From Kelly Williamson
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." This is such a beautiful and straightforward statement. I like its reverse parallelism (is that a thing?). It also sounds familiar (this pastSunday's reading), so I should probably pay attention, right? The teaching seems simple enough. Just be humble, rather than self-righteous and you'll be right before God; in fact, you'll be exalted! But, if you're like me, as soon as you start to think about doing something as a result of a biblical teaching or because of your faith, you start to feel pleased with yourself. "Look at me, being a good Christian, emulating Christ, trying to spread the gospel and restore God's kingdom with the talents and gifts he's given me." That doesn't exactly scream humbleness. The trouble, I think, with humbling yourself is finding a way to do it subconsciously, because as soon as you become aware that you're trying to be humble you risk the possibility of replacing any accomplished humbleness with righteousness - with an awareness that you've become humble; good job, you (humbleness gone!).
So how do I intentionally and purposefully implement practices that make it a natural part of my character to exercise humbleness? Hold that thought.
The first parable in today's reading makes me chuckle. Its practical to the point of humor. The unrighteous man eventually gives in to the persistent woman's pleading for self-motivated reasons; if he gives her justice, as she asks, then his life will get easier. She'll go away. She'll stop asking him for things. Why do I find this funny? Because its so clear and direct, in the literal, practical sense (within the parable world itself), but also for how I should be praying to a God who is not self-motivated, who is just and righteous, who wants to see us all flourish in restored order with his creation and right relationship with him. If this unrighteous man, who is least likely to accommodate the requests of others, will give justice to this woman who persistently seeks it, then of course our God, who is already most likely to respond to the requests of his children, will give justice to those who persistently seek it.
So why don't I pray persistently, crying out to him day and night, as verse 7 implies?
The answer to both of my questions probably rests within Jesus' statement in verse 17 - "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." As a child, I was great at asking for things and being persistent in my requests (read: demands) when they really mattered to me. Can I not apply that same childlike dedication and persistence to my prayer life now as an adult? Don't I still have desires, wishes, and concerns that I could bring to God with equal fervor? Similarly, in my attempts to humble myself I should again learn from childhood Kelly. Pre-adult Kelly was much less self-aware, much less proud and tuned in to my "accomplishments," and much more accustomed to the good things in my life being attributable to the work of others (parents, teachers, etc.). Perhaps humbleness is not such a difficult task when you stop overthinking (be childlike!), become less self-aware and self-involved (be childlike!), and see the good things in your life as a result not of your own awesomeness, but of the blessings of others (be childlike!).
Today, I pray to keep my Christian practice simple, to keep my walk with Christ child-like.
I'm a tap-dancing tax lawyer (usually not at the same time) who loves the seasons as they come, draws energy from interacting with people, and hopes to learn the upright base someday. Oh, and I'm married to Pete and can't pull off a New Zealand accent.