Thursday, October 3, 2013

Life in the Valley: Turning Humiliation Into Humility

He that is down needs fear no fall,
   He that is low, no pride;
He that is humble ever shall
   Have God to be his guide.

--From John Bunyan’s, The Valley of Humiliation

One of the more necessary attributes for those who intend to quest for God and for the realization of their visions, is humility. And living and working in The Valley is juuuust the right place for developing this quality of soul.

It is the humble man that knows that he can’t accomplish anything of worth without God’s grace. It is humility that allows us to seek the help and wisdom of others: help that we will definitely need for getting the job done. It is the humble heart and mind that never gives in to doubt, skepticism, and cynicism. It is humility that keeps us grounded in the reality that our life, our vision, and our calling, is ultimately not about making us look good in the eyes of the world or to feel good about ourselves, but about making our small part of The Valley a more God honoring place.

Down here in The Valley, I am constantly made aware of how far I have to go to become the man God has called me to become and accomplish what I have been called to do. Seeing the discrepancies here can keep me humble. I say, “can,” because seeing the discrepancies in the wrong light may also rob me of the faith I need to continue my quest.

Humility has nothing to do with self-hatred and self-condemnation: these are soul-killers. They are not virtues. These attitudes don’t lift you up to God: they pull you away from Him. Self-hatred and condemnation are acts of the self, bashing the self, for not being God. Herein lies one of the great battles of your quests. As soon as you set out on the path dictated by your vision, as soon as you profess your quest to seek the Holy Grail, you begin encountering the Great Dragon, The Destroyer, The Accuser of God’s people.

The Valley of Humiliation
Once you leave the mountaintop where you experience God and see something of the vision of why you are here on earth, you wake up realizing you are living in what John Bunyan called, The Valley of Humiliation. To exacerbate your own awareness of and hatred for your failings, the Dragon is going to come around and rub your face in all the messes you have made of your life. He’s going to accuse you with the intention of destroying you. That’s the plan anyway.

You are nothing but caca. You have failed so many times in the past to live up to your code, to honor God in thought, word, and deed … all you are good at is failure. Let’s go back over every foul thing you have ever thought of doing and have done. People don’t love you because you are not worthy of love. In fact, you are unworthy of the quest.

The humiliation is crippling. And what do you say? It’s the truth!

The way through this battle may sound counter-intuitive at first, but it is the only way. You must turn humiliation into humility.

In Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, when Apollyon (The Destroyer) tics off the accusations against Christian, he replies, “All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out.” Or, in St Paul’s words, “Yep, I am not just any sinner, I am the chief of sinners.” Do you see the spiritual jujitsu here? You are taking the force of the enemy’s accusation and using it against him and for yourself. What you are saying to The Accuser is that, if walking with God and pursuing my calling depended on my perfection or worthiness, than I am undone. But it doesn’t. It all hangs on God’s grace in Christ.

The next time Apollyon starts mouthing off, hit him with, “Crikey, you don’t know the half of it. The stories I could tell you about my epic failures ... Gratefully, however, this isn’t about me. It’s about God’s love and grace for me. Scurry along now. I have work to do.” And the spell is broken.

Those who embrace the humiliations of their lives, owning these failures as truly and honestly theirs, and then turn and humbly offer all up to the God of Grace for His mercy and forgiveness, these are the ones God has promised to take by the hand and lead. When you are on a mountaintop you don’t sense any desperate need for God’s help in every facet of your life. When confronted with the realities of life and our very human nature while living down in The Valley, we know that we are road-kill without His grace and guiding hand. That’s a good place to be.  

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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