This part is fog: I am 12 or 13. The youth group at my church is holding a Valentine’s Day Banquet. I am attired in my best suit for the “formal” affair, and somehow I have a date I do not know and will not remember. We have collected our salads and are about to sit at the table where my sister (whose popularity among the older kids in the youth group makes her my opposite) is seated already. This part is as clear 46 years later as the day it happened: I have placed the salad in front of me on the table and wait for my date to sit before I follow suit—or more precisely, before the salad follows my suit. That is, as I sit down, my vest (or belt, or something) catches the lip of the plate and flips it completely into my lap. I am mortified with embarrassment, staring helplessly, wordlessly, at my sister. She calmly and immediately instructs me to stand up and let the spilled salad fall to the floor, and before anyone even pays attention to what I thought was going to be the end of my existence, she has replaced it with another one on the table. I return to my regularly scheduled awkwardness.
Pride says good fortune should fall in our lap with all of its accoutrements. It may disguise itself as indignation, impatience, judgmentalism, anger, or envy, but pride consistently engenders the sentiment that a better world would deliver better things to us.
An honest reckoning admits the mess in our lap is of our own tipping. But in the brief time it takes for humiliation to turn to humility, God stands us up, sweeps away the mess at our feet, sets a fresh plate of grace before us, and invites us to sit again without shame at the big kids’ table.
As Isaiah says it: “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”
This week, may the humiliation we earn honestly turn to the humility God blesses graciously.