Tag Archive | Mere Christianity

What’s Your Tell?

To even get near humility, even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. ~ C.S. Lewis

Looking for a humble person? Look for their tell.

A tell is a repetitive behavior or mannerism or a part of our demeanor that sends out non-verbal clues about the nature of our thoughts or feelings. A tell reveals something hidden. Poker players specialize in learning to read and mislead with tells.

We all have tells. Funny, for the longest time, I wanted my tell to be humility but I couldn’t figure out how to send the signal. I thought of humility as something I could attain by landing midway between self-deprecating and self-promoting.

But humility isn’t a self hyphenated state. The humble person doesn’t think of himself as humble. As Lewis says, the humble person will not be thinking about himself at all.

I doubt if a humble person is often told they’re humble. They’re just thought of as someone who who seems to enjoy life so easily; a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

I’ve met only a few humble folks in my life. If they’re reading this, they have no idea I’m talking about them. And that is their tell.

Restoration

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.  ~C.S. Lewis

To be honest, if God asked, most of my life I’d have been content to be made into a decent little cottage. I was willing to see what I showed. From all appearances, it seemed to be a neat and tidy place with a leak or two and a few cracks in the plaster. But He saw the neglect; the rot and the decay I continued to putty and paint over.

He walked among the shards of promises unmet and unkept. He stepped into the wreckage of my self-worth and neglected gifts and piece by piece began the work of rebuilding. He didn’t bring in a bulldozer. That would have been my vote. Instead He took upon Himself the tedious task of restoration.

There have been times when I thought the pain was too heavy for these weak walls, but in those moments, God always added a support beam. Board by board and brick by brick, He’s rebuilding His dwelling, true to the original schematics.

That’s grace.

Hatch or Go Bad (revised)

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~ C.S. Lewis

Did you ever hide Easter Eggs inside on a rainy Easter Sunday and come up one short? You quit looking after a while. Then, a week or two later, there’s a smell like something has died under the sofa cushion. It’s a natural process: hide it, lose it, ignore it, forget about it and in time, it goes bad.

Hatching is harder. At the tip of a baby bird’s beak is a hard point called an ‘egg tooth’. When the bird starts to hatch, it uses this egg tooth to poke through the shell. It takes all of the muscles the tiny bird has to get out. But if it stays in its shell, it will surely ‘go bad’.

There are days I don’t feel like coming out of my shell. On an emotional level, if I’m feeling something negative, my instinct is to hide it, ignore it or deny it. I rebel against my own feelings. I thought I’d gotten better. I think I was just going through a smooth patch.  A flash of anger or pain (physical or emotional) and I still try to sit on it, stuffing it back in my shell.

It isn’t even that I don’t know how to appropriately express those emotions. I taught it for 25 years. I taught it, but I didn’t practice it much. Here’s the problem: it gets so crowded with me and all those feeling in such tight quarters. It’s certainly not a place to fly. I have to break out or break down.

What are the options: hatch or go bad!

(Part of this was in my first post. 3 months later, I’ve rewritten it as God, in His grace, continues to reveal my need.)

Humble Is as Humble Does

Don’t imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap, who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. ~ C.S. Lewis

Humility doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention in Christian circles. We talk about so many things. We talk about love and grace and faith and money. We talk about the Word, the causes and the candidates. We talk about other denominations, other points of view and other people. We talk.

If we’re interested in following the One who humbled himself beyond our ability to comprehend, C.S. Lewis offers a few pointers.

1. Begin by acknowledging you aren’t. Anyone who considers himself to be humble, is amazingly vain.

2. However interesting your thoughts and ideas and stories might be, find those of others more interesting.

3. Read, think, pray and play so that your cheerful encounters with people add bits of light and insight.

4. Forget about yourself. Don’t think about your hair, your clothes, your weight, your point, or your wit. Be so preoccupied with the thoughts and hearts of others that you just forget to think about yourself altogether.

Humility goes without saying.

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