Money-Back Guaranteed Recipe for Humility 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 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"

Beginning My Tribute to Dallas Willard

photo-4 copy I never met Dallas Willard, though I came embarrassingly close in 2009. (My wife arranged through a friend to have the book pictured above signed and sent to us.) He was my hero, and though I had been reading and re-reading his stuff for a decade at that point, plus listening to any recording of him that I could get my hands on, I had never heard him speak in person. Then, it happened that I had moved back to Texas and Renovaré was going to have its international conference in San Antonio that year, so I was eager to go and sign up for anything that had Dallas' name on it.

One way I did that was that I signed up to be a participant in a breakfast where he was going to speak, and to my joy I ended up in the buffet line right behind him. It wasn't to my joy that the person in front of him in the line was apparently just as happy as I was to have an opportunity to talk to him, and that person was apparently much more extroverted than me, and therefore had plenty to say. Even though I was standing right next to Dallas at that moment, I wasn't having a very Dallas-ish attitude toward that person and even invented a term for them in my mind: conversation hog. (If you're as introverted as I am, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you're as extroverted as I am introverted, you probably are one without even knowing it, but my attitude is better toward you now.)

After we waited through the line and got to the point of putting food on our plates, the–um–extravert apparently either ran out of things to say or became more focused on food selection. So, it was my chance. Among all of the people on the planet with whom I had never spoken, I was standing next to the human being with whom I most wanted to have a conversation, and I said absolutely nothing. In my mind, I wanted to give him a conversation break from the previous fifteen minutes. But actually, I guess it had to do more with my introversion taking over and I couldn't come up with anything appropriate to say while standing there next to the scrambled eggs and muffins.

Dallas died of cancer this week, and I've spent more time than ever before thinking about my time standing behind him in the breakfast buffet line in San Antonio. I haven't thought about it with regret about not saying anything; I still don't know what words I would have used. I certainly could not have conveyed my gratitude to him very well while also trying to allow him to choose between blueberry or banana nut. More than anything, I've just been grateful for the opportunity to have heard him in person which only added to his influence on me.

But the news of his death has been harder for me than I expected. I knew that he had been sick, and I knew that it would be a sad day for me when the day of his passing would come. Even though I expected it to be sad, because I never met him and didn't know him personally, I didn't expect it to have as much of a sense of real grief for me as it has.

I haven't really even wanted to talk to anyone about it, because it seems like it would sound silly to admit that I'm in mourning for someone with whom the closest I ever came to personal contact was that he might have handed me the muffin tongs. Thankfully though, my wife gets it–she knows how much Dallas influenced me, and she was able to help me see the issue for what it was the night that he died, while I was surprised at how hard of a time I was having with it.

She said, "You've lost both of your heroes." She was right. There are a group of people whom I sometimes describe as being "among my heroes," but only two men that I have referred to with words like, "he is my hero": Dallas and my Dad.

So I've given myself permission to grieve over Dallas, while also–alongside so many others–experiencing deep gratitude for his life and teaching. The day that he died, I had a sense of, "I have to write something about him," but I tried to start a couple of times and nothing good was coming out. I just couldn't figure out where to start, where to try to end up, or what to do in between to try to point at the extent to which Dallas' teaching has been helpful in shaping my life with God.

Then, again, my wife was very helpful and suggested that I write a series of posts communicating things I learned from him. Writing stories of my dad's life has been incredibly helpful to me since his death, and though my third-person experiences with Dallas are obviously of very different nature than my life with my Dad, I think I can tell some good stories about things Dallas has taught me through the years.

So, much more to come about life with God and how Dallas helped me into it.