A New Way Found In Humility
Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll is a clear illustration of prideful arrogance. Humpty Dumpty is so vain in his convictions that he quickly dismisses Alice when she observes that the wall is too narrow; and in the course of the conversation, he even proceeds to redefine words as he wishes. Alice points out to him that he simply cannot ignore the objective meaning of words, but he simply ignores her and further show his arrogance by exalting himself as a great poet. Shortly after the conversation, Humpty Dumpty succumbed to the very narrow wall and fell to his demise. One cannot help but be reminded of the fall of Lucifer from grace after reading this story.
Pride caused Lucifer's fall; it also caused the fall of our first human parents, Adam and Eve. Humanity's pride misplaces the worship that rightly belongs to the Great I AM and places it at the foot of the I am who is a mere creature. And as a result, we seek satisfaction for happiness by giving in to our own whims and desires, whatever they may be. However, our whims and desires are part of a fallen human condition and therefore they mistake many things for true happiness. Joe Paprocki observes this reality in the first chapter of his book, Under the Influence of Jesus: "We live in the wealthiest nation [the United States] on earth and in history, and yet we still aren't satisfied" (pg. 2). And this dissatisfaction comes from our looking to fill our desire for God - the Uncreated Creator - with created things that are meant to be good but not final.
How do we come to find satisfaction and fulfillment? With great humility. Humility is the reason why children are taught fables and stories like Humpty Dumpty, the Hare and the Tortoise, the Mouse and the Lion, etc. Humility allows for proper love of self always in relation to God rather than disruptive building of self greatness that sees oneself as god. Paprocki calls this approach an "alternate reality". And in this alternate reality, we "recognize that we are not self-sufficient and that, while we can and must rely on others, our ultimate reliance is on god" (pg. 5). God, our parent par excellence, teaches us the same a great lesson in humility - and presents us with an alternate reality - not by story-telling but through love-showing. The Incarnation shows us that humility is the answer to pride, and such humility requires some kind of death, even of that which we value most, life.
Martyrdom proper, i.e. the sacrificing of our own lives for Christ, is hardly something that Christians in the United States must encounter; instead, the we must undergo another sort of martyrdom: the denial the self and all its thirst for those things that are not of God. God cannot live in a full heart, and neither can He live in a heart partially full. When it comes to God, it is a matter of all or nothing at all. The soul must make room for God, and in order to make room for Him, it must deny its inclinations toward vice, and thereby, it must deny the self. The image of Christ needs to be limned upon the soul so that human pride may realize that it must be bitterly charred by proper humility in order to prepare itself as a place for God. All human dross must be nailed to that cross and buried with Christ before the soul can be raised again to receive its God.
God, for His part, is ever near and ever calling. As the poet Francis Thompson so brilliantly illustrates, God, like the hare, is ever extending His mercy and love with “unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace” after the soul. The jealous God will not have anything other than Himself filling the entire human heart. Run as he might, Thompson finds himself encountering the goodness of creation refusing to turn its back to its Creator. The soul, therefore, must seek shelter in the ever-present and ever-ubiquitous cross. Thomas a Kempis puts it wonderfully when he writes in the Imitation of Christ:
The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will—above, below, without, or within—you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown.
In approaching God with humility, we quickly realize that we are sinners and we deserve the least of love. Yet, God remains ever near. If the we are to have any hope, we must abandon pride and seek humility. We must die in order for it to rise. Death must encounter our selfish desires in order for the life of Christ to be had abundantly. The heart must forfeit all that it loves, absolutely everything, in order for it to receive Him who demands every little piece of it. And in doing so, the heart finds quenching for its thirst—that indefinite and deafening thirst that caused Augustine to put it into these eloquent words: for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee. Only then can we learn to properly love ourselves, our neighbors, and creation.
Question to ponder:
1. Do you agree or disagree that when it comes to God the matter is all or nothing at all? Why or Why not?