humility

A lesson in humility

I recently attended an interfaith dialogue meeting and it was my first time joining this particular group.  During the discussion, a gentleman who had an unwelcoming experience at a Christian church in his youth had found another faith, but it seemed the experience left him a bit embittered.  He pointed out a story in the Bible about Jesus, that in this man’s telling of it, made Jesus seem like not a very nice guy.  However, the man only told part of the story and seemed to leave out the most important part about healing that comes at the end.  This is the story depicted in the book of Matthew, Chapter 15. Jesus was approached by a Canaanite woman requesting that he heal her daughter who was mentally ill.  At first Jesus didn’t respond and the disciples asked him to send her away.  After the woman pleads with him, he does respond to say “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  This is where this man in the meeting I was attending ended the story to demonstrate his point that Jesus was not the compassionate, merciful savior that Christians believe him to be.  

However, I was grateful that another attendee pointed out, that this is not where the story ends. Jesus does ultimately heal the daughter. And yet another attendee stated, that the woman corrected Jesus and he took the correction and then healed her. This gave me a lot to ponder.   

First of all, I found myself taking offence at this gentleman’s telling of the story.  But then when I thought about it more later, I recognized, that actually this story had always bothered me too.  I knew Jesus healed the woman’s daughter, but I was always bothered that he spoke to her the way he had, because it seemed very … well, un-Jesus-like or un-Christ-like.  However, I really appreciated hearing the perspective that Jesus took the correction and changed his approach.  It got me thinking.  What humility that must have taken to stand corrected, and not only that but in that very same moment to turn around and express that much mercy, compassion and love as to heal.  I know humility can actually be one of the greatest qualities of a true leader and I know Jesus to be a humble servant of God, but this was a new form of humility I had not recognized in him before.  

I started to think, am I that humble?  When someone corrects me, do I take the correction?  And even more, do I take it and then turn around and change my behavior and respond with mercy, compassion and love in that very moment?  Or do I stew on it for a while – hours, weeks, months – starting with self-justification for why I said or did what I said or did, and then moving on to perhaps realizing I was wrong and then feeling embarrassed, ashamed or guilty, or do I then worry about what the other person must think of me and rehearse the situation and think of all the ways I could have responded better and start berating myself for being so foolish or mean or whatever it seemed I was in that moment.  

So thinking about how I might normally deal with being corrected, I began to be in awe of Jesus’ capacity for humility, grace and compassion.  I also love that not only did he take the correction, but was then able to bring healing to the entire situation in that very moment.  I am so grateful for this lesson in humility.  

I learned a few other lessons with this situation in this meeting… about making sure we get the whole story before we pass judgment, about loving our neighbor as ourself, and about forgiveness… check out future blogs for those lessons.   

grace

How many different ways can we be tricked?

Recently I was out walking the dog around the pond by apartment.  It had been very cold, and just the night before we had a light dusting of snow.  It was a beautiful morning, but the snow covered some icy patches on the path making them hard to see.  My dog started to slide around, and noticing this, I thought I would be safe by walking in the grass.  However, for some reason there was a huge sheet of ice that not only covered the path but the grass around it.  Next thing I know, I was on the ground.  

At this point, I’d love to say that my first thought was turning to God to know that I was safe, as ever, in Love’s warm embrace.  But that’s not what happened.  First I stood up, frustrate, even angry and check to see if I was hurt.  Nothing seemed to be too sore, other than my ego. But then my thought went to self-righteous anger at the apartment management company for not salting the path.  I thought about how I should march right into the office to tell them I had fallen and was hurt… but was I?  I checked again… not really.  Well, I could have gotten hurt, that’s what I’d say… but could I?  

Well, some might say, yes, of course you could have been seriously hurt, that’s so dangerous, they should do better.  But when I think about this through the lens of Divine Science, I know that the truth of my being as God’s perfect creation is perfection, wholeness.  Right then I started to check my thought and recognize that from God’s point of view, I could never fall from grace.  I could never lack grace – both in the sense of being graceful, and in the sense of abundant goodness, kindness and blessing poured forth from the Divine.  

In one of my favorite books, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy puts it this way, “When speaking of God’s children, not the children of men, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you;” that is, Truth and Love reign in the real man, showing that man in God’s image is unfallen and eternal.”  (SH 476:28–32) She also speaks of man as “unfallen, upright, pure, and free”.  (SH 171:4) So, I knew I could see my self as unfallen and free.  

I started, however, to get back to my thinking about the management company and how I should give them a piece of my mind… if not for myself, for others.  What if someone else fell and got injured?  But, if God’s man can never fall from grace, doesn’t that also cover my neighbors?  It’s not to say that it’s not right to take actions that are practical and wise to keep people safe, but I had to check my motives here.  Because really, it seemed like I was looking for any excuse to justify my anger and frustration.  And the more I got angry, and rehearsed what I might tell the management company the more my shoulder began to ache.  

Well, that’s ridiculous I thought.  Why am I letting my thought get so spun up here?  I know the truth about my being and I began to hold more closely to that idea that if I couldn’t fall from grace, my thought couldn’t be filled with anything but grace.  

Later that evening, my friend came over for dinner.  I had been still dealing with some soreness in my shoulder and was feeling a bit sorry for myself.  I told my friend I had fallen on the ice.  His response… “Cool!” 

Well, here comes that anger and frustration again…  How could he say that?   But this time, I caught myself more quickly. What did I really want his response to be?  Was I looking for pity?  That’s not me!  I’m not pitiful… 

I recognized this thought was just another trick to get me to give into this story that I could fall from grace.  But no! Not a fall, not self-righteous indignation, not self-pity could keep me from experiencing God’s unending, ever-present, abundance grace and goodness!!  Enough was enough!  I would not be tricked…    And recognizing this, I felt the power behind Mrs. Eddy’s statement, “Grace and Truth are potent beyond all other means and methods.” (SH 67:23)  

That night I went to bed feeling at peace and woke up perfectly well.