Day 10 ~ The Hidden Gifts of Humility
I wanted adventure, intrigue, importance, and excitement. I was younger then, and a bit more foolish. If I could have chosen the words that I never wanted to describe my life, I would have picked words like humble, ordinary, simple, and faithful. These are not things I wanted.
I had stars in my eyes and plans for “big” things, and a plan for how I could show the entire world what a brilliant, valuable, successful, important person I was. Really, I was begging for someone to validate me, and I thought that could only come through my great efforts to prove it. I do see life in a radically different way now than I did at that time, but it took me some years to see the beauty of a humble life and the treasures found within it.
Sometime during college, I was talking to a far-away friend on the phone who was a few years ahead of me: married, with two young kids, living on a piece of property just outside the small town where I grew up. I was in college at the time and had no plans to be married with kids anytime soon. We were catching up after some years of time apart, and she talked to me about the simple rhythms of their lives, the home projects they were doing and daily-life things. As she shared with me, I felt myself internally recoiling. I could not imagine having her life, and I was convinced that I never wanted anything like it.
I’m almost ashamed to say it, but it sounded boring to me. I mean, I was glad that she was happy, but I couldn’t understand how she was. What are your dreams? I thought. What are your plans? I was somehow convinced that she must have had something percolating within her that had to do with being more than “just a mom”.
Ah, that phrase; “just a mom”. That one will get you in trouble right there. I put that phrase in quotations because it is one that has revisited me many times over the years. Personally, I have had a range of experiences with the idea encapsulated within that statement, each that has led me to draw very different conclusions.
It started with my ignorance of motherhood, and my inability to see that marriage and the building a life together process as one that could be full of beauty. I associated both of those things with dashed hopes and broken dreams, and I wanted no more of that. I had set my course for success—at least my understanding of it at the time. I didn’t want humble, I wanted whatever was going to make me feel validated, strong, and secure.
I never said anything out loud, but in the quiet of my heart, I unknowingly reduced the value of her experience to something less than it really is. In my own defense, I didn’t know any better. I was not yet a mom (or even married at the time), and there are some things you only discover once you jump into the pool. Now I am that same mom who is learning how to see that being a mom as different than being “just a mom”.
I have learned that there are no mothers who are “just a mom,” even if they don’t do any other professional work besides keeping a home and raising children. Every one of us is multifaceted, layered, and interesting in our own unique ways. It is also true that mothers have the most important job in the entire world: shaping and nurturing the next generation. This job cannot be done in the cracks of a jet-setting life, between all the other “important” things that must be done in the world.
I confess, I myself belittled motherhood, simplicity, and the prospect of cultivating a humble life in earlier years.
There is a line in a song by Audrey Assad (I Shall Not Want) with a line that has re-arranged me.
“From the fear of humility, deliver me O God”
That is the thing right there. I was afraid that if I let go of my big, important dreams and embraced motherhood and the service that comes with it, I would cease to be worthy of anyone’s attention.
The thing about humility is it requires me to lay myself down, to take the path of selflessness, to be diligent in unseen places where no one is cheering, validating, or marveling at my skills.
Humility brings me close with the cries of my heart I didn’t know were there. It takes the wall of pride I construct to insulate myself–I think it is protecting me from harm, but really, that wall keeps me from the most precious gifts.
A few years ago, I visited a new church for the first time with my family, and the female pastor opened her message with these words, “I always knew that I wanted to be more than just a mom.”
I winced. Having once been guilty of belittling the incredible, courageous, and selfless role of mothers, I understand where it comes from, but I also know too much now about the truth of motherhood.
The truth of motherhood is that strength, stability, wisdom, perseverance, patience, selflessness, resourcefulness, gentleness, and so many other things are forged in the fire of my humble life of service to my family when I recognized the thing I was afraid of (being just a mom) is the very thing that would bring about my liberation, my deeply cherished purpose, and my restored heart.
These are the hidden gifts that come with humility and surrender to God.
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” James 4:10