Awards season is on right now, and though I haven’t watched any this year, my past experience tells me that at least one or two people will take about how humbled they are in receiving the award. While I’m not going to try and determine the inner workings of the minds of award winners, I doubt many of them have actually been humbled in receiving their award, or at least not in the sense that the Psalmist uses the term.
In writing of being humbled, the Psalmist appears to be speaking of something more akin to having one’s legs taken out from under us. It also seems that the Psalmists humbling is one that has been forced upon him by his opponents and enemy rather than a route chose by himself.
Yet it is this very thing that the Psalmist is most grateful for. In being humbled the Psalmist is driven back to relying on God. This is not merely a matter of believing some ideas of God, but something that infuses the whole of the Psalmists life.
When I think of your ways,
I turn my feet to your decrees;
I hurry and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
The arrogant smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts.
Their hearts are fat and gross,
but I delight in your law.
As these few snippets indicate, the turning back to God and God’s laws involves a changed behaviour (keeping God’s commandments should always remind us of the greatest commandment, love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind, and strength, and you neighbour as yourself), a desire to form relationships with others who also seek to live out God’s commandments, (community), and a willingness to persevere in following after God’s laws even when we find ourselves facing opposition.
Being humbled isn’t something that we particularly pursue, but what matters is how we respond when we do find our feet taken out from underneath us, or when we find out opponents knocking us down a peg or two. Do we use it as a reason to fight back, to establish our rightful place again? Or do we make ourselves victims and view ourselves as objects worthy of pity.
Instead of either of those paths I’d like to suggest that we use it as an opportunity to return to following after the laws of God. This begins in taking the time to study them more closely, but it has to move on from there to obeying them. From learning about them, to putting them into practice. May this be a Lenten discipline that we seek to do, not only as individuals, but as communities of faith as well.