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Humility is perhaps the most mysterious of all the moral qualities for which we strive to understand and embrace. One could make a compelling argument that for someone to claim humility for herself might indicate its absence. As I prayerfully considered my word for 2017, this virtue emerged to color the lens through which I am now viewing the world for twelve months. I never appreciated the many facets of humility – until now.
My simple mind had a simplistic definition. Humility would entail setting others above or ahead of myself. “No, friend ... you first” became my mantra. I used Philippians 2:3 as the foundation of my word of the year. It’s the Scripture that suggests we “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
Never could I have anticipated the full measure of the meaning of humility – the very fullness that God was hoping I would discover through the circumstances that were ahead. Not once had I considered that humility would have little to do with my book launch, speaking engagements, and other possible “look at what I did” traps. See, that was where my fear lay. When you put a personal and provocative story about yourself and your marriage out into the public eye where it is praised, it becomes all too easy to fall into the snares of pride and self-significance. I expected that God strategically placed “humility” on my heart in order to remind me that my story was for His glory, my book was written through His gifting, my forgiveness was His first, and love and grace are meaningless without the cross.
As Clay Jar, Cracked: When We’re Broken But Not Shattered publishes today, I find myself in the most humbling of circumstances, and they have nothing to do with a book or a heart-wrenching story of redemption from five years ago. Before I get excited and start checking sales numbers, before my big red carpet event in Nashville, Tennessee, before I begin scheduling more events and sharing my testimony in the most public of ways ... before all that, I am being forced to position myself even lower. Apparently, I must not just get lower; I must dive down to the depths. God has shown me it’s necessary that I experience a facet of humility in which I never imagined having to engage – especially not RIGHT NOW. My jar has cracked again and I have been reminded of the poignant messages within my book.
God has effectively (and lovingly) lowered my position in order to wholly humble my condition. Through circumstances beyond our control, my family and I are now homeless. I prefer the term houseless. After all, we have options, and I do not want to trivialize the condition of those who are, in fact, homeless in the truest sense of the word. None-the-less, we are somewhat stranded. We own one and a half acres of unprepared land and a few pieces of furniture. Oh, and we do have one and a half cars to our name. At this very moment, as millions of people have access to our broken story and I am actively praying they find a hope and a joy that eclipses any human understanding despite what circumstances scream out, this family of four is living in a rented two-bedroom apartment with our somewhat big and absolutely needy dog. One of my littles is even sleeping on an air mattress. My circumstances are less than ideal, and I had started to lose some of that hope and joy I so articulately describe in my book.
How did we get to this position? My husband and I had a dream. A goal. It was quite a God-sized goal. In fact, I believe it was a God-honoring one. My husband and I had decided to sell our ample-sized house to build one half its size. Our objective was three fold. First, down cost – not because we necessarily had to, but because we wanted to. God had impressed upon our hearts to give above the level we had been giving, to travel on mission more often, and to serve in a greater capacity through our financial position. Together, we created a life goal that purposed us to gift others each month with a greater amount than our monthly mortgage. Second, we aimed to downsize. We were tired of time wasted during yard work, house cleaning, and all the upkeep that comes with a larger home. We wanted more of the “3 F’s” – family time, fun time, and free time. Third, we desired out-of-doors space. We wanted our kids to play in and explore nature, enjoying more privacy, peace, and quiet than our neighborhood could offer. Our dream was to build an ultra modern and ultra small home.
So, we found 1.4 acres and bought it.
Then, we sold our house.
Then, we gave away all our décor.
Then, we sold all our furniture except for a few items such a kitchen table for the apartment.
Then, we hired a builder and an architect.
Then ... construction costs skyrocketed.
I’m talking like 100%.
Now, we are without a builder. Without an architect. Without furniture. Without a home. Without a plan. That last part is the worst part for yours truly. No matter how carefully we had calculated and double-checked resources against budget through the initial stages of the process, the plan backfired. Few expected construction costs to rise as sharply as they did. High risk, high reward ... or, in some unfortunate cases, the greater the disappointment.
As we sold the house we had lived in for 13 years and now have lost the house we were planning to build, I have been introduced to humility in the most tangible sense of the word ... the most worldly sense. After the inevitable journey through shock, anger, and despair, I believe I’m now feeling "okay." True, our dream was kinda crushed. Like a bug. We have no viable strategy and housing prices and interest rates continue to rise. Even the apartment lease price is going up in August. (I think I’m typing myself back out onto the ledge here...)
BUT ... THERE’S GOD ... We do know the One who does have a plan. We intimately know Him. Our goal was to give more. Serve more. Help others. Love others more. Isn’t that the position and condition God has, in fact, already placed us? Isn’t this where true humility is found? Being in a position and a condition to love others more than self because we have little left to distract us? Letting go of our possessions to be free from worldly idols, self-appointed dreams, and do it the way God sees best? Living in a community of all new people, many of whom don’t know the Lord? Isn’t this what my husband and I were aiming for? Don’t we trust God's promise that He will not forsake us?
Isn’t this facet of humility unexpected but perhaps worth it?
Isn’t this facet of humility unexpected but perhaps worth it?
I’m learning the answer is yes.
Prayer: Father God, You are the one true God, the only One from whom lasting hope, peace, and love come. While circumstances seem to break us, we know that as long as we are anchored in your hope, in Your Son, we can rest in the promise that You are a good God and One who has a plan so much better than our own. Thank You for this lesson in true humility and for not letting me get by with the surface level lesson. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
©2012-2017 Cortney Donelson. All rights reserved.
Cortney's book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We're Broken But Not Shattered is available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers, as well as at www.cortneydonelson.com! Visit www.cortneydonelson.com for more information and to learn about the "I'm a Clay Jar" Encourager Class for groups! To schedule speaking engagements, please email Cortney directly.