Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I’m Certifiably Humble

I was once awarded a Certificate of Humility.

I’ll bet you can’t say that. In fact, I may well be the only person on the face of the planet to have one.

You probably wonder how one earns a Certificate of Humility. So let me, with all humility, tell you how I earned mine.

A long time ago, in a Georgia far, far away, I was one participant in a group of six pastors who met from time to time. This was during a time when the Georgia Baptist Convention, of which all the churches we pastored were members, was undergoing either a “conservative resurgence” or a “fundamentalist takeover” (which it was depended on your vantage point. It was the latter, but I digress).

Baptist pastor meetings weren’t unusual during those days. Pastors from both “sides” would meet to pray for the future of the convention, which they left in God’s hands—right after they had done all of the plotting and planning they could do to ensure their side had more votes at the next annual meeting than the other side did—you know, just to help God out. I confess to having participated in a meeting or two of that sort before some pretty serious spiritual nausea got in the way.

The group of six about which I’m telling you was different. We saw it as our mission to try to find ways to help the convention develop and maintain a more Christian approach to the matters at hand. We wanted to lead the convention to be more Christ-like in our attitudes and actions. We called ourselves the “Guardians of Humility.”

In our pursuit of humility, we maintained a sense of humor.

As I was preparing to leave Georgia in the summer of 1993 to become a college professor (at a cut in salary, I might add, thereby further proving my humility), I met with the Guardians one last time. It was at that farewell session that my fellow Guardians presented me with my Certificate of Humility. My humility won’t allow me to share with you everything the certificate says about me. I will tell you that it describes me as “a modest, though faithful, peaceful, though assertive, gentle, though aggressive, modest, though clever, humble servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

My reception of a Certificate of Humility presented me with a dilemma. How could I display a certificate that honored me for my humility and still maintain said humility? After all, Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before others, in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). My brothers had honored me by recognizing my humility, but if I publicly displayed their acknowledgement—of which I was, with all due humility, rather proud—then I would be swapping the reward of God for the praise of people. And given the fact that as a pastor, a professor, and then a pastor again, people were always in my office, to hang it on the wall was to want it to be seen by them.

As Brother Johnny Cash sang in his hymn “A Boy Named Sue,” “What could I do? What could I do?”

So I did the only thing I could do. I kept my Certificate of Humility, my unique prize, hidden away in drawers and boxes for the next twenty-two years.

Now I have given up the spotlight of the pastorate and all the adulation that comes with it. I have traded all of that power and fame for the lonely, quiet, monk-like life of an editor whose only job is to work my mind, spirit, and fingers to the point of exhaustion to provide quality Bible study materials for thousands of people, most of whom I’ll never meet. (You know, when you stop and think about it, it was really a rather humble thing to do.)

And I have hung my Certificate of Humility on the wall of my little office.

It’s ok, though. Nobody but my coworkers ever comes in here anyway. They already know how humble I am, and they’re proud of me for it . . .

1 comment:

John D. Pierce said...

Belated congratulations. And any post with a Johnny Cash quote is a good one.