After church this morning I escorted my dad to the back of the sanctuary to introduce him to my daughter’s boyfriend’s mom. As the introductions were exchanged, I was tagged from behind to turn and see a friend I don’t see nearly enough. We are wired with a similar level of intensity—which means we don’t waist much time on pleasantries. So, in typically intense fashion, she was quick to catch me up on what she is learning in relationship to God. God has been spending time showing her what humility looks like. I grinned real big and said, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” She agreed and then challenged me, “So, what does humility look like?”
I was so hoping she would ask. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to share this story. Humility has been taking a walk by my beauty counter for months now.
Humility Walks the Mall
My counter is positioned front-and-center in the department store’s mall entrance. Every morning the shopping mall turns into a fitness track for countless walkers. Every age, shape, and fitness level is represented. Some are finding therapy, while others are finding friends. There is on occasion a peculiar threesome that passes by and never ceases to strike my heart with a precious picture of humility.
Of this threesome there is one elderly woman who smartly dresses in pastels and pristine white tennis shoes with white socks. Depending on the day, her pastels will alternate from bubblegum pink to purple to cornflower blue or mint green. Her slacks, however, always fall just a half-inch too short of the tops of her tennis shoes. She stands no taller than a petite 4ft 10in, and her brilliant white hair is carefully combed into a bob style and neatly framed within a coordinating stretchy headband. Her thin, failing frame is always bent forward over her trusty walker with wheels. As she walks, she never says a word. It appears to take every bit of concentration just to scoot one foot, one step forward. Maybe the fear of falling keeps her from lengthening her stride. Or maybe arthritis has frozen her joints so to allow only this cropped stride.
Following her is an odd elderly gentleman who faithfully pushes a wheelchair squarely behind her as she walks. His position would give you the idea that he follows behind to catch her if she were ever to fall backwards. However, his own aging condition brings into question his response time. So, a second thought would suggest he uses the wheelchair as his own walking support.
The third person in this picture is the one who draws my heart’s attention the most. He is a very unassuming man who is quickly passing middle age. Tall and slender and nearly statuesque in stride, he is the one who walks at her side. Always straightforward with a dreamlike gaze, he keeps in step with each dainty shuffle. Inch by inch she dodders her way past my counter with her gallant partner who never loses his pace with her.
At times, it is a painstaking experience to watch. I can’t imagine the level of frustration to be overcome with in such a relationship. As they inch by, you can begin to feel the virtue of the patience that must pulsate through this man’s character. He is wise to cross his arms at his waist to keep them from swinging—thereby resisting the temptation to increase his steps. You can’t help but imagine every bit of his natural strength, capability, and desire being refrained to the highest degree in order to stay at her side. He never moves ahead to stop and wait for her to catch up. He never stops to let her get far enough ahead so he can release his own natural stride and catch up with her. I wonder: is it the love of a son or the obligation of a care worker keeping this man at her side, shuffle by shuffle? Of course, on this side of the beauty counter, I may never know.
Beautiful Like Humility
The time it takes for this precious threesome to pass my counter grants plenty of opportunities to consider the beauty of humility. This is Jesus. Jesus—the man who refrains from so much of His own greatness—walks by my side. When I begin to fathom the restraint He voluntarily puts upon Himself just to walk with me, I become easily overwhelmed by the power of such a love. He could be so much more without me! Yet, though my walk with Him may be fearful and arthritic in so many places, He chooses to refrain His pace to walk with me. His beautiful refraining love never wants to overpower me but always wants to empower me.
I also imagine what He must be thinking as we walk. I know He sees me as more than a mall walker. He sees me as a marathon runner. So, He keeps pace with my shuffles until I can see what He sees and believe what He says. I bet He frequently peeks to see if my strides increase with each weak thought that dares to believe I was born to run a marathon. I bet that is why He never sleeps; the joy to see me run someday must keep Him awake all His nights. I know it keeps me awake some nights. I bet the confidence He has in Himself to empower my shuffles into a run keeps Him from forsaking me. I bet it is His love for me that keeps His dreamlike gaze looking forward to the day I run with everything He gave me.
The beauty of humility refrains and shuffles and dreams with love. I want to be beautiful; beautiful like humility.