praise to the Christ who shows us how to be humble, and blessed are you when you follow in His steps, that we may bring the Kingdom of Heaven here to earth.

Photo Credit: Donyale Leslie

Photo Credit: Donyale Leslie

Kimberly McClung DeVries was raised in a minister’s family, first overseas as missionaries and then in Georgia. She attended the University of Georgia to receive a degree in telecommunications, worked briefly in that field, and then went to law school instead, also in Athens. She has worked as a public defender and for a legal aid agency, and now resides in Mississippi with her husband and two boys. Kimberly is trying to grow by pushing herself out of her comfort zone. To that end, she has a toddler and a baby, both boys, works full time as a lawyer, and is also helping her husband survive his PhD.

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