Wonder: The Humble Submission of Jesus

I don’t think I realized how many complications there could be with pregnancy until I became pregnant for the first time. Growing life is an amazing miracle, filled with complex details that have to progress just right in order for both baby and mother to be healthy.

In my pregnancy with my first child, things did not progress just right. Something in my body didn’t respond correctly to the presence of a baby. I developed severe preeclampsia. And for the sake of my baby’s health and mine, my son had to be delivered by c-section eight weeks early.

I have noticed that at Christmas, we tend to think of Jesus as a baby, and to think of Mary as a pregnant woman. But we rarely put those two thoughts together.

Have you ever reflected on Jesus’ time as an unborn baby?

I cannot wrap my head around the Son of God existing inside the body of a human being. Perhaps since God the Father was still sitting on throne of His sovereignty, there wasn’t a real risk that something would go wrong with Jesus’ growth in the womb.

But still, it seems so remarkably humbling to me.

Jesus submitted His existence to the inner workings of a young woman’s body. He came to earth not just as an infant, but as an unborn baby. As a being that looked at first, like a little tadpole, then slowly grew arms and legs, fingers, and toes. That developed a beating heart and functioning organs slowly, overtime, as his body absorbed nutrients consumed by his mother.

I want to know what that pregnancy was like. Did Jesus kick a lot? Was He an active baby, stretching his arms and legs, anxious to break free into the world? Or was He content to rest as He waited out the process of growth?

How did His body and Mary’s body struggle together in the birth process? Were the contractions strong? The labor arduous and slow?

Whatever the answers to those questions, it is the asking of them that brings me to wonder.

Jesus did not have to come this way. He could have come to earth as an adult. Or simply appeared on the doorstep of the Temple one day as a baby in a basket.

If He wanted to, Jesus could have skipped the pregnancy and birth part.

But when Jesus chose to enter into the human experience, He chose to enter it fully.

This beginning of life dependency is something all of us have in common. We grow inside the body of another, dependent on her for care and survival.

Jesus chose to submit to this humble beginning of life in the womb. He showed us the depth of what the name Immanuel, God with us, really means.

Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.

 

Are Confidence and Humility Opposites?

I want to be known. As someone who reads this blog, you should know that I have aspirations. I want this blog to grow. I hope to have something published someday. I long to speak and write to an audience. I love being a leader, and so I hope to have followers.

These aspirations are not necessarily bad. It is good to have goals.

But yet, it feels dangerous to admit these goals to you. Because I know they are not pure.

I could use Christian-speak if I wanted. I could talk about how this was all by God’s grace and for His Glory. I could write of my desire to use my gifts to honor Him. I could quote verses about living a life worthy of my calling and working as for the Lord in all things.

I could make these goals sound all holy and God-given. And maybe I can do that because in some ways they are.

But if I am honest, it is not all about God’s glory. It is also about my own. I want validation. I am unsure of my place in this blogosphere, and I want people to say that I am doing a good job. Recognition gives me confidence. Compliments push out the self-doubt inside of me.

And then I think about Jesus, and I puddle into a heap the floor. How can I claim to follow one so self-sacrificing when I am so self-serving?

At the Passover Feast, Jesus’ disciples were fighting over who was the greatest. I judge them for having this kind of ridiculous argument in front of Jesus. But is this all that different from my posturing and striving to be known?

Jesus responds by saying,

“I am among you as one who serves.” – Luke 22:27

And though we don’t know the timing of everything for sure, since Luke and John have different details of the Last Supper, I believe that this conversation was just before Jesus did the unbelievable.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. – John 13:3-5

I love the way the book of John introduces the foot washing. Why did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet? It doesn’t say He wanted to shame them. Or that He was feeling bad about Himself.

Jesus’ humble actions were birthed from His confidence.

Jesus was confident in who God was and in what God had called Him to do.  Therefore, He got up from the meal and served.

Humility and confidence are often thought of as being opposites. But as I wrote about a few weeks ago, that cannot be true. Jesus was confident and humble at the same time.

Jesus knew He did not need to strive and stress and grasp to earn respect. He knew who He was and what God called Him to do. Jesus was free to serve and love without worry of how it would affect people’s opinion of Him.

So do I have to stop having goals or lower my expectations or stay in the shadows if I want to emulate Jesus? I don’t think so. But I do need to make sure my confidence is correctly placed. My confidence should be in my identity as a child of God. He loves me, died for me, and has a purpose for me. I can be secure in Christ, no matter what kind of recognition I do or do not receive. I can work, but I do not need to worry. I can seek, but I do not need to strive.

I do not need to view others in light of what they can give me. I can be confident in what God has already given me. And from that place, I can view others in light of what I can give them.  

I can serve with confident humility.

This is what Jesus saying "I am among you as one who serves" reveals to me. What does it reveal to you?

Read the post before this one: How do you respond to death?

What does it mean to be gentle and humble, anyway?

Being self-centered is exhausting. I’m not sure if you can relate. Maybe not. Maybe you’re not as self-centered as I am.

When I get dressed in the morning, I worry about what others will think of the outfit I choose. When I’m out with my kids, I worry about what others will think of their behavior. When I blog, I worry about what others will think of my writing.

When I get to the end of my day, I get stressed if I was not able to do everything I wanted to do. When I go to the store, I get discontent if I am not able to buy everything I want. When I think about friendships, I get frustrated if I feel like someone hasn’t contacted me in awhile.

Me, me, me. I consume my own thoughts.

Reaching higher. Striving for more. Seeking validation. Maintaining appearances.  

Worry. Stress. Discontentment.

It all makes me tired. And it becomes a heavy burden to bear.

To those like me, Jesus makes an offer.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30

First, Jesus wants to remind us that we don’t need to earn God’s grace. We don’t need to work harder, be better, or keep up happy appearances in order for God to love us. Jesus went to the cross for us. We don’t need to strive. We need only believe. We can rest in what has already been done.

But I believe Jesus is offering more than rest for our eternal souls. I believe He is offering rest for our daily living. An escape from the weight of our own self-centeredness.

Jesus’ “I am” statement in this verse is “I am gentle and humble in heart.”

Gentle is often misunderstood. We often think it means passive. But that cannot be true if Jesus used that word to describe Himself. In other places, we see that Jesus was not afraid to rebuke and start fights when necessary.

Gentle is the Greek word “praos,” closely related to the word translated “meek” in the Sermon on the Mount. This idea of gentleness or meekness has to do with our attitude towards God. It means we accept what God does without resisting. We trust that God is good. We rely on God’s strength and not our own.

Humility is also often misunderstood. Many think of humility as meaning we don’t think well of ourselves. But that cannot be true if Jesus used this word to describe Himself. In other places, we see Jesus being confident in His identity, and confident in the role His Father called Him to play.

C.S. Lewis gives a great definition of humility,

Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”

Jesus says, I am gentle and humble. Learn from Me.

Learn to trust what God does. Learn to follow what God says. Learn to notice what God sees. Learn to love what God loves.

And in this, find rest.

To be honest, this concept is still a struggle for me. But I have had glimpses. Some of my happiest days have been ones when I have set aside my own agenda. Some of my most meaningful days have been ones when I have looked for ways to help others.

I have felt the lightness of the gentle and humble yoke.

But then I worry, and take my heavy and self-centered yoke back.

But I think that’s okay. Jesus says “learn from me.” That means there’s a journey. After all, if we take this analogy further, an ox doesn’t wear the yoke 24-7. Each day, the master puts it back on. Each day, I have the choice of which yoke to take.

Hopefully, I can be smart enough to take the light one more often than not.

This is what Jesus saying "I am gentle and humble in heart." reveals to me. What does it reveal to you?

Read the post before this one, Have you ever been an outsider?

*Photo Credit: Drongowski on Flickr Creative Commons.