About 2,000 years ago the Son of God left His heavenly home and embarked on what was the ultimate humbling journey by taking the form of humanity. Only if we humble ourselves, especially during this season of giving, can we possibly gain a true appreciation of what His sacrifice meant for all men and women.
So much of the confusion and uncertainty in today's world stems, I'm convinced, from our so-called leaders' false sense of confidence and pride built not on a solid foundation but on ever-shifting sand. From the political scene in Washington DC to the recently released report of extensive steroid use by major league baseball players, we see what happens when men puff themselves up (sometimes literally) and go their own way without acknowledging the existence, let alone the saving grace, of the One who made our very existence possible.
Yet we common folk, myself included, also have a lot left to learn on the subject of humility. Too often, we fight needlessly over trivialities simply to make a point that we're right and the other person's wrong. Too often, we want to get the last word or the first piece of cake or the best parking spot. In contrast, every now and then we run across someone who goes against the grain of me-first and self-gratification. Two shining examples of grace and humility in action crossed my path recently, men that I'm privileged to call friends.
Friend 1 (I'll call him Jay) attends our church and he radiates his love for the Lord in his concern for others. A month or so ago, this big man was facing some serious back surgery to correct degenerative problems that left him in severe pain and forced him to walk with a cane. The first operation didn't fix the problem and Jay spent Thanksgiving in the hospital in some considerable discomfort. After a few days of waiting for the right time, the doctors went in again and this time everything went well. When Jay was able to attend a church Christmas party recently, a miracle in itself, he didn't utter a single complaint about missing Thanksgiving with his family because the doctors didn't get it right the first time. He was too busy telling us how much fun he had witnessing to others about Christ while in the hospital. Think about that for a moment. Most of us-admit it, now-would have been throwing a pity party after the first operation went sour, especially when it meant being immobilized in a hospital bed instead of feasting on turkey and trimmings at home. That thought didn't even show up on this guy's radar screen.
Friend 2 ("Bob") has had much of his adult life plagued by epileptic seizures-some so severe that he's nearly died from them. A few months ago, a neurosurgeon presented Bob with the possibility of a cure: a radical procedure in which the top of his skull would be removed and his brain analyzed by hookup to monitors to determine the exact part of the brain that caused the seizures. Although the risks were evident-one minor slip in operating on the brain can cause a dramatic loss in basic skills-Bob felt that the potential reward of a seizure-free life outweighed the negatives. The procedure, which would span about 10 days in total between the original skull cap removal, isolating the "bad" part of the brain, and then excising it, was originally scheduled for mid-July. Unfortunately, a procedure this massive in scope required an entire team of surgical specialists and getting them all together at the same time proved difficult. As summer turned to autumn, Bob was still on hold; finally, by mid-October the team was assembled and ready to go. Throughout the excruciating wait, Bob was the epitome of calmness and serenity even when he had another serious seizure that could have killed him. His upbeat attitude shamed me more than once (although I'm sure that was never his intent) when I lost my cool over matters that in the clear light of hindsight were trivial indeed. He worked tirelessly for our team until just a couple of days before his surgery and never lost his cheerfulness, although freely admitting that of course he was scared, as anyone facing such a procedure would be. Happily, Bob's surgery went well and he's been seizure-free ever since. His future looks bright not just because he took a leap of faith, but also because he truly sees each day as a gift and revels in that.
What great concepts to live by. An attitude of gratitude. Serenity in the middle of a storm. Caring about others even when you're hurting. These men, heroes in my book, exemplify what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, "I have learned to be content in all circumstances." It takes a good dose of humility to live like that. This Christmas season, when so many people are numbing themselves in a whirlwind of activity, looking in vain to materialism to satisfy them, let's make a point of slowing down enough to be content with what we have, and grateful for the chance to give. Merry Christmas to one and all.