How does humility actually impact our daily walk? Does it make as big of a difference as Murray claims? Let’s consider the impact of grasping just one aspect of humility: dependence.
Murray states, “the relation of the creature to God could only be one of unceasing, absolute, universal dependence” (Kindle loc. 17). Think about that for a moment. As created beings, we depend on God every single second of the day, for every single thing we do, in every single area of our lives. There is never a time when we are not utterly dependent on God. God provides the gravitation that keeps you in the chair, the electrical impulse that pumps your heart, and the ability of your mind to tell your hand to scratch that itch on your left shoulder blade (if you can reach it). This idea of complete dependence is consistent throughout the scriptures. Although the contexts and applications are very different, a few phrases stick out in my mind.
Jesus “Apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15).
James “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
Paul: “Rather, [God] himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25b)
Paul (paraphrased). “Name one good thing you have that you didn’t receive as a gift. I dare you.” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Recognizing this dependence on God lies at the heart of humility. God is the all-provider and we are the all-receivers.
So what does this have to do with humility in our relationships with others? Let me first offer an outline of my thinking and then I’ll try to pour some gravy on to fill it out and give it some flavor.
- People are weak and mess up. This often frustrates us.
- Often the most destructive part of our frustration has nothing to do with how the person actually messed up. Rather the relational breakdown flows from the superiority-complex that says, “Well I would have…”
- True humility destroys this superiority complex, reminds us that we ourselves are utterly reliant on God for everything, and fills us with grace toward the one who messed up.
Consider for a moment the source of many of your daily frustrations, grumblings, and arguments. How often are they related to the shortcomings of others? You spouse forgot the most important thing on the grocery list…or forgot about the shopping trip entirely. Your coworker made the mess but you’re the one with the mop in your hand. The dude at the drive-thru apparently put together your meal with a blindfold on, possibly while sleepwalking. Your child forgot the difference between the potty and the bed sheets…again. People mess up and you have to deal with it.
But here’s the clincher. “If it had been up to me, we wouldn’t be in this mess…” so the thinking goes. Sin is crouching at the door licking its lips. How do we move forward?
That depends on how we see ourselves and how we see God. It depends on whether we’ve embraced humility, whether we see ourselves as utterly dependent. Do we exist with a dependence on Another that is “unceasing, absolute, universal”, or are we self-sufficient conquerors who only wish the rest of the world could be a little bit more like us? The answer makes all the difference.
Think about it; the kid in the wheelchair probably won’t sneer at the slow kid in gym class. The nursing home resident who needs help to get a bath will be slow to cluck his tongue at the smelly visitor. The girl riding on the stretcher won’t gossip about her friend that tripped and fell. When you know the only reason you’re moving is because someone is carrying you, a different perspective arises.
This doesn’t mean that everyone get’s a free pass for every shortcoming. Mistakes have consequences and we may need to confront the shortcomings of others. But the boss’s lecture to the late employee will have a different flavor if the boss is certain that he himself got out of bed with a beating heart and a functioning mind only because of the kind provision of his God. And the conversation in the kitchen will have a sweeter tone if the wife remembers that the only reason she could write the list that her husband forgot is by the sheer grace of God. And the ten thousand same-but-different scenarios that you’ll face like this could add up to a lot of happy relationships and a glowing testimony to the goodness of God and the beauty of humility.
Much more could be said on this topic. But for now, may we remember that we exist in “unceasing, absolute, universal dependence” on God. That attitude has a sweet and salty flavor to it.