Having a Correct Judgment
When I first started working out, all the terminology completely confused me. I didn't know what a dead lift was, or the difference between a Russian or an American kettle bell swing. Then I heard about squat snatches or a hang power clean; at that point I was utterly lost. Often I would stand and watch for a second before I went to pick up the equipment. I didn't want to look stupid, and I was afraid that asking a question may make me look like I didn't know what I was doing (even though I didn't know what I was doing). So, I confidently did what everyone else did after I saw what everyone else was doing. It took me a few months to start feeling comfortable with all the lingo. Yet it was one thing to get the lingo down and a totally different thing to actually do the movement correctly without hurting myself. To this day it is still a struggle to keep good form in all my weight lifting.
I have felt the same way these first few months in Edinburgh. When I first started out, I really didn't know what I needed to be doing. So, I just started reading. I really didn't know what I was supposed to be reading, but I knew I should be reading. I also figured reading Bavinck would be good. I then met with my supervisor, and he was great. He gave me some direction and sent me off to go research and write (not that I was entirely sure what I was supposed to be researching and writing about). I read and wrote and read some more and wrote some more. I sent in a draft of one of my first pieces of truly academic writing in about eight years to my supervisor. When he sent it back to me, I felt like I was back in my first weightlifting classes. I realized there was a lot to do and that I had a lot to improve on. The pages where filled with red corrections. What I thought was fine academic writing, left a lot to be desired. It was humbling.
This experience got me thinking a lot about the topic of humility. I recently received some of my books from the States, and that has allowed me to sit down and read Wilhelmus Brakel (a Dutch reformed pastor and theologian from the 17th century). Brakel defines humility as a person, "having a correct judgment concerning himself whereby he neither elevates himself above his condition, nor wishes to be elevated by others as such." I find it interesting that Brakel defines humility as a correct judgment. He is getting at the fact we often have incorrect judgments of ourselves.
You see, we often think too highly of ourselves. That is we are proud. Many have argued that pride is the root of all sin. In the Garden, Adam thought that he had the ability to judge God's commands for himself. Simply put, Adam thought too highly of himself and his abilities. Adam was not humble. He did not have a right judgment of himself. In contrast, the foundation of humility is lowliness of heart. In humility, we preform our duties and rest quietly in that, regardless of the outcome. We do what we have been called to do, and we don't expect praise or adulation for doing it. We preform our duties quietly.
Yet on the flip side, humility is not being despondent. Humility is having a right estimation of ourselves. It is not giving up and losing all hope. It is not thinking that we are nothing and of no good. Brakel puts it this way, "humility is armed with courage and spiritual valor." The humble person does not shrink away from the work set before him, thinking that he is not able nor gifted enough to do it. In humility, he rests in the grace that God has given him and goes about the work that is put before him.
So, the last couple weeks have been humbling for me. I am not sure why, but I wasn't expecting it to be as humbling as it is. I am sure that I thought too highly of my abilities. I also know that when I was critiqued, I became despondent and thought too lowly of myself. However, what God is giving me through his grace is a lowliness of heart and spiritual valor. I am finding that I need other people around me who do not think like me and are farther down the road to challenge me. We need each other; we need a diversity of voices. We cannot and should not think to highly of our victories, and we cannot and should not be crushed by our defeats. Humility teaches us to rest in God's grace and go forward in courage.
When I started lifting weights, it was ugly to watch. Not only did I not know what I was doing, but my form was all over the place. It took me swallowing my pride and asking for help. It took humbly receiving that correction from my coaches. It took asking for help from guys who had been lifting much longer than me. It took me showing up even when I didn't want to because I was embraced. My form is still not perfect, but I am getting there. Every time I walk out of the gym, I am tired and sore. I feel the same way about my studies. They have humbled me. I know I need a lot of help and guidance. I need both my supervisor and I need fellow students to come alongside me and give me advice. I need to keep writing and reading even when I no longer feel smart enough or well read enough to continue down this road. I often walk away from a particularly brutal editing session tired and sore. However, what I am finding in all of this is that, surprisingly, this is a very sanctifying process. Through it all, I am learning to have a right judgment of myself.
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