Humility… it’s a hard line to walk… lean too much on one side and it comes across as pride, but lean too much on the other side and it’s self-loathing. Neither of which are desirable. I’ve always heard “humility” defined in terms of meekness, selflessness, gentleness… very passive adjectives that always seem to elude me the more I try to possess them. So how do we develop a humble spirit? I can tell you what the answer ISN’T better than I can tell you what the answer IS… like most spiritual growth questions, the answer is not simply to “try harder.” Sigh of relief?... yes, I think so…
I recently came across a new definition of humility that caught my eye. In the amplified version of Prov. 11:2 there’s an expanded explanation of “humble” which includes “those who have been pruned.” Pruning is, in my mind, a universal analogy because everybody can relate on one level or another to feeling the loss of something in their life. In John we’re told that God cuts off dead branches- the things in our life where there’s no redeeming value, draining us without providing anything good in return. It also says that He prunes the fruitful branches- even the things full of life and growth are susceptible to God’s pruning for the purpose of producing even more fruit. Either way, we’ve all felt the pain of being “cut.” It got me thinking, though, what does this have to do with being humble?
I think the experience of being pruned challenges our false perception that we are in control, that we are the one determining growth and outcomes. It reminds us that we are the creation, not the creator… that the One with the shears knows far better and has a far loftier vision of what could be. Being pruned not only makes us more sensitive to the presence of God, but it also makes us more sensitive and compassionate towards the world around us. It evens out the playing field between the lowly and the elite because we all have pain, brokenness, loss, frustration, and sadness in common.
So let’s redefine humility… it’s the result of allowing God into our lives to grow us and prune us… it’s being vulnerable in exposing our dead branches and our fruitful ones to let Jesus have His way… it’s realizing that it’s not about us- our comfort, our success, our thriving- that there’s a bigger picture out there than just our little cameo in this world. I think John the Baptist said it best when he stated his heart and mission in life was for Jesus to become greater and for himself to become less… that's the heartbeat of the humble.