I know, I know, I know

March 3, 2010

 

When I said God’s word for me this Lent is humility I wasn’t kidding or thinking in the abstract.

Saturday morning Scott and I were in the car talking while waiting at a four-way stop. I don’t remember the details of the conversation but Scott was about to tell me something I really didn’t want to hear. It was nothing big, no life or marriage altering announcement, just something I’d done that was bothering him. Instantly, instinctively protecting my pride, I cut him off…

Me: I know

Scott: You didn’t even let me finish what I was saying.

 [True, but I knew where he was going with this conversation and I wanted to let him know that I already knew.]

Me: I know, Scott. I know.

Scott: When you cut me off like that and won’t let me explain what it is you’ve done and what I’m thinking, that drives me crazy…

Me: [Cutting him off again] I know, I know, I know.

Scott: Do you realize this is what Claire does when we’re trying to explain something or correct her? She interrupts and won’t listen.

 [Cringing, I flashback to Wednesday when I was trying to explain to Claire why something she’d done to her sister was wrong and she kept interrupting saying I know Mom, I know. In her pride she didn’t want to be corrected and told what she was doing that was wrong. That lead to a conversation about how she needs to listen even when she thinks she already knows what she’s done wrong and what we’re going to say. ]

Me:[Long pause]…I do that a lot. I’m certain that’s where Claire gets it. I’m sorry. 

Scott: [Nodding and accepting my apology he graciously lightens the tone of our conversation with his humor…] Finally, one bad habit they have that can’t be blamed on me!

Nope, this one is all on me. And more than I wanted to admit at the time.

As we drove through the four-way stop God brought to my mind a time when I was 14 and my sister Meg and I were stopped at a light (coincidently only two blocks away). She was trying to tell me something my prideful heart didn’t want to hear. I did the same thing to her that I did to Scott. Like the good big sister she was, she put me in my place for it. Clearly I didn’t learn my lesson.

Later I asked God…

Have I really been doing this for all these years? Am I that prideful, that slow to learn? Did I really pass this habitual response on to Claire?

I don’t think I need to tell you God’s answers. Ouch!

It’s week two and God isn’t letting me get away with much.  I think this is going to be a long Lent.

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To be or not to be…

March 2, 2010

 

It seems God’s word for me this Lent is humility. The Mass and Magnificat readings, the books I pick up, the homilies I hear, they all seem to be saying one thing:

If you want to be more loving, more like Jesus, then

allow yourself to be humbled.

St. Therese of Lisieux put it this way: You want to climb a mountain whereas God wants you to descend: actually He is waiting for you below in the valley of humility…The one way to make rapid progress in the life of love is to remain always little.

To remain little…It’s so contrary to the message of the world and even the message of some people who believe they’re following Christ.  

Remaining little is not easy. Ego, pride, self-love, they dictate that we deserve so much more in this life and keep us from truly loving others. Perhaps that’s why we need “to be humbled” as much as we need “to humble ourselves.” 

Convicted of our pride, on some level, many of us impose upon ourselves a certain standard or rule of humility in order to humble ourselves before God and even man. Not surprisingly the insidious nature of our ego encourages us to take pride in doing so. That’s why there is something different about choosing humility in the face of humiliating circumstances and interactions with others. 

In his book Holy Abandonment, Fr. Lehodey offers this quote by St. Francis De Sales:

 There are two ways of humiliation…most people consent to humble themselves but not to be humbled by others. This is a serious mistake..

Lehodey goes on to suggest that if you want to know if your humility is genuine or whether you’re growing in humility all you must do is look at the way you accept being humiliated. Ouch!

So here is a little questionnaire for us today:  How do you react…

…when someone is inconsiderate of your plans, desires, needs, feelings?

…when someone contradicts your opinion publicly or even privately?

…when someone points out a mistake you made or proves you wrong?

…when someone points out your sin or a character flaw in you?

…when life doesn’t go as you planned and God doesn’t answer your prayers in the way you wanted?

… when your spouse, children, friends, co-workers disregard your advice?

… when you’re criticized unjustly?

…when God asks you to do something but you feel self-conscious, embarrassed or don’t want to be seen by others?

…when someone is simply rude to you?

The list of questions could go on and if you so desire you might make your own list as you reflect on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about humility. Of course He can speak volumes to our hearts on this subject but in the end it’s up to us as to whether we are willing to be or not to be humbled.

 

Jesus’ Self-Portrait

May 23, 2008

 

***

 

If you hang around this blog long enough you’ll figure out that I’m a Henri Nouwen fan. His writings seem to speak to my heart. This simple meditation from the Henri Nouwen Organization was just the message I needed this morning. Hope it speaks to you too.

 

 ***

Jesus’ Self-Portrait

 

 

 

Jesus says:  “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness”   (Matthew 5:3-10). 

 

 

 

These words offer us a self-portrait of Jesus. Jesus is the Blessed One.  And the face of the Blessed One shows poverty, gentleness, grief, hunger, and thirst for uprightness, mercy, purity of heart, a desire to make peace, and the signs of persecution.

 

 

The whole message of the Gospel is this:  Become like Jesus 

 

We have his self-portrait.  When we keep that in front of our eyes, we will soon learn what it means to follow Jesus and become like him.

 

-Henri Nouwen

 


Humble thyself…

November 21, 2007

*** 

 I discovered the Litany of Humility (below) a few years ago in a prayer book. 

I keep a copy of it close by.  It’s one those prayers that God uses to deal with my hideous pride.

I’ve exchanged a few of the words from the original with synonyms more common to our contemporary speech.

My husband and I are convinced that humility is the key to loving one another as Christ loved the church.

Walking in the same humility as Christ is what makes our marriage work. Actually, it’s what makes any relationship work.

If only we’d humble ourselves…O how the love of Jesus would transform our relationships and our environments.

Humility is where it’s at!

 

***

 

Litany of Humility 

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear my prayer: 

From the desire of being esteemed

From the desire of being loved,

From the desire of being extolled,

From the desire of being honored,

From the desire of being praised,

From the desire of being preferred,

From the desire of being consulted,

From the desire of being approved,

Deliver me, Jesus 

From the fear of being humiliated

From the fear of being despised,

From the fear of suffering rebukes,

From the fear of being slandered,

From the fear of being forgotten,

From the fear of being ridiculed,

From the fear of being wronged,

From the fear of being suspected,

Deliver me, Jesus 

That others may be loved more than I,

That others may be esteemed more than I,

That in the opinion of the world, others may increase, and I may decrease,

That others may be chosen and I set aside

That others may be preferred to me in everything,

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,

Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.

***

How is Jesus calling you to humble yourself today?

Be still for a moment and ask Him, listen to Him and then obey Him.


Where I’ve been…dying to self

September 25, 2007

I haven’t been writing much lately. I’m trying to be true to my ideals. As much as I want to spend time writing it falls further down on my list of priorities. The challenge I face is that writing and other activities I enjoy are higher up on the list of things I want to do but not necessarily among the things that I need to do during this season of my life. Therein lies one of my daily struggles; to die to myself and some of my desires in order to humbly and unselfishly serve my family and fulfill my vocation as a wife and mother.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I am so grateful to be home with my girls and to be homeschooling Claire. But the other side of that coin is the sacrifice that comes with being home all day with an almost four year and almost six year old. It is not the most intellectually stimulating time in my life. Just to be clear, I am not “unhappy” or “unfulfilled;”  I’m just human and sometimes I like to do what interests me most instead of doing what I’m called to do. Consequently, remaining true to my ideals can be a challenge. It means dying to self when self is in opposition to what I’ve been called to do and the internal direction of the Holy Spirit. For me that means sometimes doing the “mundane” when I want to do what is exciting and interesting. It means sitting on the floor playing with  Barbie dolls with Ella or using poker chips to play a counting game wth Claire when I’d rather sit at my computer and write or practice playing the guitar. It also means a host of other things in my life.

Almost two years ago a friend sent me a meditation on “dying to self.” It seems like God continually brings me back to this meditation. I know he’s trying to remind me that growing in grace and maturing in him is not about “self-fulfillment” or about what I want but about being like Jesus and dying to my flesh. This is the way of the cross. It is the way of humility and it stands in stark contrast to way of the world that tells you to do what you want when you want because it pleases you most. Everytime I read this meditation  I am humbled because I see how far I have to go in my faith journey.

There is not a single area of my life that I do not struggle in some way with selfishness and pride and this meditation reminds me of that. Like my need to bite my tongue and withhold my opinions — the world can live with one less opinon from me. Or, not complaining about having to wait too long for someone to do something they’ve promised to do. Or, reaching out to someone on whom I have no real desire to spend my time. Or seeking to be “unseen” in ministry opportunities instead of seeking the visible roles that receive more glory and attention.

O how very weak I am. I thank God for his mercy and abundant grace. That is why I run to the table to meet with my Jesus every chance I get. What a gift his presence is. In his presence I am changed and I desparately need him to transform me into his image. My “self,” my flesh only produces death. I need the life that his word says is available in his body and blood. I desire to remain in him, not in the flesh. And so I find myself at his table as often as possible: “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me” (John 6:55-56).  When I remain in him and I am filled with his life I am able to stay true to my ideals and to be who He has called me to be. And I am able to die to self.

I’ve shared this “Dying to Self” meditation with a number of people over the last couple of years. I do not know who wrote it. Over time I’ve added things to it as they’ve applied to my own struggles with “self.” I thought I’d share the meditation on this blog as well. But before you read it consider yourself forewarned: Your flesh will not like it…

*** 

DYING TO SELF… 

When you are forgotten, neglected, or purposely provoked and you don’t sting and dwell on the hurt, the insult or the oversight, but your heart is at peace, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ

THAT IS DYING TO SELF.

When your good is spoken of as evil, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, when you reach out and the door is closed in your face and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patience and with love

THAT IS DYING TO SELF. 

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, any interruption or any annoyance; when you stand face-to-face with folly, wastefulness, spiritual insensibility and endure it as Jesus endured

THAT IS DYING TO SELF. 

When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any people, any clothing, any shelter

THAT IS DYING TO SELF. 

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good words and when you can truly love to be unknown

THAT IS DYING TO SELF. 

When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and you honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances

 – THAT IS DYING TO SELF. 

When you can receive correction, reproof, encouragement, advice or exhortation from “one of less stature than yourself “and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart

 – THAT IS DYING TO SELF. 

Dear Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bring me to a place of humility before the cross so that I willingly die to myself in order that I may live in, with and through you alone . Amen.


“Both/And” instead of “Either/Or”

June 22, 2007

Some time ago someone asked me why I wear a crucifix around my neck instead of an empty cross. “After all ,”she said “Jesus is risen”– as if to imply that somehow my wearing a crucifix was sign that I thought Jesus was still on the cross and a denial of His resurrection. Before I go any further let me say I know this woman’s heart and I don’t think she meant the statement to come across as it did. Her question didn’t surprise me (she was raised in a different faith tradition that doesn’t use the image of the crucifix as part of their worship and church environment). However, it did make me stop and think about a few things. Mostly it made me think about Jesus.

The first crucifix necklace I owned I bought with my big sister in the early 80’s (the era of big hair, big shoulder pads and big jewelery). I wasn’t Catholic then. I was just a girl who loved Jesus and wanted to wear a cool silver crucifix as a sign of my faith. I didn’t know the crucifix was seen by many (not all) as a “catholic” image. I’m not sure that it would have made a difference to me had I known. I wore that crucifix for a number of years but lost track of it during my college years.  Fast forward to 2002. My parents gave me my second crucifix when I became Catholic. These days I’m not really into wearing much jewelery. In fact, I wear very little at all. But I do like to wear my crucifix; not because I’m trying to make a statement about where I worship but because of what the image of Jesus on the cross speaks to my heart.

I have come to love kneeling before the crucifix at church. I find that it’s nearly impossible to spend anytime at all on your knees before a life-sized image of Jesus on the cross and not be humbled. Think about it… It’s hard to really contemplate the image of Christ on the cross and hold unforgiveness or anger in your heart. After all, it was my sin that put Jesus on the cross. In light of this truth, what right do I have to hold an offense against my brother or sister? I also find it difficult to kneel before the crucifix and entertain judgmental thoughts against others. And, I can’t possibly look at an image of Jesus on the cross, the wounds on his feet and hands and his side, and complain about my circumstances. My suffering (if you can call it that) is nothing in comparison to what Jesus went through for me. I most certainly haven’t suffered to the point of shedding blood. The crucifix reminds me that He surrendered all of his rights so that I could be forgiven and reconciled to my Father in heaven. So, how can I cling to my rights as if God or anyone else owes my anything.  As I behold the image of Jesus on the cross I see a true example of what it means to “die to self” and quite frankly I need to be reminded of this daily. 

Obviously I can’t spend all day kneeling at the foot of the crosss (who would do the dishes at home?). So, I wear a crucifix.  When I wear my crucifix and I see its reflection in the mirror, touch it with my hand or when my three year-old looks at it and says “hey mom, there’s Jesus,” I am reminded of all the things mentioned above. I am reminded of the one who humbly suffered and died because He loved me and it compells me to live by grace  so that I may love others like Jesus loves me.

I don’t recall everything I said to my friend who asked me about my crucifix. I know I didn’t say everything I just put in writing. But I do think I said something about how “the resurrection of Jesus is meaningless without the crucifixion and vice versa. Had he not suffered and died there would be no resurrection to celebrate.”  But even that statement is incomplete. The crucifixion and resurrection are not an “either/or” kind of thing like my friend’s question suggested. Christ’s suffering and death are an example of how we are to live: picking up our cross and humbly dying to self (to our flesh). But we cannot follow this example without the resurrected life of Christ within us which He’s given in the gift of the Holy Spirit. We must be mindful of what He’s given us through both His death and His resurrection. It’s a “both/and” kind of thing. And there’s definitely a balance to be had.

I’ve met Christians who focus only on the hope we have because of the resurrection. It seems these brothers and sisters want to deny their suffering, trials, God’s discipline or the need to die to their flesh. They’re convinced that the power of the resurrection is their guarantee to avoid suffering or inconvenience here on earth. Then again, I’ve met Christians who focus so much on their suffering for Jesus and carrying their cross here on earth that they’ve lost the joy of their salvation and they fail to live by and reflect the hope and promise of the resurrection. The Bible tells us the Christian life involves both. In Philippians 3:10-11 St. Paul puts it this way: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” I love this passage of Scripture. It demonstrates a paradox of our faith; “the power” and “the sufferings.” It reflects the “both/and.”

I’m glad my friend asked me about my crucifix. Little did she know where her question would lead me in my thought process. It’s definitely made me more conscious of the crucifix I wear and everything it represents. Which makes me think more about my Jesus. And the more I think about my Jesus, the more “I want to know [Him] and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  And that’s what matters most, isn’t it?

*Note: I first read about the concept of  “both/and” vs. “either/or” in the writings of Stephen K. Ray. It’s applicable to many aspects of our Christian faith.