Edward Hopper. Detail from Nighthawks. 1942. [oil on canvas]. Art Institute of Chicago.
In finding our way to humility, paradoxically, we find everything—we find our glorious true-self. The self-emptying of the Incarnate God is the ultimate expression of humility and the most compelling invitation to empty ourselves of all that is false in us. In our culture that applauds upward mobility, we have trouble getting in touch with this descending way of Jesus, but until we have done the difficult work of emptying ourselves of self, becoming nothing, there is no room to hold the fullness of God’s love.
Humility is the constant and disciplined effort to see the truth about ourselves; to empty ourselves of everything and allow God to fill that space. It is very, very difficult to see through the veil of our egoic ways and internal clutter, but everyone else does. How do we ever begin to clear it away, so we can allow Love, to be all in us? The first step is to desire it above all desires. Putting our entire dependance on God, we practice becoming aware of our behaviors. After every difficult exchange with another person, we go over it again in our mind. Was there any defensiveness, self-pity or denial? Was there any competing, complaining, condemning, comparing, or controlling? If so, we have more work to do. We name the behavior; we claim the behavior; then we begin to tame it, so God’s pure love can pour through and fill up the beautiful vacancies we have endeavored to clear.
In practicing this, we are never to be hard on ourselves or talk ourselves out of our own goodness. We do this sacred work with gentle self-compassion, embracing all that we are and all that we have been, knowing that nothing is wasted and that God created us perfectly and will send all the forces of heaven to strengthen and sustain us in this work of love.
The path to humility can only go through humiliation. Being brought low, stripped of all pretenses and defenses, brings us down to solid ground. To know ourselves as persons of weakness and strength, liability and giftedness, darkness and light, and to embrace every bit of it is to become whole—is to become real. All illusion and deception is finally left behind. Now, with a pure heart, claiming nothing for ourselves, we begin to see God and more deeply accept and love others in their brokenness and pain. This divinely indwelling humility is our first duty and highest virtue; the ground on which all the other virtues rest.
A further reflection from The Hidden Life Awakened (pg.xv)
It is difficult for us to grasp the truth that Jesus came not to astonish us with the great power and high visibility of God, but rather to show us the way of hiddenness and humility. In contrast to our culture that applauds upward mobility, the inner life affirms that God’s path is the descending way. Humility is the way of Love. The descending way of humility is the movement toward the true self’s realization. It leads us to a deeper understanding that, in His eyes, the most significant is often the most hidden.
This contemplative life of humility flows from a pure heart that has persevered through much suffering and found its way to the Source. When we finally come to see that our desire for God is an echo of God’s far more encompassing and passionate desire for us, we can offer others a glimpse of light in the midst of their confusion, darkness, and pain. It is the love, hope, and encouragement of the One in Whom all is lost, yet all is found. In God’s goodness and time, a tremendous paradox will be revealed to us—that what we now perceive as suffering and death is in Reality a hidden time of awakening and rebirth.