Lent & Humility
We are about to enter the liturgical season of Lent, a contemplative time of year for some Christians. This 40-day period of the church calendar is the time when Christians remember the events leading up to and including the death of Jesus Christ. It’s a time of reflection and asking for forgiveness as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at the feast of Easter, which marks the end of Lent.
We start Lent on Ash Wednesday by remembering that we came
from dust, and we will someday return to dust. It’s a humbling reminder of our
mortality. Easter reminds us that our death is not the end of the story, but we
are all guessing about what life looks like on the other side of resurrection.
In Lent we prepare for resurrection through prayer, fasting/self-denial,
repentance of sins and asking for forgiveness, all of which I put under the
umbrella of slowing down and living humbly.
Fasting and self-denial (giving up something you love) can
be seen as a way to create more space for God in your life, a way of embracing
simplicity, and a way of testing your self-discipline and ability to resist
temptation, in the same way Jesus resisted temptation in the desert. These can
be humbling experiences.
Repentance of sin and seeking forgiveness are also humbling
experiences. Repentance is an acknowledgement that you are imperfectly human
just like everyone else. You’ve made mistakes and seeking forgiveness of those
mistakes is a vulnerable position to put yourself in - quite humbling.
THE DARK SIDE OF HUMILITY
There can be a dark side to humility if you define it
incorrectly. By one definition it’s “a modest or low view of one's own
importance.” That can get turned into thinking things like:
I am less than…
I am not worth…
I am just a “lowly human”.
I am not important.
It can turn into low self-esteem, thinking you should never
be recognized for the things you do in life, thinking you do not deserve the
things you have or that others are more deserving, and on and on and on.
This is a sad misrepresentation of humility, which is realizing
you are no mor important and no less important than anyone else; you are made
in the image of God like everyone else.
Humility is not the denial of human needs, such as being
seen, known and recognized for who you are and the wonderful things you have
done. It’s being seen and recognized while also not letting that recognition fool
you into thinking you’re “better than” others. You are important, you are just
not “more important”.
Humility is also not about degrading yourself as worthless
or unimportant. It’s about remembering who you are, in relation to God and all
other living beings. God created all of us in their image. I am not better than
you and you are not better than me. I am also not less than you and you are not
less than me. We are equally part of creation, and we will all eventually return
to the dust from which we came.
Lent is an opportunity to step out of our “day to day hustle
and bustle” to slow down and contemplate our mortality and humbly remember our
place in the grand scheme of creation. It’s an opportunity to take the focus
from what you do and focus on who you are.
As you walk together with God through the 40 days of Lent,
may you be reminded that you were created from the love of God, in the image of
God, and that the way to love that image of God in others is through humility.
By The Very Rev. Michelle "MJ"