The Power of Humility

Good morning from Managua Nicaragua! Around this time last week we experienced a pretty significant earthquake so it is nice to have a little more peace this Wednesday morning. Later, I will address the earthquake a little more.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to experience some very memorable moments. I believe, at times, being in a place that is outside of your norm allows you to see things that are “below the surface”. This has been true for me many times in Nicaragua, but especially over the past two weeks. Over the course of my life, I have heard many times the importance, both as a Christian and a human being, of being humble. Whether through clever sayings I learned as a kid or Bible verses such as Philippians 2:3 which says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (NIV 1984), this concept has been drilled into my mind. However, as is true with many pieces of information, it hasn’t always translated to my life. I can remember many times in my life when I have read Matthew 23:12, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (NIV 1984), and thought, “I really need to live like that” and then proceeded to tell someone how great I was. I have even experienced the consequences of “thinking too highly of myself” and been embarrassed after that thought process led me to do something foolish. Despite all of this, I still find myself “learning the hard way” when it comes to being humble.

Sometimes, we can better see the value of something when we are observing it from afar. That has been my experience over the past two weeks when it comes to humility. About a week and a half ago, a team came in from the United States to host a Quinceanera for eleven girls who live at the Puente de Amistad orphanage in El Canyon. If you are not familiar with the word “Quinceanera”, it is a very important rite of passage for Latin American girls and symbolizes a fourteen year-old girl moving into womanhood on her fifteenth birthday. Typically, a Quinceanera party is a major event, but, because of limited resources, this may not have been a possibility for these girls. This is where New Hope, an organization and church that has done a lot for the people of Nicaragua, stepped in. Over the course of three or four months, the girls and New Hope planned a fantastic Quinceanera party that culminated with the arrival of the team and, of course, the special night two days later. Going into the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was quite the celebration and planned out to the smallest detail. What left the biggest impression on me was the way the team from New Hope went about the evening. It would have been easy for them to celebrate themselves and the incredible evening that couldn’t have happened without them, but instead they made it about the girls, the people who care for the girls on a daily basis and, most importantly, the Lord. Additionally, the party could have exalted the girls in such a way that they could have become completely self-focused. It was quite the opposite. From the things they said to the girls, to the gifts they were given, the girls were pointed toward Christ and the importance of honoring and relying on Him. By putting others above themselves and ultimately God above everyone, New Hope used the power of humility to have an impact on the lives of eleven young women and, I would venture to guess, everyone who came to the party. By living out the saying “it’s not about me”, the team from New Hope had more power than they ever would have had by exalting themselves.

The morning after the Quinceanera party, was a Sunday so, as usual, I and my friend Micah who was in town attended church in El Canyon at the small Baptist church pastored by Pastor Josue. As we thought would be the case, the team from New Hope also attended the service. Approximately midway through the service, Bill Luallen, one of the leaders of New Hope, went to the front of the church and asked Pastor Josue to sit down. I had no idea what was going on until I saw a tub of water and a towel in front of the chair on which Pastor Josue was sitting. Through the help of a translator, Bill proceeded to tell Pastor Josue that he was going to wash his feet in the same way that Pastor Josue had washed the feet of Bill’s son on a previous trip.  Bill then proceeded to kneel before Pastor Josue, remove his shoes, and wash his feet.  Bill, a successful businessman in the United States, turned the world on its head by humbling himself before Pastor Josue in a small church in a poor village, forgotten by much of the world.  It was a neat picture of what Christ called His followers to do as he washed the disciples’ feet shortly before going to the Cross.  In front of Nicaraguans and his friends from the United States, Bill activated the power of humility by recognizing that we are all the same under Christ.  This gesture of humility and love was brought on by another one, Pastor Josue washing the feet of Bill’s son.  Who knows what will come from this small act of service, but I believe real power that could make a difference in this world was created in that moment. 

I also observed the power of humility in the way my good friend Micah loved the kid of Puente de Amistad.  Instead of positioning himself as the “rich American” coming in from the United States to save the poor children, he came as a fellow Creation of God who genuinely loves and is interested in the lives of people.  This perspective not only changed the way he saw the kids at Puente de Amistad, it also changed the way they saw him and allowed him to love them and speak into their lives in a way that he wouldn’t have been able to if he didn’t humble himself. 

In addition to observing humility, I had the opportunity to experience how small I was when the ground started moving last Wednesday morning.  While Micah and I were eating breakfast at a restaurant in San Juan del Sur, a beach town close to the southern border of Nicaragua, a powerful earthquake struck an area in Costa Rica approximately 100 miles from our location.  While this may sound like a pretty good distance, it is relatively small for an earthquake of this magnitude.  As we watched the floor move and the building shake, we were reminded that we aren’t in control.  This was reinforced by the tsunami warning that was issued shortly thereafter.  Since we were in a beach community, we decided to head back to Managua.  Thankfully, the tsunami warning was nothing more than that and the damage from the earthquake was relatively minor in Nicaragua.  At the same time, it showed Micah and I how little control we actually have over our lives and the world in general.

So, what is the power of humility?  In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 verses 9 and 10, Paul states, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV 1984).  I believe the power of humility is that when we, if we are in a relationship with Christ, humble ourselves, Christ, through the Holy Spirit, shines through us.  When this happens, it is no longer our limited human minds and bodies that are acting, but the God of the Universe.  Suddenly, we can love people, care for people, bring about change and make a difference in a way that we never could on our own.  This type of power is only possible when our human selves aren’t in the way, and that can only happen when we live humbly.  As Paul says, there is great power in weakness; we just have to be brave enough to be humble.

What are you going to choose today? The true power that only comes from humility or the cheap imitation found in self-righteousness? The choice is yours.

-James Belt

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