So, I have a question.
After eight weeks of living a shelter-in-place life, am I any different?
Am I kinder?
Am I more joyful?
Am I more patient?
Am I more resilient?
Am I stronger in my faith?
Am I any closer to Jesus after being asked to stay home in order to keep my community safe and healthy?
Time will tell, won’t it?
Certainly, the past eight weeks have encouraged us to humble ourselves – to lay down our wants, our dreams, our hopes, and even our livelihoods for the care of others – especially the most vulnerable among us.
Pandemic life has not been easy. We are living in a difficult, faith-stretching time. For some of us, food insecurity is palpable. We have friends in southern Africa who are eating less than one meal a day due to food shortages as the pandemic has only worsened the food scarcity situation there. Others have lost their jobs and have received no financial support. Nothing. Others are grieving lost opportunities, lost relationships, lost health, and lost lives. For the poor and vulnerable we know, the virus has been especially unrelenting and cruel.
For our family, we are submitting to government travel restrictions. Instead of living at home through the pandemic, we are staying in the basement of good friends far, far, far away from our home. A return date is currently elusive. We are here indefinitely.
So, what might we do during this time?
Keep our hearts and minds focused upon the ways of Jesus.
One important lesson I am gleaning from this pandemic season is how essential humility is in my relationship with my Heavenly Father, with my family, and with those that I am interacting with during this uncertain time. Just as we wear clothing for the functional need of protection from the elements, Peter affirms that humility offers a similar security, he writes,
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
New International Version, 1 Peter 5:5
Jesus counted humility as central to his teaching. In fact, in his final hours with his closest and most intimate followers, our Savior girded himself with a towel – an apron-like covering that slaves donned in their work – to wash his disciples’ feet. Jesus clothed himself with the visible, bold gesture of humility and love. And asked that his people do the same then and now.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
New International Version, John 13: 12-17
A humble spirit is a shield and a defense against the harm and disgrace of pride and arrogance. To experience the blessing of a precious and sweet intimacy with our Lord, our pride must be vanquished. Completely. Our pride is a self-protective mechanism. It is driven by two types of insecure behavior. We discount others as inferior or incomplete. We believe we are right and absolute in our thinking. Or we exaggerate our worth, merits, talent and superiority to hide our faults and defects. We are so overly concerned with ourselves that we fail to acknowledge the needs of others. Our self-importance demonstrated through our thoughts and actions belie any and all trust in God. Instead, our pride and self-reliance reflect a soul ensnared by fear and worry. We’re covered in it.
And honestly? This fearful way reflects poorly on us as followers of Christ. How can we say we have a transformational, vibrant faith in our God when our behavior exposes our self-sufficiency, doubt and distrust of Him? Our selfish, demanding, and fault-finding manner gives no credence to the fact that our Lord and Savior was a humble servant who donned a slave’s apron to wash and care for dirty feet.
Peter’s feet were washed that night. He, the fisherman turned follower of Christ, experienced the ways of Jesus in an intimate way for more than three years. In an unpredictable, unhealthy, and hostile world, Peter witnessed how Jesus concerned himself with the cares of the fearful, the neglected, the shunned, the ill, the slighted, the weary, the ugly, and the lost. In his letters to the early Church, Peter consistently directed them to Jesus regardless of their circumstances, trials, or tribulations. He encouraged them all – the suffering, the ill, and the discouraged to humble themselves and trust Jesus. Jesus would be with them, care for them, and uplift them, either in the present day or in the everlasting day to come.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
New International Version, 1 Peter 5: 6-7
Whatever things concern us – health, employment, family, friends, etc. – whether spiritual or temporal, we are assured that these matters also concern our God. Peter tells us that when we submit to the Lord’s care and lower ourselves beneath his hand, there are gifts to be found. When we discover and know God’s tender and sure care of us, we release our anxious cares for ourselves.
Under his mighty hand, we are strengthened with endurance.
Under his mighty hand, we are positioned with peace.
Under his mighty hand, we are attended to with love.
Under his mighty hand, we are gifted with wisdom and insight.
Under his mighty hand, we are sanctified with grace.
Under his mighty hand, we are lifted in hope.
Under his mighty hand, we are sanctified with life everlasting.
We can experience his strong hand upon us in every situation. We are assured of his presence, attention and love. Even if we are enduring pain, loss, ill health, neglect, malnourishment, poverty, unemployment, emotional hurt, betrayal, or even lack of faith, we can trust that our God is near.
How can we know that? It’s a promise:
Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
New International Version, Psalm 55:22
In other words, he will never forget us. Ever.
So, my friends, have our hearts and minds been transformed in any way since the shelter-in-place season began over eight weeks ago?
For me, I am gleaning the lesson of humility as I trust my God for the timing of our family’s departure to South Africa. I am placing myself under my God’s mighty hand of protection and care while we wait. I’m choosing to clothe myself in humility in other tangible ways, too.
First, rather than speak too quickly in defense of my position, I choose to remain quiet and listen. And if I still disagree, I have decided to keep the thought to myself. Humility is a great preserver of peace in our relationships. And honestly, having peace in my relationships is critical to our family’s well-being during this uncertain season. I don’t have to make others believe I am right. What do I ultimately gain from that?
Second, when asked to do something, I complete the task when requested – as soon as possible.
Third, I release my need to control. That’s fear and anxiety at work in my life. I have no control. Yet, my God’s eyes are upon my family and me. He’ll open up the airways in His time.
Fourth, I serve my family first as much as I can. ( I have a husband who has the same serve-others-first mentality) 🙂
Fifth, I am growing my faith and trust in God. I cast away my fears, my wants, my agendas, my time-tables, my rights, and my pride – trusting my God to take hold of all of it and do as He wills. He knows me. He cares for me. He’ll answer me.
I don’t know if I am kinder, more joyful, more resilient or more patient in recent weeks. What I do know is that I’m growing in humility and in intimate faith with my God.
How are you doing?
After eight weeks of living a shelter-in-place life, are you any different?