I make brownies all the time but this week made some that came out like rocks. All the measurements were right and the temperature of the oven was ok, but I was in a hurry and cut a few corners and mixed everything together all at once. That small difference made them a far cry from what they could have been. (But don’t worry, they got eaten anyway!)
I’ve been in my current job as a chaplain to university students for nearly 3 years now. It’s a role that I love but it occurred to me this week that maybe I was starting to find it too ‘easy’. When I first started, having a deep conversation with a student was a marvel to me. Students turning up to something I organised was a miraculous sign of grace. And every day I truly knew that there was no way I could pull off the job on my own strength.
When I pause now, I still feel the same way. However, these things have become such a regular part of my life that if I’m not careful I’ll forget how impossible they are and begin to act and then believe that I’ve done them by myself.
I’ve been reminding myself that there is something about being aware of our limitations and desperate for God’s help that opens up our eyes and hearts to see the wonder around us. It’s about recognising who we are, neither greater than nor less than who God has made us to be.
A memory has popped into my head of something that happened to me when I was 19 years old and working in a summer camp in California. An elderly couple approached me and said that they felt that they had a Bible passage that was for me. This hadn’t happened to me before and so it felt significant. The passage was from the book of Isaiah and was about God looking to those who are humble. I can remember feeling puzzled by it at the time.
Maybe it takes a really long time to work out the beauty of humility. My 19 year old self didn’t know, that although I would make mistakes, good would still come from them. She probably hadn’t yet learned the deep healing that comes from being really sorry. And she wouldn’t know how much she would rely on God on all the adventures to come.
I wonder if some of our best work is done when we step aside anyway. This week some colleagues and I hosted a meal that drew together students with different beliefs and backgrounds. All we had to do was serve the food and stand back and be amazed by the way God’s kingdom was so obviously in front of us. In all honesty, we didn’t do anything.
I have no doubt that life will keep me humble (even if that reminder comes through baking disasters) but what I want to hold onto from this week is the reminder that this is how God works. God who is prepared to join us as a baby. God who gives up dignity and status for the sake of Love.
Really well said, Karen. Murf and I always felt that missions life, where everything is by definition harder (different culture, different language, fewer resources) was a permanent laboratory of humility, because we felt stupid and inadequate all the time. There were daily reminders. We didn’t stay out long enough to get comfortable with it and feel like “we can do this.” I was glad that we didn’t.