Have you ever had the experience of hearing or reading something that, even though you have encountered it countless times before, all of a sudden speaks to you in a whole new way? I had such an experience last week as I sat in church listening to words that were written some 2,600 years ago. The reading was from the Book of Micah, a book of the Hebrew Scriptures, that contains these words, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8. Walking humbly was not something I valued or aspired to when I was young. In fact, the way I walked was just the opposite. When I was young, I felt then that I knew all of the answers, now however, I have as many questions as I have answers. This makes me think of a quote from the twentieth century monk and author Thomas Merton, "Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." My youthful pride in thinking I knew it all was, in retrospect, quite artificial, and was in reality a symptom of my youthful insecurity.
Reflecting on Merton's quote, I have come to realize that the people in my life who I know to be most real and authentic are also humble people. These are the people I admire most and want to learn from. They walk humbly, and interestingly enough, although I don't think it is a coincidence, they are also people who love mercy and act justly, just as Micah directed us to do so many years ago.
One of my other favorite quotes about humility comes from C.S. Lewis, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." Humility means not needing to be the center of attention, not insisting on your own way, not needing to get recognition for a good deed done, and not needing to compare oneself to anyone else.
I recently returned from a ten day trip to the land where the prophet Micah wrote his words about the importance of acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. 2,600 years after Micah wrote those words, the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine are clearly struggling to figure exactly how to live out those words, just as we in our country are as well. That, in itself, is cause for great humility, as each of us must discern in our own lives just exactly what it means to act justly, and love mercy, as we walk humbly with our God.