“I’m so humbled”?

Just a quick thought today. Often when I see someone receive an award or an honor of some kind (Oscars, Nobel Prize, whatever) the say something like, “I’m so humbled!” In smaller ways, people often receive praise in the same way. “Pastor, that sermon was amazing.” “I’m so humbled to hear that.”

I … don’t think so.

On one level, I get it. The moment feels awesome (in the old, “awe-inspiring” sense). Something great is happening, and you’re somehow right in the middle of it.

But success does not tend to actually humble us. Success tends to inflate us. And maybe that’s legitimate. It is not wrong to desire glory. In fact, we ought to desire glory: the glory that comes from God, not from man. But what actually humbles us? Usually, failure, which is definitely not my favorite kind of humbling. But let me point out a lovelier kind of humbling.

I have had a few humbling moments – in this good way – in the context of our adult Sunday School class. This has been the most straightforward, simple, and, for my money, valuable class that we have had as a church to date. All we’re doing is telling and discussing the stories of the Bible, beginning in Genesis 1. Not every last story, but most of them. And in the last two months we took a crucial turn: I stopped teaching most of the classes. Instead, laymen and other officers from our church took over, and I sat in the audience.

That’s when the good stuff started to take place. We got to the story of Joseph, and it began opening people’s hearts wide. Knowing some of the stories of hurt (unspeakable stuff), I was (you got it) humbled as I heard people speak of a new clarity that God works through terrible events for the good of his people, and that they knew that like Joseph they must forgive those who had hurt them, whether they heard repentance from the offenders or not. My wife, walking to and fro holding our baby, was one of those most moved by the kindness of God.

How did this happen? Through (1) the stories of the Bible – especially Joseph in Genesis 37ff., (2) simply told and expounded. It happened without a seminary degree or my astonishing oratorical skills. It happened around me while I sat and listened. And that is genuinely humbling.