And all of you, clothe yourself in humility in your dealings with one another, for: God opposes the proud but bestows favor upon the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5: 5-7
Communicating today can be a challenge. 24 hour media, social media, a phone always resting in my hand, yelling, violence, killing, riots, canceling… I have become really good at processing my own thoughts and opinions, yet average at understanding my neighbor’s perspective. This should change.
I find I am having to remind myself constantly to slow down and listen to others. Speak later and speak less. I am reminding myself that I don’t have all the answers and that none of us do. I still need to be seeking the face of Jesus, probably more so now than yesterday. I sense our world is divided (that’s not groundbreaking) and our communication with one another seems to be exposing that division.
While living in Central America we served, fed, clothed, and comforted many people. It was easy to view ourselves as helpful, resourceful, and even needed. Oftentimes people would stop by our home and bang on our front gate, asking for something: beans, rice, money, shorts, and shoes. One time a lady asked me for a watch and to give her my guitar…
We tried to stay stocked up on basic items, so most of the time we were able to help them in some way. In their shame many people would lead with small talk and slowly build up to their ask. A long period of small talk in Spanish and then they would ask, “Do you have any more beans and rice?” or “My baby needs formula, could you buy me some, please?” For them it was a challenge, it took humility.
There were times when their build up lasted close to an hour or longer. At times I even thought to myself, Oh wow they aren’t here to ask for anything, they just want to visit. This always made me feel better, sort of like these people were becoming friends and viewed me as a friend. But, oftentimes, they would then drop their ask upon me, “Beans? Rice?” I became a bit jaded and my ego puffed up a bit. How dare these people waste an entire hour of my precious time only to ask me for some beans afterwards…I have other stuff to do.
Lada and Jesus were perhaps some of the poorest people I encountered out there. They lived just about a mile away from us- down the large muddy hill and back up again, then down at the bottom of another muddy hill by a little drainage laguna. Their little dwelling brought me to humble tears the first time I saw it. They lived in a barn basically. They had sectioned off a small portion next to the chickens on Jesus’ sisters property and created a small dwelling for themselves and their new born baby. Dirt floor, no electricity, no water, and half walls made of third-hand planks of wood. It smelled bad- like a barn. Home.
One day Lada came over and banged on our front gate. I was busy and cringed a bit as I didn’t want to be interrupted. I noticed it was her and her husband Jesus which generally meant they needed something. Sometimes she came to visit my wife when she was alone, but when Jesus was there it usually mean they were going to ask us for something. I sat and listened to them as we made small talk. An hour in or so, I grew impatient, prideful, cold and abruptly broke the conversation asking her, “Lada, is there something you guys need today?” I was ready to get on with my day.
“No, Felipe. We don’t need anything today. We are so thankful for the formula you guys gave us last week. We just wanted to come and visit. We love to visit with you all and we get so lonely sometimes in our small home.”
My heart broke, my pride and stubbornness had taken over me, yet in an instant they were shattered in a moment of truth from this sweet and humble couple. All they wanted and needed was friendship on that day. They were longing for companionship yet I was caught up in my plans for the day. I thought I knew their hearts and I didn’t, my pride was exposed.
In his letter, St. Peter reminds us to “clothe ourselves with humility” as we deal with one another. I reflect on this encounter with Jesus and Lada as far too often I think I know more than I actually do. Far too often I enter a conversation or situation with someone without clothing myself with humility. It’s hard to wear humility, it takes time to put on and is often paired with sacrifice and patience.
St. Peter then goes on to say that “God opposes the proud but bestows favor upon the humble.” Man talk about kick me in the teethe. God opposes my pride! I have a long list of things God opposes in this world and guess what, my pride often isn’t on that list. How embarrassing.
But, the great news is that through His grace and mercy I can receive his humility and in turn receive more of His favor which leads me to see the goodness in others. Pride or humility? Which do I want?
“Do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests , but also everyone for those of others.” – Philippians 2: 3-4