Humility and the Humiliation of Christ

I prayed for humility once, and God was swift and generous in his humiliation. I didn’t pray again for several years for that particular virtue, but I should have. Humiliation, like the Spirit’s conviction, is never pleasant, but it is good.

We’re in a series through Proverbs right now, and the experience of preaching through this ancient book of wisdom has me thinking about how much wisdom we’ve forgotten and lost to time. “Son, listen to your father’s instruction,” is the refrain—a beautiful book. Part of what I’m learning right now is humility, and the value of it. Father God, please, in your mercy, humiliate us.

John had been around the church for about 40 years, and if he believed in God, his belief was riddled with doubt and sin, entangled. As he aged, he lost mobility, but he refused to let us place him in a nursing home, so we gave him a wheelchair and partnered with NAMI to get him a social worker and check in on him throughout the week.

Every Friday, he would come in to take a shower, and as you can imagine, it slowly became an issue as his mobility worsened. A couple of weeks ago, I spent most of my day with him just trying to take a shower. I had to help him take his clothes off, and when I tried to leave him to let him take a shower, he called me back in, having fallen between the wheelchair and the shower chair. He was naked, and old, and I lifted him up back onto his wheelchair and helped him use wipes to clean himself. It was awkward and humiliating and, looking back on it, a blessing.

How human; how mortal. This is what Jesus intentionally became—human—frail like us, with a need to wash himself and cover his nakedness. In our churches we tend to preach Christ triumphant, seated on high, and so he is. But before he was triumphant he was human, and human he remains, only gloriously so, resurrected.

We need not to neglect the humanity of Christ in our thinking and teaching, his humble life before his atoning death and glorious resurrection. Not just humble, but humiliating, the creator of the universe living among a conquered and suffering people. His life among us makes our lives meaningful. His entering into everyday life transforms life on earth just as surely as his entering death transforms death for us, giving us hope that God has not abandoned us to either state.

Because he ate with us, our meals together are a holy communion. Because he lived with us, our life together is a holy temple. Because he rested our rest is an act of worship. Because he washed himself, our daily rituals can be done unto him. Because he humiliated himself, our humiliation is our glory. Because he suffered, our suffering is not in vain.

So, holy Father, humiliate us again, we pray, that we might know a small part of your life, and in so doing, learn truly to live.

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