If there ever was a time when those of us who are ministry leaders might need to lean into a posture of humility, now is that time.
Whether we’re navigating pandemic protocols or joining discussions about race and reconciliation, it would be less than wise for any one person to say they have all the answers. Never in my almost 25 years of ministry have I felt so strongly the tensions
between needing to know and understand and being OK with what I don’t know or understand.
between needing to be right and needing to be able to admit that I have gotten it wrong.
between needing to speak and needing to listen.
I imagine I am not the only one experiencing these tensions. I imagine you’re facing them every single day lately, in your ministry and in life in general.
When I think about demonstrating a humble spirit I imagine a teachable heart that beats with a holy curiosity about the other—whether that person is across the world, across an ideological divide, or across the pew. This curiosity is holy because it recognizes the other as beloved and because it is open to what the Holy Spirit is already doing in the other. It is curious because of genuine concern for the other. It does not arise from a need to meddle, pry, or convince another person.
When we encourage humility we must be careful that our intention is not to keep those crying out for justice in their places. Humility does not require people to be passive, docile, or obedient, all of which are synonyms for humility. We can be humbly bold when confronting injustice. And we can be confidently humble when making hard decisions, like when to reopen our sanctuaries for worship.
The following is a prayer used by our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. It was composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry de Val (1865-1930), the secretary of state for Pope Saint Pius X. It is often used as a litany, and it’s especially appropriate for setting the tone for collaborative efforts. I have used it often as I start new partnerships. May it inform each of us as we seek to be a blessing in these trying times.
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat this phrase after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I. . . .
That others may be esteemed more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat this phrase after each line)
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should...
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.