This summer, I attended a national convention of church leaders in Atlanta. It was wonderful to be in the company of the renowned, the famous, the brilliant, and the experts. Everywhere I turned there went another one.
What really drove me wild was that they would actually stop and talk to me… me, a little, unknown church lady from the Midwest. They acted like they knew me. Then, I realized they did know me. It dawned on me that I was famous! Who knew? How could I be anybody of note? Yet, sure enough they kept coming: asking me to sign my book, to have lunch with them, to sit in on their “round table discussion.” Wow! This was great. I was outstanding in my field.
In the midst of this Who’s Who in the Catholic Church, I would go for a walk down Peachtree Street with my colleagues every afternoon for lunch. Each day, I would pass a beautiful African American woman who stood on the sidewalk singing hymns to Jesus. She was unabashedly proclaiming praise and adoration in a well trained mezzo soprano voice that took my breath away. People ignored her, laughed at her, and treated her like a crazy person. Yet she was unruffled. She just kept singing. It took real humility to bear such ridicule. I realized, straight out, that I could never be so bold, so humble, to stand there looking like a fool because of my faith.
It was then, one evening at prayer, that God spoke to me in the quiet of my heart: “Don’t let your popularity go to your head, Sweet Cheeks. You are only any good at all because I am infinitely good. Everything you say, everything you do is just a shadow of my Word.” I realized that I needed to keep my swollen head in check and if I didn’t, God would be more than willing to help me out. I vowed to behave myself and “come down where I ought to be.”
Then I put two and two together. The Divine Teacher was trying to get through to me: No one of us is any better than anyone else. He wants his disciples humble. He especially wants his priests, lay ministers, and vowed religious to be even more humble than the rest of the flock. He was serious when he said we should always take the last seat. The minute we sit up front because we think we are special, anointed, gifted, we are no longer any of those things. In fact, a friend prays that every day God will give him a moment of humility.
So I began, that very day as I passed that lovely singer, asking God to give me my daily dose of humility. Since then, I have had multiple corrections for my limited computer skills, lost my wallet and found it exactly where it was supposed to be, was asked if I wanted a senior discount, and mispronounced a Latin term in front of a scripture scholar. I am waiting: to forget someone’s name in an introduction, congratulate a non-pregnant, overweight woman on her pregnancy, and have spinach between my teeth and not realize it, for God does answer prayers!
The lesson for all of us is that we must be on guard against believing that we are elite, special, or a cut above. It is a poison that will bring our downfall and keep us from doing God’s work. I will remember my Atlanta singer and the lesson I learned at my moment in the sun…or in that Son. He brought me down where I ought a be, and I’m darn grateful to be just a good old, church lady from the Midwest.
Photo Credit: Idea go