I grew up in rural south Mississippi in the 70’s and 80’s. Recognition and self worth came from prowess in football, baseball, basketball…any sport. Sixty percent of the males in my class tried out for football. Five percent or less signed up for advanced math or qualified for the honor society or sang in the choir or auditioned for school plays. I ached to achieve in sports. Unfortunately, my physical gifts remained limited to above the neck. My football coach accurately captured my potential this way:
“Son, you are blessed to be a dual threat athlete…short AND slow.”
Obviously, seeking my identity from sports accolades wasn’t an option. Academics and intelligence became my currency for self worth.
I sought attention by identifying as an intellectual. Not a popular option in my small town. Self worth tied to what I knew and how I achieved. I felt superior from being smarter, making better grades, reading voraciously. My pride in my intelligence manifested as self made not God made. I took on the characteristics of a Pharisee, identifying obscure and unimportant positions I could lord over others.
Like the Pharisees, I intellectually understood who God was and what “belonging to God” meant. I professed to follow Him. Openly claimed I had ceded my life and will to Him. I knew Him. Like I knew the authors of the books I read…William Faulkner, Stephen King, John Grisham, Tom Clancy. I knew them. Only…like God…they didn’t know me.
Step 7 says “We humbly ask Him to remove all our shortcomings.”
To be ready for this step, I first had to learn what that word meant…humbly. Humility is defined as being unpretentious in comparison to someone else. Not a word that had been used to define me throughout most of my life. After my own rock bottom, pride was one of the character defects that God immediately removed from my life. I believed that my own importance was below everyone else. Exactly the opposite of where I had been before. I went from thinking my own importance was above everyone to believing I was the lowest on earth.
James 4:10 reminds me to “humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.” God made me who I am. When I am living out His purpose in my life, I am making the most of the gifts and talents He gave me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. I am not the lowest on earth. But I have to humble myself before Him…truly submit to Him. In doing so, I am giving Him dominion over my life, asking Him to remove my flaws, and to allow me to use the assets He created in me.
God made you. Have you submitted to Him, asking Him to remove your junk? To highlight your gifts and talents He gave you? Are you stepping into His purpose for your life?
Humility isn’t the absence of strength or pride. Its submitting to the one who gives you strength, who created you in His own image, and who has a true purpose for you.