Two Steps Forward - The Art of the 2nd Step
INTRO: The message is simple: Be Humble. The concept is simple: Be Humble. The execution is one everyone seems to miss: Be Humble. In words of Kendrick Lamar: Be Humble (sorry, couldn't resist). But why is being humble so important? In an article by Harvard Business Review, the SVP of Google says humility is one of the most important traits they look for when hiring, because "without humility, you are unable to learn." I'm okay if you stop reading there, and leave that as your lonely takeaway, but what fun is that? Or, we can get Kendrick Lamar's, "HUMBLE" out of your head, and try to refocus on what Paul in the book of Corinthians is telling us.
"'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
So am I reading this right? God delights in our "weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties"- why would our loving God want to send a message of such destruction for us, and what does that have to do with being humble?
Humble - adj - 1) to not be proud or haughty; to not be arrogant or assertive. 2) reflecting, expressing or offered in a spirit of deference.
The Late Night Wake-Up Call: Not too long ago, I received an unexpected call from a friend I haven't heard from in over a decade. He was struggling more than I could imagine, continually being let down by this world and he was desperately searching for answers. You want to talk about being humble? Let's imagine you are at a breaking point, and just being alive doesn't even make sense anymore, yet you pick up the phone and you ask for help, for direction, for guidance, for truth. I pointed him towards the bible, specifically to Phillipians 4:6 where God tells us:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts, and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phillipians 4:6 NIV
My friend's humility allowed him to search for answers he didn't have, and it has changed his life.
The Problem: How many of us think we have it all figured out, justified in our actions (or in-actions), but in reality we are the ones causing the chaos? It's that looking in the mirror step that so many of us avoid. I'm so guilty of this. So now I ask myself these three simple questions:
Where is my biggest struggle?
Where am I going for answers?
How can I learn from this?
The problem is getting to this step of reflection. The step back happens, and I muscle through to get back to level ground as quickly as possible - and I'm safe again. What I have realized, the code that I have cracked, is that this step forward is only arbitrary progress. It's smoke in mirrors. It's fake progress. It's a dangerous middle ground, a facade that you are better off than you were before. Humility is what brings us out of this purgatory and into a place where answers come from all over - the second step.
"God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble." - James 4:6 NIV
Here is where you'll find answers from people you never thought could provide life-changing insight, from people who have struggled more than you know and are now stronger from it - all of which have potential answers, or at least a different perspective, for you. But, most of all, what I hope for is for you to start finding answers from the only place that truly has what you're looking for - answers from above.
The Answer(s): I'm finding that the answer to each of these questions point back to the opening verse...The one-step-backs are the reality of life that seem to haunt us and won't let us go, yet the Bible tells us moments like those are only opportunities for God if we could just give Him a chance. The real message is how the steps forward should come from giving into God's grace, which by Jesus's suffering on the cross has allowed us to bust through whatever struggles we're facing. It's fighting fire with faith, and through our faith we are strong.
A New Take on "Become Greater:" I'm on a path of progress. Finding myself moving beyond the first step, or not staying back nearly as long as I used to. And is that not what our purpose is in life? To become greater today than we were yesterday? To progress and better ourselves? Yes. BUT, I'm quickly finding out that the goal is to progress with Jesus leading the way, which is exactly what John 3:30 tells us, "he must become greater, I become less." I've tried it my way, now I'm trying it His way.
Regardless of where you seek answers, it must come from a place of humility where you are vulnerable and willing to learn. If you are seeking wisdom, putting your pride aside, keeping your motivation focused on becoming a better version of yourself and keeping your intentions pure, then you are on your way to the second step of life-changing progress.
Where I Make it Weird: I don't ever wish difficulties onto anyone...or do I? I know I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for my struggles. I'm sure I've had a tiny fraction of the hardships of others, but I've still had them. We all struggle in some way. Whether it be an addiction, an illness, a fear, an anxiety, an issue about how you view yourself in the eyes of others, maybe it's a hardness about how you approach life, never showing any weakness because that makes you appear weak and vulnerable which only buries yourself deeper into isolation. We all have one weakness...and we should name it, right here, right now. I'll go first.
I am weak with temptation.
I am weak by looking for satisfaction with what the world has to offer, rather than what God can offer.
I am weak in seeing how I compare to others...or worse, vise-versa.
I know Jesus can show us the way, yet I struggle to consistently follow his lead.
I put myself first rather than seeing who else around me needs help...and we ALL can help in some way.
I seem to want more, MORE than I want less.
Okay, so I named more than one. The point is, all of this has defined me over the last 30 years. It's what makes us human, but it's what also gets us in trouble, and so blinded by what God wants for us. I still want, and I am still weak. But as I have grown closer to God, I have been humbled in learning that I cannot overcome these wants or desires on my own - and I know my late night phone call friend would agree.
I'll Sum it up Here: So maybe I do hope that people go through struggles (remind me how I have friends?). But this isn't where the hope stops, it's actually just the beginning. What I truly hope happens is the little game-changer called, "humility," gets brought into the picture. A humble mind, a softened heart, with God as a guide can change everything.
My Challenge to You: Get into the Bible and seek answers. Either open up a Bible, or do what I did and get into the Bible App. Don't own a Bible? Let me know and I'll buy one for you, or go to your local church and I know they'd be happy to donate one (if not, may want to find a new church). I highly recommend you get on the YouVersion Bible App and join me and the other 300 Million Downloads. If you're struggling with your marriage, there's a plan for that. If you're new to the Bible, there's a plan for that. If you're wanting to lead in the workplace, there's a plan for that.