12 September 2009

the grace of humility

I was reading Jeremy Taylor, seventeenth century bishop and author, today. He had such strong words to say about humility and pride that they almost seem harsh. But perhaps still true, a bracing icebath? He wrote:
Some people spend their time dreaming of greatness... Although there is nothing directly evil in this, it is the offspring of an inner evil and has nothing whatsoever to do with the obtaining of humility.
Where is the balance between not ignoring the gifts and abilities God has given me and seeking humility? It seems like I dream of my life going two different directions. One is the direction of achievement, success, striving, networking, climbing the ladder, seeking influence and power for the sake of helping people and doing good, impressing, shining, excelling. It is a shiny future. It can make use of some of the aptitudes God has given me. But how does it coexist with Thomas a Kempis' advice about finding peace and true liberty: "...seek the lower places in life, dying to the need to be recognized and important"?
The alternative is that I purposefully do not seek achievement. Find a way to love people in a humble way, though no less vigorously. Own fewer things instead of more. Live an "ordinary" life of great joy in more elemental, less sophisticated endeavors. But am I then ignoring some of the unique gifts God has given me? Am I hiding, doing the easier thing?
How do we strive for both excellence and humility?

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death- even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5-8

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men," Colossians 3:23

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