“Salvation begins and ends with humility” – Saint John Chrysostom
As discussed in Article 1: Pride, humility is the cure, just as the saint said. When pride rules our emotions and actions, the world around us changes. It seems as if even God becomes distant, and, in a sense, that may be true. It is well-known among monastics that there are periods when God takes a step back for this very purpose, to remind us of our dependence on Him, to humble us. But what about the distance we feel in our state of pride?
One night, in a drunken haze, I was walking past a church, and began pounding on the door. As I beat my fists I railed against God, asking where He was, “Why can’t I see You?” That was a moment I look back on with a bit of tender fondness. It was a small light in a life otherwise devoid of anything real. In my state of complete self-absorption it was a blessing from the curse. Had I not been there, at that moment, and in that state, I may never have come to understand just how broken I was; why I was feeling so alone. In that moment the seed was planted. God had not turned away from me, I had turned away from God. For me this was the beginning of humility.
In the book of Proverbs we find a number of very simple, very plain statements about humility. Let’s take one for example, 29:23 which states “Arrogance humbles a man, but the Lord supports the humble-minded with glory.” Huh? How does that make any sense? Well, to put it plainly, what happens when you fall? You land. In recovery programs it’s called “rock bottom”, the end of the line. It’s the point at which we see very plainly our impending doom, and decide whether to live or die. At that moment one of two things can happen: we look up and see our lowliness; we humble ourselves, or we refuse to see the depths, and dig deeper into our grave. It’s not the fall that kills us, it’s the injury. A wounded pride, folks, can kill us. But, just as the proverb implies, God allows us this arrogance, that we may learn humility, so that He may raise us up. So, we have gotten prideful, fallen away from reality, and are presented with the chance to humble ourselves before God. How do we learn humility? I’m glad you asked.
“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:6-7
The humble are unpretentious, modest. They are meek. By yielding all rights and possessions to The Lord, by responding properly to anger, by simple patience waiting to be heard instead of demanding, humility begins to take hold. Virtue comes with this cost. Our due diligence in this area may earn us God’s blessings, the true treasures of His kingdom. Honor, wisdom, unity, eternal life. Here on earth, we can manifest these gifts in our service to one another, taking the seat in the back. Humility manifests a calm spirit. It opens us up to God, and allows truth to penetrate us. Through prayer fasting, and good works (there it is again!) the old self falls away, and we are made new. We become an asset. We become the children God wants us to be.
The world doesn’t want us humble. the world wants consumers, takers, sinners of the finest caliber. TV, film, the internet, inundates us with enticing images of our selfish desires. Our only hope is to look up, and accept the humility that God has granted us. Only then can we hope to be lifted by His mighty and loving hand.
Humility, dear brothers and sisters, is Theosis distilled. It is the beginning, and the end.