Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:3-4
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
This series is for women to share what they are learning to spiritually clothe themselves with, how they choose to adorn their heart, and what they choose to put on because of their desire to be precious in God’s sight.
Introducing my sweet friend, Ansley, with some words on humility.
One of my gifts by which people often know me is my singing voice. I have been performing in front of folks for various occasions since a pretty young age, and I can remember very clearly my parents teaching me how to respond to compliments with—in a word—humility. My young mind learned to equate being humble with not thinking that I was “the best” at any one particular thing—or at least not making it incredibly obvious when I really did believe that I was pretty great.
Humility meant saying “thank you” in a convincing way and/or awkwardly refuting praise.
How thankful I am for what God has been teaching me about genuine humility in the past several months!
A few years ago, I did a Bible study on the book of Ruth. (Ruth: Loss, Love, & Legacy by Kelly Minter is a great one if you haven’t done it before!) This was around a time when I was really questioning the path my life had taken so far. How had I come to my current career? Why wasn’t I using my more “impressive” gift? Why did I feel invalidated without the steady stream of praise I had learned to crave so desperately? The entire Ruth study was full of so much revelation about the sacrifice of Christ and what service to God really looks like.
The most encouraging piece of truth for me was the realization that Ruth’s life on earth wasn’t marked by anything particularly great, but as a result of her unquestioning devotion and her servant’s heart (in short, her humility) her legacy was incredibly important (Obed… David…Solomon…Jesus Christ). “Wait — does this mean that even a seemingly unremarkable life can have remarkable consequences for the Kingdom?”
For a couple of years following that study I buried this quote from the book:
“What she knew was faithful obedience and love to God during her earthly years would affect things long after she was gone, even if she never got to see how.”
I convinced myself that as long as I found ways to trust, serve, and obey God (in a manner that suited my preferences, of course), that my life would be important. That I would be important. That maybe someday people would look back and trace truly important events to the faithfulness of Ansley Evans. This wasn’t really a conscious thought process, but it happened. I had twisted what was meant to be an uplifting reminder into a self-glorifying goal that had the appearance of righteousness.
My intentions were not to humble myself before the Lord or before others. I wanted to believe that I would be great even if people didn’t talk about it. I wanted to be discreetly great.
I was still the young girl who tried to pretend that she didn’t want people to be impressed by her.
I reached a point where I really began to question God about what in the world I was doing with my life. About what He was doing with my life?! I wanted to feel like I was the best in my line of work, and I didn’t. I wanted a stream of praise about what a difference I was making in particular situations—situations that I prayed through and cried about and labored over and cried and prayed some more. But that praise just wasn’t coming. I finally decided that I must be in the wrong career. Where was the glory? I knew how to pretend that I didn’t want it, but where were the opportunities to feign humility? I began to pray fervently for the Lord to show me what my next move should be, because obviously I wasn’t cut out for where He had me.
I had been working my way through some of the books written by Paul and was slowly realizing that truly humble service to the Lord had nothing at all to do with me. And then God began sealing this understanding into my heart.
“It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. What do I really count dear? If I have not been gripped by Jesus Christ, I will count service dear, time given to God dear, my life dear unto myself. Paul says he counted his life dear only in order that he might fulfill the ministry he had received; he refused to use his energy for any other thing. Practical work may be a competitor against abandonment to God, because practical work is based on this argument—Remember how useful you are here, or—Think how much value you would be in that particular type of work.” Oswald Chambers
[But I actually do know where I would be most useful, God.]
And then the Lord reminded me of an anecdote my pastor shared several years ago about a girl he encountered with an interesting tattoo. “ God > ” was the inscription on her arm. When he asked her about it, she explained that it was a reminder that “God is greater than ….” You fill in the blank. Now, I don’t intend to get a tattoo any time soon, but if I did, it would probably be this one. What a life-changing revelation. God is greater.
He is greater than my doubt.
He is greater than my selfishness.
He is greater than my often-times-unyielding desire for control.
His thoughts are greater than my thoughts.
His plans are greater than my plans.
It was suddenly so clear to me that what I think of myself is so inferior to what God thinks of me. I am not called to receive earthly accolades.
I am certainly not called to manage my ego with thoughts of superiority or inferiority. These seem like obvious truths for a Christian, but they are truths that I had really never fully learned.
I am still learning.
Even as I write, I worry that my words won’t be “poetic” enough to be deemed worthy by the reader. But God is greater than my words.
Just this weekend, as I gathered my thoughts to share how I am learning to clothe myself with humility, the Lord graciously intervened with this passage from Oswald Chambers:
“After every time of exaltation we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they are where it is neither beautiful nor poetic nor thrilling. The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mount, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our true worth to God; that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at the heroic pitch because of the natural selfishness of our hearts, but God wants us at the drab commonplace pitch, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship to Him. Peter thought it would be a fine thing for them to remain on the mount, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the mount into the valley, the place where the meaning of the vision is explained.”
God, thank you for being greater than I am. Thank you for opportunities to learn and re-learn that without you I am not much to speak of. Help me to humble myself before others but more importantly before You. Help me to receive the ministries You have given and will give to me with a glad heart and with complete surrender to the belief that Your goodness is far greater than anything that I could plan or conceive. Humiliate me, Father, so that I may learn more about what You would have me do for Your Kingdom…not for my own acclaim or legacy, but for Yours, God. You are worthy. You are greater. Amen.