I got this question today from a friend. How do you personally stay humbled, but not feel guilty? Like stay away from self-righteousness but feel confident?
And that's the first time in a while that I've been just outright asked a question like that, about living as a believer. I think this one is a very important question, though, and it's one I've definitely struggled with, as well as one I think all believers have to figure out at some point along their walk.
I won't even bother getting into my initial reaction of shock that someone thought I was worth going to for advice (because Lord knows that topic's been beaten into the ground on this blog and in several other places). Instead, I want to talk about what I've said to this friend tonight.
"I remind myself every time I start to get arrogant that any gifts I have to share with others, any ways that I've been able to help others, is because the Lord gave me those gifts and set me up in those situations. I hold on tight to John 15:5 - 'apart from me, you can do nothing.' I think the root of the problem, for all of us, is when you lose sight of your identity. Arrogance comes when you forget that you were made by God, and that He knows you better than you know yourself. When you remember that you are God's first, you put yourself second to that. Don't shy away from who you are and what you can do, just keep the reminder of the One who made it all possible at the forefront."
And when they asked me if it ever got easier...
"It depends on how long it takes you to realize there's a lesson to go along with it and to pay attention to that lesson. It's always gonna sting, humans are prideful little things, but you'll learn more and more that it's worth it. He's pruning you, bud."
When they said they hoped it didn't take so long for them to get it next time...
"It's okay if it does. You're gonna get it wrong, far more times than you would like, but His grace will cover you. He won't love you any less or any differently whether it takes you one more time to figure it out or a thousand more."
The funny thing is...while I wrote these things aiming to help that friend, there were lessons in the words I had for him for me, too. In fact, I could apply those lessons to this very situation of answering a question that my friend had for me. Sometimes, when people come to me for help, afterwards, I can feel really good about myself that I was able to help them, or that they wanted me to help them, or that they needed me at all. And I get to ride that high for a while...until it backfires. Until the time that I give my advice in a place it wasn't wanted. Until the time that I give my advice, people follow it, and things get ugly.
If I don't want to get the blame when things go wrong, I don't get to seek the credit when things go right.
We all have gifts and talents, yes. But they're things the Lord gave us. And just like everything else that we are blessed with in this life, God didn't just decide to give them to us for our own benefit and pleasure. We have them so that we can serve better. Serve our friends. Serve strangers. But most of all, serve HIM. The balance of humility and confidence, I believe, lies in the knowledge that we can do good things, and we should, but in doing those things, we are also tasked with the responsibility of keeping our hearts in the right place.
It's not about us. It was never about us. It's about what He does through each of us, individually and together, to further His kingdom, to bring others to Him, to help believers fall more in love with Him each and every day until we're dancing together in Heaven.
We need to keep that in mind, but we're not always going to. And the good news is that God already knows we're going to forget. And He loves us just the same! I've found that the ones who are willing to admit where they get it wrong and where they fall short are the ones who bring the most awesome glory to God. We can't hate ourselves when we get it wrong, and we shouldn't! Because of what Jesus did, we can boast about our weaknesses and our falls, because that is where God's glory shines. His power is made perfect in our weakness. There is the grace we need to let go of the shame!
Praise be to God.