Friday, October 23, 2009

Humility to the Max

The CD player in the car is pumping out favorite music, and careless you forget to watch the speedometer. Flashing lights in the rearview mirror, signal time to pull to the shoulder of the road, submitting to a governing authority.

I’ve experienced several of these submissions. Long ago on the first day I drove with my new driver’s license, the standard Fairlane and I hopped and jerked across a road in front of a Conroe Police officer. The concerned officer wanted to know if anything was wrong. “Nothing’s wrong, officer—just not used to this clutch.”

We are called to submit every day to familiar faces and strangers. I witnessed an altercation in a parking lot the other day when one man on his cell phone walked behind a moving car. The driver gave a friendly honk and the walker exploded into expletives, which brought about words of challenge from the driver. After verbal sparring, the driver simply drove away and parked in a different area and went into the store. I later encountered him whistling. He gave up the fight, submitted, and seemed happier for it.

Submission is the topic this week. Our goals when practicing the spiritual disciplines is not to gain the discipline itself, but rather learn from the practice. If the discipline of silence is practiced just to be silent. It serves no purpose. If the discipline of submission is practiced to be more “religious” than others, then no one benefits.

Submission is simply a readiness to yield to another person, and it is probably one of the most difficult of all disciplines. People want to have the last word. Defend their actions. Make sure their way is promoted and practiced. The prevailing attitude is if you don’t agree with me, then I will not tolerate or consider any ideas from you. Arguments ensue.

Submission is based in self-denial. But self-denial is not rooted in hatred of self, rather it is deeply rooted in humility, giving others the benefit of the doubt, having an unassuming attitude, and dishing out understanding and grace in huge portions. A great lesson on submission was set forth when Jesus gave up his place with God, to become human and take on the task of imaging servant-God on earth. (Philippians 2).

The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus gave us an exact representation of God (1:3). It may seem strange to think of God as submissive servant, but serving is God’s most exact representation. His rain falls on the just and unjust. His power allows both the wicked and righteous to breathe in and breathe out, every second.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). When we become a servant like Jesus, willing to take last place, then we too are portraying God to our fellow travelers. Eugene Peterson says although Jesus spoke of a kingdom and a reign, he lived a life of service to others.

Submitting to just governing authorities may be the easiest area of submission because we can face fines or jail time for failures. Punishment is motivational. But submitting to those around us is often more difficult because pride has to sit down, selfishness has to back off, and egos, well, they need to go on vacation.

Off course there are limits to submission when lives are endangered or a God-trained conscience will be violated. Other areas of injustices should be prayerfully considered and confronted. Richard Foster says, “There is no such thing as a law of submission that will cover every situation.”

Something my husband, David, said helps us both to love and submit to each other. He says, “We’re both bright in spots.” We see the value in each other’s opinion and knowledge. And after 40 years of living together, we have just about learned to love each other unconditionally.

Practicing the kind of love God has for mankind will support submission to others: “But you, O God, are both tender and kind, not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit” (Psalm 86:15, MSG).

Lord, like you, help us to never give up on each other, but to hold each other in the highest regard because of your unfailing love to us.

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