(27.) H is for Humility

(27.) H is for Humility

(27.) H is for Humility

“O God, what have you done? You have made one who is ignorant a teacher, one who is blind a leader, one who errs a guide.” Anselm’s words of humility are striking, especially when you consider these lowly words were his own, prayed at his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093. But there it is… Teaching and learning are impossible without humility. Let’s look at a scene of Jesus as a youngster in Luke 2, the one glimpse available of our Lord other than as an infant or an adult. It’s telling that this Temple scene is book-ended (v. 40, v. 52) with references to the growing wisdom of Christ. I wonder if Luke wanted to¬†flesh out that classic proverb, “with humility comes wisdom.” (Prov. 11:2).

At any rate, what kind of humility did our young Jesus demonstrate, a spineless doormat, a passive wallflower? Not on your life. He was true humility incarnate: sitting respectfully at his teachers’ feet, listening openly to their teaching, actively asking questions with curiosity, and responding thoughtfully in lively interaction. Jesus was a learner, and in that one scene he displayed the type of active humility needed to learn.

If you’re wondering what our humility looks like in the learning process, Jesus showed the way in that one gospel vignette. But there are more things to think about here. Humility means that we accept our weakness and ignorance as the necessary preludes to strength and understanding. We embrace the idea that we “are only on the borders of God’s ways,” as Job puts it. We are not in the center of the universe. The more we know, the more we realize what we don’t know. Also, humble people tend to be grounded and realistic, the root word for humble being “humus”, earth, soil, dirt. The true learner submits, surrenders, and ultimately worships. As Marjorie Reaves once said, Wonder and awe are the alpha and omega of the activity of learning.” How else can this happen in our studies, but in humility of spirit, bowing the knees of our mind and heart.