By Ross Engel –
Darkness started to swirl around my eyes, my neck pounded, and quickly I tapped my hand twice against the arm that was firmly pressed against my neck. It had only taken a few seconds (less time than it took to read that last statement), but I was about to pass out. It was my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class and on that day, the lesson of the day was seven different submission chokes. In the three hours that followed, I watched, I learned, I practiced, was practiced on, and then I rolled (grappled). And in the midst of it all, I was humbled. It would be safe to say that I’ve been humbled over and over again with each class that I’ve attended!
And it has been awesome.
I must admit that I don’t have much experience in martial arts or “fighting” sports. Sure, as a kid, we used to wrestle around and do some WWF (now WWE) style wrestling at the junior high sleepovers. There was also a month in college where some buddies and I had a bare-knuckle basement boxing club in the dorms, but I’ve probably already broken the first and second rules of that club, so I’ll say no more. I played around with capoeira for a bit and may have been involved in a scuffle or two over my years, but, as far as formal training goes, Rocky movies and the Karate Kid are it! So I’m an empty canvas, ready to learn, and ready to get manhandled in the process.
It really is a humbling experience!
People don’t typically like to be humbled. It goes against everything in us. To be humbled means to be brought low. To be put into one’s place, submitted to another person. It is a position that we don’t like to be in and a position that everything in our culture and society screams against! We don’t typically see humility or even humble people lauded in the world today. Usually it is the loud and obnoxious ones that seem to get all the glory! Even the Thesaurus seems to be against the action of being humbled, it lists words like: humiliate, degrade, debase, and demean as synonyms. These aren’t words that we typically like to have applied to us.
And yet, it is a good thing to be humbled. Clothed in sinful human flesh that constantly is encouraging us to refuse to yield to another person or to admit weakness or fault, it is healthy for us to be brought to a place where we yield to another. Swallow our pride. Admit wrong. Apologize. Forgive. Or in the case of my newly begun martial arts career, tap the arm of the young woman choking the life out of you so that she’ll stop.
It is humbling for us to come to our spouse and apologize for our wrongs or to offer forgiveness. It is humbling for us to defer to the needs of our neighbors. It is humbling for us to take a lesser position so that we might raise up another. But these are things that we are to do for the sake of those around us. But we are also to live in a position of humbled reverence before God.
1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”
And in James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
When it comes to being humbled before God, it means that we understand that we bring nothing to the table. We can’t work ourselves into His favor. We don’t grapple with God like Jacob did at the Jabbok River in Genesis 32, thinking that we can get the upper hand with Him and force Him to give us what we desire. We can’t put forth enough effort to attain glory or an elevated status with the Almighty. To be humbled before God means that we understand our weakness. We admit our inability to save ourselves or add anything to what He has done for us in Jesus and what He delivers to us in His proclaimed Word and the blessed Sacraments. To humble ourselves before God is to trust God and to live with expectant trust that His grace, mercy, and love for us is sufficient, without us contributing anything!
We all labor and struggle and pile more and more upon our shoulders. Perhaps we even hope that we would attain glory because of our reason, efforts, and strength. But whatever we think we have to offer to God, we quickly find that the Creator of the Universe needs nothing from us. Instead of making demands of us, God is a giver. He provides all that we need for our bodies and our lives. He is the one that purchases and wins salvation for us in Jesus. He is even the one who gives us the faith to receive His precious and everlasting gifts. We live lives of humbled gratefulness. We can only respond with thanks and praise!
I say being humbled is a good thing. It gives us a proper perspective and a right understanding of where we stand in relation to both God and our neighbors. It is a useful trait to have and develop on the mats. After all, humility will keep you from getting hurt. But being humbled is essential when it comes to us and God, for it is the humble whom God exalts. It is those who have nothing that God lifts up and makes into something.
Blessed are the Humbled!