Humility Is Not Fun

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Let’s be honest.

So many of us have been fed a Jesus who is distant and stoic, but says the hard things when we need them to be said so that we can, you know, get back on course for a few hours. He’s not really taken seriously, and if he is, it’s in bits and pieces.  

The problem is, if we have a Jesus who is that easy to consume without a second thought, we’ve created a Jesus who doesn’t model the one written about in the gospels.

We want a Jesus who tells us things are easy, that we are always #blessed, that pain is never worth our time, that we get to live out our faith on our own terms with our own people. We want to be told that we don’t have to let go of our pride and that whoever gets in our way is the one to blame. We want Jesus to be the fun guy at the holiday parties.

Instead, Jesus was a rabble-rouser. He stirred things up and turned societal norms upside down. He had bruises and matted hair and callouses on his hands that only a carpenter might have. And when he told stories, they weren’t for entertainment, they weren’t children’s rhymes that we could tote along with us in case we got bored on a rainy day.

No, these were stories that hold up mirrors to our faces and our souls time and time again, asking what kind of people we actually are when it comes to caring for the oppressed and forgotten, when it comes to radical love.

Following Jesus isn’t really about having fun.

Sure, it’s about joy and laughter and knowing that we are loved so we can love others. 

But it’s about digging into our humanity, even and especially our pain, digging into the lives of the oppressed, getting honest about often white-washed history and constant societal injustices.

Being an advocate and an ally isn’t really fun, but it’s necessary.

Radical love requires something else that Jesus commands us to have. Humility. If being humble during a marital spat or family fight isn’t hard enough, we’re asked as followers of Jesus to be humble with our enemies, with people we don’t know, with our neighbors, with each other, with ourselves.

Jesus never said, “Hey people! So, we’re going be humble. And it’s going to be GREAT. And we’re going to have all the fun and get all the fame and money and power because of it, so buckle up because it’s going to be quite the ride!”

Instead, he says, “All of you, human just like I am human, let me tell you something. Humility hurts like hell. It’s going to put you on your face. It’s going to force you to say and do things that you really don’t want to do. It’s going to force you to look at yourself and ask who you are and who you want to be. But don’t give up. We are uncovering daily the Mysteries of God, and it’s worth it.”

But it hurts.

And it means a lot of really difficult conversations, like this one that Glennon Doyle Melton is having with white women while women like Layla Saad, a Black Muslim activist, are punished for speaking the same truth.

Glennon said it like this:

“I wonder how it feels to be a leader, writer, activist of color and watch a white woman like me earn praise for doing the same work that earns her condemnation.  I wonder how it feels to watch me be recognized for doing five percent of the work to which she’s dedicated her entire life.”

It definitely doesn’t feel like fun. And it forces us to recognize that the dose of humility we  each need is a little different from one another. What I need right now in my own skin and for my own soul is different from what you need. But we need each other to be honest about it.

It’s hard to be the voice speaking out, and even harder for women of color and indigenous women in America. And yet, we are a part of the gospel’s work if we follow Jesus, right? We are part of the world finding peace, right? We are part of the humble work, right?

It’s for all of us. All of us. And so, our job as allies to one another is to carry the burdens together in community.

Because no one should have to do the work of humility alone. 

Jesus wasn’t walking around with a fun wagon behind him, carnival songs blasting from its speakers. He wasn’t the life of the party. He healed people. He said hard things that knocked people off their feet and their high horses.

And he did it in community.

He was always sitting with the people who smell bad and look bad and don’t talk the way a “civilized” person should. He rubbed his bare skin on lepers and used mud to heal people. He told others to listen to the women, to the children, to those that are often considered disposable.

Jesus, who was human, laughed and breathed and cried and railed against a broken system like any person could.

But he did it humbly. He was a servant.

So when we look at him, we should feel the weight of the hard work ahead of us, because following this Jesus is more than getting a pat on the back and it’s more than getting a party mansion in some heavenly realm when we die.

Kingdom here, now, is about a humble trudge through the mud of what we’ve done to this earth and to each other, and how there are still sacred moments in all of it.

Humility is our faces close to the ground, so that we know what it’s like to be on the bottom, so that we know what it feels like to touch the earth. It’s not a party there, but it’s fullness.

Humility is the tool by which we walk this road, the tool by which we protest and we cry out for justice, just like Jesus did—Jesus the protestor, Jesus the prophet, Jesus the protector.

But here’s the beautiful truth. Humility is this fullness that we cannot possibly understand.

It’s the ability to say, “I am small, and I honor you,” while looking at a tree in the forest or watching the ocean, while looking another human being in the eye.

Humility is the way we get to one another and the way our stories do the work of teaching us what it means to love.

So while we learn who Jesus is, while we spend our days getting it wrong and getting it right and getting it wrong again, let’s remember that we weren’t called to just have fun, to take things lightly, or to live for the sake of political parties, blessedness, wealth, prosperity, or even people-pleasing.

We’re called into dying so that we may live, the very lesson taught to us throughout the seasons of the earth, as we tend to our gardens and hope to bear fruit.

We’re called to humility, because it brings us full circle to the person of Jesus, to that moment when we can honestly say that love is love is love and mean it from the bottom of our hearts.

“…which causes me to wonder, my own purpose on so many days as humble as the spider’s, what is beautiful that I make? What is elegant? What feeds the world?”

–Louise Erdrich





7 GRATITUDES at the end of the week


There are plenty of aspects to this week that left me tired and fretful, but this morning I remembered this beautiful act of resistance, started by my dear friend, Leanna. For a year, every Friday, she’s resisting by engaging gratitude, seven gratitudes for seven days of the week.

Let me tell you a little about this woman. She will speak and she won’t be silenced, and her voice, I believe, can move mountains. She is the friend that sat with me on our black couch as I unpacked the fresh news that I was going to really, truly, write a book, and she took it and held it and walked the journey with me with courage and grace.

So I follow her lead today, naming seven gratitudes of this week, and we ask you to join us, here in the comments or on Facebook or wherever your social community is, using #sevengratitudes — so what are you grateful for?

Here is what I find:

  1. VOICE. I’ve heard my toddlers protest with thousands of people and that’s no small act. It’s taught me that even the tiniest may speak, whether they are heard or not. Voice transcends boundaries of age, race, sex, religion– it is a powerful tool needed in this world. I’m writing a letter to Donald Trump every week, and this week I used my voice with pen on paper to send a message. It was one of the most powerful moments to put that in the mailbox and send it straight to him, a promise that my voice will not be silenced. fullsizerender-6
  2. THE FLASH. At night, we are tired, and we’re watching this superhero drama The Flash– and what gets to us is the powerful connection between a son and his father, who is wrongfully in prison, and their relationship with the dear friend who raised the boy from childhood. It speaks to relationships, and we could always use more of that, right?
  3. THE RESILIENCE OF MY PEOPLE. Despite everything that’s happened with memorandums or decrees or executive orders relating to pipelines, Standing Rock natives remain strong and peaceful, and I couldn’t be more proud of their prayerful resistance. I’ve never felt more connected, not just to my Potawatomi/Chickasaw/Cherokee people, but to native peoples and non-natives who genuinely care for this earth and her future.tipi
  4. OUR DINING ROOM TABLE. Yesterday, I asked the boys what they wanted to do, anything at all (besides watching cartoons). My oldest chose to color and play with Legos, and my youngest chose the same. We spent the morning at the dining room table, mostly quiet, mostly in our own worlds, but thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. I read to them from Little Men while they played on the living room floor. I watched them again last night at dinner, watched them as they named imaginary superheroes names like “Witch Toot,” laughing their little heads off while my world spun like mad inside me. They had raw and high strung emotions yesterday, because they’ve felt it and seen it on our faces this week. They know what a protest is, they know what is right and wrong, what hurts and heals. I’ve had to explain to them why we might be on our phones/computers more lately, that we’re trying to pay attention to some of the news of this week. They were raw yesterday because we’ve been raw. But that table is a sacred space, a safe space for all of us. I see fire inside of them, the same fire that’s been lit in me. They create the world every single day that they breathe and ask all those questions. They create the world because they are the world, and this old table reminds me of that. fire
  5. MY HUSKY’S HOWL. Any time I hear a siren, no matter where I am in my city, I hear my old husky howl. As small a thing as this is, he is our kind constant, an old, stoic Siberian who watches our world and protects us in it, a kind and gracious comforter.
  6. CANDLE FLAME. I lit candles in my house one morning, sort of holding a vigil of prayer and quiet for this week.  Today we are cleaning, cleaning out what’s old, clearing dishes away, celebrating my husband’s birthday, making space to breathe. And I’ll light my candles and their tiny flames will remind me that light is meant to be kept and shone, and it cannot be put out. fullsizerender-5
  7. MARY. I grew up watching Nick at Night. If you’ve watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show, you’ll understand the significance of my sister naming one of her daughters Rhoda. The Dick Van Dyke ShowI Love Lucy, and others, for some reason, kept me safe in this womb of nostalgia that I couldn’t understand. I watched an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show yesterday afternoon, remembering those moments as a child when everything was breaking around me– I was safe with these women in their homes. As a beautiful soul from this world has gone, so we make way for more beauty to come forth from her legacy.

There now, that was therapeutic for me. So what about you?

Finally, I leave you with a Wendell Berry poem, and pray that you close out your week with less grief and more joy, with less boxed in stress and more of the great outdoors and what she can teach you:

“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.