I’d like to say “Thank you for your prayers” once again to anyone who might be praying for me. The thoughts that I am talking about here occurred to me a few days ago, perhaps even almost two weeks ago. However I have not had the chance to sit down and type them out.
Once again it distinctly felt as if this was the result of prayer. I know that what I am about to share with you now is definitely from God. However the question is whether it has come directly from God, or whether it has been mediated by any human influence. I have discussed the concept of “range” before. In brief, this means that
there is elasticity for any one person in for any one attribute in my life, there is a wide spectrum of values where I could comfortably sit and still feel like myself. So who I am as a person is an interplay of the current readings for all those values at any one time. It is constantly fluctuating as I myself fluctuate in terms of different values. This concept of range is relevant to this topic as follows: there is a wide spectrum of readings I could sit at for a variety of different attributes and still be validly a Christian. If God was working directly on me, then I imagine that He would be gently smoothing me day by day, almost imperceptibly but working on everything at once. When I get thoughts, impressions, nudges that are all directed to one particular attribute, then to me that suggests that someone is particularly praying for that one attribute – and it also suggests that the person praying particularly cares about that subject, or considers me particularly deficient in it. Hmm. Now whom do I know who is particularly keen on the subject of humility, with whom I may have discussed this subject, perhaps at length?!
So yeah, there is definitely a particular individual that I suspect might be praying. Or am I completely making this up?! Is this all just wishful thinking?!!!!!
If I am right about your identity, then I’m sure you know that you are the person I am talking about. I have a little confession to make. On one hand, no, I am not a naturally humble person. On the other hand, I am not as unhumble as you (specifically) might imagine. In fact, I sometimes exaggerate this attribute for the sake of winding you up, specifically – but only when you and I are talking directly. Part of me hopes that you might be able to tell that I am teasing – but on the other hand if you have been going by what I have written here then that is definitely more accurate.
Anyway, back to the impressions I got.
However, these thoughts struck me with some force, so that I thought: This is it! This is once again about humility, and it is so important that honestly I should have just dropped everything to share it here.
So if this is the result of someone’s prayer, as I am almost sure it is, once again, I want to thank that person.
I’d like to to put this out there too. Prayer is my love language, both giving it and receiving it. Spending quality time with/for your loved ones is something that I truly cherish. Because people spend their time to pray, prayer is an expression of quality time, which is one of the recognised love languages in Dr Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages. Beyond being an expression of Quality Time, I like to think of prayer as a distinct love language in its own right. So erm…I am just putting this out there! Actually you know what, there is no way that anyone could think of prayer, and praying for someone at length, as anything other than an act of care and compassion. So I imagine that for everyone who prays it is done as an expression of Christian love, Agape, and for me, because I see it as a gift of love to offer it, I also recognise it as a gift of love to receive it. Prayer is often an invisible gift, in that usually the person prayed does not know. The difference with me is that I have in the past spent a lot of time with God, and I have learned to hear His voice, so I know the way God usually speaks to me. In short, I go around looking for patterns in everything, so when thoughts from God occur to me in a slightly different way from usual, I am quick to discern that someone might be praying.
Anyway – that was all the preamble. If what I am about to share now truly did come about as a result of someone’s prayer, and not directly from God, then it shows that this person has quite a sophisticated understanding of who I am, and can see through my joking to perceive my real character challenges.
So what finally struck me was this: I am not better than anyone. This is deep, and it is also subtle, and it has eluded me for so many years.
What is subtle about it is this: this in itself is not going to sound humble, but please just bear with me and take this statement at face value: I genuinely have worked a heck of a lot on my character, to the point where I can categorically say, with all candour, that my character is better than that of many people. For so long, I have made the mistake of making that mental leap to then think that I am definitively better than these people, and this is what I have finally realised is so wrong.
Ways in which I am genuinely humble
For the purposes of this post, I am going to define humility in the following way:
When you are objectively better than someone in a particular way,(especially in things which are highly esteemed by society) but you do not then allow your understanding of this to influence you to consider yourself superior. Because you are not superior, which is what I am finding out. In case it sounds arrogant to even say that you are objectively better than someone, I mean things like
– If you are more highly educated than someone or
– If you have a better-paying job than someone or
– if you seemingly have more money or
– if you seemingly live a better quality of lifestyle
I believe that in these respects and so many others, I am genuinely humble. To be candid, I am quite proud of my intellect, and I sometimes – OK, often – slam people with it but only when they “go first” by patronising me intellectually. Unfortunately people intellectually patronise me quite often, which means that I am often slamming people. And yeah, I do often show off with wordplay quite unprovoked! Other than this though, off the top of my head, in every other respect where society respects a certain value, I am genuinely humble even where I have attained a higher level than other people.
This is the definition of humility that matters here, because this is the one I struggle most with.
The one exception to this is character. I know that those other things are not a measure of someone’s worth. I know that in other respects my superior attainment is often just a reflection of my own privilege. However, character was the one thing which I always thought was an accurate reflection of someone’s worth. Every so often I would have a flash of recognition that this too was a matter of privilege, but it would literally be only a flash. I allowed myself to think that because my character was, as it seemed, objectively better, then I was definitively superior to these people.
I believe I have now understood – again – that having superior character does not actually make me superior. This is not the first time I have had this realisation. The difference this time, I hope, is that I will really sit down and think through the ramifications. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, which makes me superior to other people. There is absolutely nothing which ever entitles me to release myself to feelings of superiority. There is and never can be any way in which I am entitled to not be humble
If there is anyone who has been reading this blog and wincing at my attitude of – ahem – self-righteousness, then thank you for bearing with me. If there is a potential husband who has been praying for me to finally get it, then thank you for your prayers.
Well since drafting this out a couple of days ago this has already been tested. I found myself ruminating on those familiar angry feelings. It seems that this is a stronghold which will need to be uprooted from my heart with much prayer. The fact though is that I at least understand what is going on now.