Recently I was flying to and fro, and I was reading through a favorite old book of mine during my layovers. It is a well-worn, thoroughly underlined book, a collection of private diary entries and letters by the amazing Mother Teresa called “Come Be My Light.” I first purchased the book on a random whim on a road trip during my sophomore year of college, and when I finally got around to reading it, it quite unexpectedly changed my life, and that may very well be an understatement.
At any rate, I have taken to re-reading through it on a semi-regular basis these days, and at this layover of mine, the Lord used some of her words to spark something new in me. She wrote in a confessional letter to Jesuit Father Franjo Jambrekovic, “Really, how proud I was then. I am not humble even now – but at least I desire to become – and humiliations are my sweetest sweets.”
The word humble comes from the word humility. And humility comes from the word, you guessed it, humiliation. Humiliation is the “abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being humbled or reduced to lowliness or submission. It is an emotion felt by a person whose social status has just decreased.”
Somehow, in our largely Western mindset, we feel that being humble happens when someone compliments you. They say, “Oh, I love your shoes.” And the humble response is something like, “What, these old things? Hey, thanks.” But, friends, we don’t actually learn humility in praise. We learn humility when we are humiliated. When we are at the bottom of the barrel. When we are beyond embarrassed. When we feel an inch tall.
Naturally, we despise those moments. We don’t prefer to be embarrassed or made to appear (or feel) less than awesome. But Mother Teresa called those moments her “sweetest sweets.” She understood that humiliation is to be embraced, because it is in humiliation that God produces humility in us, His servants.
How paradox is our faith. And yet how beautiful.. When we see our beautiful Jesus on His knees wiping clean the dusty feet of the apostles – that is humility. When the Most Holy One was suspended, bleeding and naked, on a cross – that is humility. And He requires that of His people as well.
Let your pride lose. When you feel humiliated, accept it and praise God. When you are embarrassed, accept it and praise God. When you feel your ‘social status has just decreased,’ accept it and praise God. He is using those times to create a humble attitude in you. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
All my heart,