Portrait of Humility

Indian Paintbrush WildflowerA dictionary defines humility as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance”. The origin of the word is humus, which means, “dust” or “earth”.

We can see that in action in ancient times when a humble person or a person of lower station might be seen acknowledging another person’s power or position by bowing. It demonstrated respect as well.

We can see humility demonstrated in the Bible where we see many persons whose lives evidence such attitudes. The cultures of the time show us the physical customs that represent the characteristic.

Paul E. Miller writes about the ways Ruth demonstrates humility in his book, A Loving Life, which also speaks of the nature of humility. The book challenges us to look deeply and go beyond our postmodern view of love and humility as he walks through the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.

Above all, Jesus shows us the epitome of humility, choosing to lay aside his deity to take on human flesh, be born in a stable, be taught and trained by human parents, and submit to his Father to die on a cross so we might never be separated from his love.

Wherever we turn in scripture and see humility, we see submission as a component. Though the submission may appear to be to men or circumstance, the true submission is to the Lord who is above every circumstance and situation. And we see how much the Lord values humility as an attribute necessary for leadership.

A classic example is that of Joseph who had grand visions, was favored above his brothers, bragged about his dreams, and got sold into slavery. That ended with him imprisoned where the Lord changed his heart, his attitude, and prepared him for the role he had seen in his vision.

Time and again the Lord humbled leaders and kings who fell prey to pride in order to equip them for His purposes and to remind them of who they were.

In the postmodern world it can be harder to see examples of humility lived out versus proclaimed as a quality one owns. Certainly we can think of some such as Mother Theresa, but can you identify any one you have known personally?

There is one I have known that easily comes to mind, but none of you would have heard of him.

He was born into a farm family as the youngest of six children. His older brother was 19 years his senior followed by four sisters. His brother worked hard helping his father with the family farm while his sisters worked alongside his mother as he toddled about the farmhouse.

When he was five years old, his father died without him really getting to know him. His older brother took on the role of “head of the family” until he was killed after falling off the barn roof. It was then, at the age of thirteen, this boy becoming a man, sought the help of his uncles on the adjacent farms to move into the role of handling farming.

He was disappointed not to be able to continue his love of learning by going to high school in order to handle the farming duties and learn from his uncles. But he submitted to their council and also to the place life had brought him.

His love of learning led him to humbly ask his elementary teacher if he could come back a second time to the eighth grade in the one room school a mile from his home. He explained that he thought he could perhaps learn something more by going through a second time. The teacher was so impressed that she offered to try to provide as much as she could to add to his education.

A centerpiece of his life was his developing spiritual life that grew year by year. His quiet, gentle personality, selfless service, and extraordinary patience were hallmarks of his character along with his dry wit.

He married only after he earned enough money to prepare for a family of his own while still running the farm. He weathered losses without complaint or self-pity. These included the death of his first son and seven years later, the birth of a handicapped son who would never leave home and always need his care.

He sacrificed to give his only daughter what no one in the family had ever achieved, a college education.

He served year by year without fanfare or acclaim or a belief life had been unfair to him.

He served his family, his church, and his community seeing it as his privilege and responsibility. I never saw him judge anyone, nor did I see him angry. He expressed gratitude often and rarely spoke of tiredness from hard work.

He looked always to the Lord to see what he must do and how he was to walk.

His birthday would have been tomorrow.

He was my dad.

He left a legacy of humility to anyone who knew him.


2 thoughts on “Portrait of Humility

  1. Your dad sounds like such a great man. He left the most valuable legacy that you are following, and I’m sure he’s looking down at you with such pride. Thank you so much for the awesome post- words I need to live by.

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