“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
It was about a year or so ago that I began to have a sense that God wanted to teach me about humility. Through some specific circumstances in my life, I was feeling this inescapable nudge from God about exploring humility. The thought of a “gentle and humble heart” seemed simultaneously foreign and refreshing to me; and the thought of “rest for [my] soul” seemed almost too good to be true.
At that point in time, the humility I kept thinking of was something I could “put on” like a coat—I could perhaps choose to take the humble path or try to handle this or that in a more gracious, humble way. While I couldn’t see it at the time, these thoughts toward humility, for me, were a way of adding one more thing “to-do” to my list: one more thing to try to accomplish, one more thing to master, and, therefore, one more area in which I was likely to fail. Like many other things in my life, the thought of “being humble” was rolling around in my mind as something I needed to figure out how to do—not something that I could lean into or something that my Heavenly Father could slowly create within me, and definitely not something that would result from my un-doing or coming undone.
Fast forward to this winter when a friend suggested I read Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson. Since Hannah was speaking at our women’s retreat, and since her book coincided nicely with this theme in my life, I dove in...and almost immediately became paralyzed. Somehow, it seemed that she was inside of my head and heart, putting words to some of the thoughts and struggles that made up my days. In her book, before she even addresses humility and what that looks like, Hannah creates a link between stress and pride—an all-too-familiar path for me. She says:
Pride convinces us that we are stronger and more capable than we actually are. Pride convinces us that we must do and be more than we are able. And when we try, we find ourselves feeling ‘thin, sort of stretched . . . like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.’ We begin to fall apart physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the simple reason that we are not existing as we were meant to exist. (page 41)
I could relate. And I had the weariness to prove that this line of thinking (and living) was not exactly working for me.
As I continued reading, I felt an overwhelming conviction of my sin, my pride. It occurred to me that what was affecting me within the pages of this book wasn’t as much of my lack of humility as it was my love of pride. Seeing that was awful.
My pride and my love of pride are disgusting, and I feel wrapped up in them. I began to realize how my pride shapes the way I think about my days and my life and the people in it, and how I am in a bit of a predicament: there is no way for me to detach myself from this mess that I've made. My pride is peppered through all that I do and think and say. Responding to my life through a lens of pride is a familiar, well-worn path for me. I began to see that there was no managing my way out of this. I only had one option: repentance. And, even with repentance, I still had a sense of hopelessness—that I may be too far gone to know the “gentle and humble heart” and the “rest for [my] soul” about which Jesus speaks.
It became clear to me that my notion of “putting on” humility was not going to work. What I needed was to ask Jesus to forgive me for my love of pride, my love of self, my love of control. What I needed then—and what I still need now—is for Jesus to show me a new way, to teach me a new path. The theme of my song in the last few weeks has been “Forgive me, Jesus. I repent.”
As you may imagine, a place of ongoing repentance is not one that feels especially good. In these moments I feel low. I feel my unwavering need for a Savior and for a Redeemer and a Teacher. These moments feel vulnerable and somewhat uncomfortable or unfamiliar—they feel contrary to my instincts, my intuition, and to those well-worn paths I have created and easily trod down in my life. This place of asking Jesus to forgive me for this specific sin—my pride, my love of control, my desire to live my life on my own—is also the place where Jesus gently leads me and teaches me. As far as I have seen, this is the only place where my heart can readily turn to Him, where the “to-dos” are no more, and I begin to get a taste of what I truly long for: rest for my soul.
(Written by Shannon Reppard)