A friend used to joke about having been given a button to wear on his shirt that said "HUMBLE". He said that it even came with blinking lights on it. That friend, who–despite his "humble button" joke–is one of the most humble people I know, remains one of the people I have continued to go to through more than a decade when I'm seeking God's guidance on something. When I need others to help me discern God's leading, we intuitively don't go to ego-driven people. Our instincts tell us that there may be nothing that squelches someone's ability to hear from God more than pride.
In a section of Hearing God, Dallas Willard wrote about this, and then–as wasn't uncommon when I read his writings or listened to him speak–he threw in this paragraph as something of a side-note even though it alone was worth the price of the book:
"In seeking and receiving God's word to us, therefore, we must at the same time seek and receive the grace of humility. God will gladly give it to us if, trusting and waiting on him to act, we refrain from pretending we are what we know we are not, from presuming a favorable position for ourselves in any respect and from from pushing or trying to override the will of others in our context. (This is a fail-safe recipe for humility. Try it for one month. Money-back guarantee if it doesn't work!)"(1)
In case you didn't catch it, there's plenty for us to chew on for...at least a couple of decades. The first thing that catches my attention is that humility is a grace. That probably doesn't sound counter-intuitive to many of us, but yet we certainly aren't trained to live as if it's true. Grace is God's undeserved action in our lives to bring about what we can't accomplish on our own, and if we apply that to humility, it means that God's work is furthered more when we become humble. (So, pastor friends, where are our seminary courses in "The Necessity Of and Path Toward Humility"?)
Then, Dallas' three-point recipe for humility is brilliant (and even though I'm sitting here writing about how great it is, I'm not particularly looking forward to going and putting it into practice). First, he says, "refrain from pretending we are what we know we are not." How many of our ways that we interact with one another would fall apart if our ability to pretend suddenly disappeared? Think of going to your next professional convention and presenting yourself as being as unsuccessful as you really are.
Then, "refrain...from presuming a favorable position for ourselves in any respect." What if, instead of being urged to stand out and get noticed as part of what it means to be a competent adult, we took it as our goal to get no credit for as much good work as possible?
And finally, perhaps the most radical part of the recipe, "refrain...from pushing or trying to override the will of others in our context." But he can't seriously mean...think of all of the kinds of things that might happen to us if we actually did that!?! What if we refused to fight for our own agendas? People around us will certainly continue to do it, so wouldn't we be conceding victory on everything that matters to...everyone but us?
While listening to a podcast from Dallas today, I heard him say, "The biggest threat to the kingdom of God in my life is the kingdom of Dallas Willard. I have to lay that aside. That means that I don't expect things to be done by my power. I expect things to be done by God's power."(2)
In that light, it becomes apparent that a humility-blocking issue for me is that I simply don't trust God and his kingdom that much. I think things are way too much up to me, and honestly–it raises fear in me to think about what things would be like if I abandoned the outcomes of things I care about in that complete of a way to God's hands.
But, based on the course my life has taken to this point, that fear should appropriately go in the opposite direction. Virtually everything genuinely good about my life has come about as a result of things I could not have orchestrated on my own, while everything I have tried to seize control of has gone crashing down. Rather than fearing what might happen if I lived Dallas' humility recipe, perhaps I should spend some time thinking about what might happen if I don't.
(1) Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God, p. 38 (1999 InterVarsity Press edition) (2) From August 14, 2011 Tree of Life Community Podcast, "Being Church (10): Dallas Willard" https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/being-church-10-dallas-willard/id453093989?i=124909144&mt=2