Each year since 2017 I have chosen, with prayerful consideration, to focus on the biblical definition and application of a specific word. In 2022, I was challenged to seek humility.
I entered the year directing my heart towards honesty, vulnerability, and transparency while aiming to:
- Lower myself to elevate my Savior
- Cultivate a servant’s heart in all things I think, say, or do
- Remove expectations that could feed selfish ambition and vain conceit or lead to discouragement and discontentment
To learn more about my intentions and motivations for seeking humility, read my first post of the year here.
I’ll be honest, I had no idea what pursuing humility would look like, though I suspected my pride would be wounded in some way, shape, or form. And it was, but not how I would have ever expected.
5 things I learned during my year of seeking humility
1.) I am not enough (& that’s okay)
One of the first books I read in 2022 was You’re Not Enough (and That’s Okay): Escaping the Toxic Culture of Self-Love by one of my favorite podcasters and conservative Christian influencers, Allie Beth Stuckey. I enjoyed that book for its content and message but didn’t feel like the self-love element applied to me or my personal struggles. While I identify selfishness amongst my deepest sinful bents (anger and impatience are my other major weaknesses, in case you’re wondering), I don’t necessarily classify myself as someone who has been vulnerable to the self-help market or captivated by the culture of self-love.
Even so, the prominent truth woven throughout You’re Not Enough (and That’s Okay) is that no human will ever measure up to perfection or be enough to satisfy all wants, needs, or desires – only God can fill the gaps of emptiness, longing, peace, purpose, and fulfillment. God is enough. Period. He is all we need today, tomorrow, and for all the days of our life on earth and in heaven.
I may have not learned or received this truth at the start of the year, but I most certainly did come the summer months.
“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 weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)
As I often say, I’m a doer and a “yes” girl. I rarely sit and always seem to be on the go as I manage the needs, responsibilities, commitments, and life schedules of myself and each member of my family.
In the Spring, I sensed I was “in” over my head with the busyness of life, but by the end of July I realized I was drowning and needed rescue ASAP. I knew I needed relief during the months prior, but it took a LOT for me to “die to self” and express how much I was struggling with the weight of my load.
For the sake of transparency and accountability, let me tell you exactly what it was I was battling – the pull and prioritization of parenting with the pressure to perform and the push to pursue the purposes God has for me. As a result, I became focused on my self and my ability to do it all and do it all well. 2022 was the first time I recognized how full my life is, both with joy and with busyness. (I’m the mom of five active children.) As a Type-A gal, I’ve always been organized and efficient with managing time, but I reached a point halfway in the year where I physically, mentally, and emotionally could not manage the daily dozen+ commitments, activities, needs, responsibilities, and more that come with having a big family.
Acknowledging my human limitations and need for spiritual replenishment and physical relief through relational help was HUGE for me because I prided myself on being able to do all the things, play all the roles, and be at all the places, at all times and through my own strength and ability. This year I learned first-hand that I am weak, insufficient, and incapable of being the boss and savior of my life. I am not enough and will never be enough, and that’s okay. I need Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30) and I need people. It really does take a village, a little bit of coffee, and a whole lotta Jesus to survive and thrive in this world!
2.) With Expectations Removed, The Unexpected Can Occur
I’m a person who is motivated by progress and productivity. Naturally, I’m a goal-setter and go-getter. Yet, I had this feeling at the start of the year to not set any New Year’s resolutions that would lead me to strive for worldly success or achievement. It was quite difficult for me to remove the bar of expectations for the year, but I did it and boldly walked into 2022 with blind trust in the One I was following.
Even so, the dreamer and optimistic spirit within me wasn’t receiving the message and the noise was building and becoming a distraction.
While in Texas for the IF: Gathering (in the beginning of March), I had an incredible spiritual encounter unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It started like a panic attack – a heaviness came upon my body to the point where l felt like my chest was being crushed and I couldn’t breathe. I left the room to catch some fresh air outside and heard the soft voice of the Holy Spirit telling me to let go. Release. As I halted the mental treadmill of a bazillion thoughts running wildly throughout my mind, I immediately felt lighter. I was breathing freely and controlled again, though my heart was still racing. As I sat down, quiet settled my soul. Clear as I day, I heard the familiarity of God’s gentle Spirit assuring me that everything would be okay. I didn’t have any expectations for the year but did had some doubts, confusions, and uncertainties about things I believed God had told me over the last several years that have not come to fruition. It made me wonder, Did I hear Him wrong? Would these things occur? And when?
The word I received was a simple yes. In that moment God assured me of His faithfulness. Everything I thought I heard God say all those years ago was true and from Him. He was and is preparing me for what is to come, all I must do is surrender [control] and trust in Him. I walked back into the room and felt a lot of emotions but most of all, I felt peace that surpassed my understanding. I didn’t need to know the hows, whys, or whens, I just needed to continue humbly serving my God and doing the next best thing.
3.) Opening Your Hands Opens Your Heart
I joke that I spent most of 2022 wandering around with my hands open to receive whatever God had for me for each day, but in actuality I had many moments this year when I did just that. Moments when I didn’t know what to do, say, or how to react or respond so I asked for wisdom to discern all that is good, right, and true. Moments when I knew I was weak and empty and needed to be strengthened and filled. Moments when I only saw what was before me and extended my hands to receive guidance and direction.
You lead, I follow was the mantra I repeated throughout the year as I experienced death of self (nearly daily!), wounds to my pride, emotional weakness, mental unclarity, and spiritual depletion. I chose to trust even when I did not understand and it led me forward and closer into the arms of my loving, trusting, and faithful Father.
4.) Trust is the Pathway to Peace
Throughout a year of various highs and lows, I discovered trust to be a companion of humility that guides the journey of life.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.”Proverbs 3:5-6 (CSB)
There were many times of frustration, disappointment, confusion, distraction, and uncertainty when I found myself intentionally choosing to trust in the process rather than drive the progress. It refined my obedience and allegiance to the Almighty while solidifying my rightful place as lowly servant. It was a counter-cultural lesson that I wrote on my heart – There is a God and it is not me.
5.) Live For an Audience of One
The world encourages us to look out for #1, to put ourselves first and prioritize our wants, needs, and desires above anything or anyone else. And because humans are innately selfish (self-centered) and sinful, there’s a natural tendency to follow the ways of the world and fleshly desires. Yet, selfishness is nothing more than the worship of self – from lust and greed to pride and success, a life of personal pursuits, performance, and public praise will always produce empty promises rather than everlasting fulfillment.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a social media influencer, stay-at-home-mom, business owner, student, teacher, or anything in between. No one is exempt from the temptation to seek and obtain likes, follows, respect, recognition, or other elements associated with outwardly achievement and worldly success. As a blogger and freelance writer who aspires to become a published author, this is something I’ve personally struggled with over the years. As I worked on my first book proposal this fall, I removed myself from the social media world and didn’t accept other writing opportunities that became available during that time. My lack of social media presence and engagement ended up costing me a bunch of followers as well as a few e-mail subscribers and I’m not going to lie, it hurt. But at the same time, I knew the “numbers” didn’t matter. I wasn’t writing my book for the praise of others, rather, to glorify God through my testimony for the purpose of pointing others back to Him and praising His great name.
Nothing any of us do should ever be done out of selfish ambition or for personal gain (Philippians 2:3). We are living for an audience of One (or like Francesca Battistelli says, “I don’t need my name in lights, I’m famous in my Father’s eyes.”). God’s judgment and approval are the only things that matter as we faithfully live for Him and obediently follow His Word.
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”Romans 8:5 (NIV)
As I was writing this post and reflecting on 2022, a few words came to mind that summarize my year of seeking humility:
I am closing out 2022 with several “irons in the fire” and zero clarity or timeline on if, how or when any (or all) of these “irons” will make it out of the “fire” and into the real world. It’s a very odd season to be in as I’m experiencing a lot of busyness that doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. And still, I have this absolute joy to enjoy the moment I’m in, gratitude for all the incredible blessings I do not deserve yet am eternally thankful for, peace that steadies the choppy and murky waters of chaos and uncertainty, and trust in my faithful Father who will never leave me nor forsake me and who forever goes before me.
There are a lot of feels, to say the least, as I prepare for all God has in store (whenever that will be). As I look forward to the year ahead, I am using the lessons I learned from seeking humility to further strengthen my commitment as a loyal servant to the King of all Kings. May He be exalted in our lives every day we are gifted life on this planet.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time,casting all your cares on Him, because He cares about you. Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.
The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. To Him be dominion forever. Amen.”1 Peter 5:6-11 (CSB)