Source for this image here.
"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3: 2).
The term "shrinking violet" is an idiom to mean a very shy person, one who is self-depreciating and prefers, like the sweet and beautiful purple-blue flower pictured above, to withdraw into the shadows than to make themselves the centre of attention. It's a term which tends to imply something negative - that a person who is shy, is one whose character is perhaps deficient in some way. In the secular world where people are encouraged to be self-serving and self-seeking, being shy is regarded as a weakness. But is it really a fault?
Consider the definition of humility, and you will see that it means many things - humbleness, submissiveness, meekness, shyness. It's the partner of modesty - a characteristic that once again, is associated with humbleness and a desire not to draw attention to one's own attributes or appearance.
The Bible tells us many times that humility is a character quality, a personal characteristic which we should cultivate to draw us closer to God (Proverbs 22:4). We are informed that, far from being commanded to exalt ourselves, we should humble ourselves, that we may be exalted (Luke 14:11). Cultivating a spirit of humility not only pleases God, but it also points towards His nature, as our humility reflects the humility of His son Christ Jesus, which He demonstrated during his time on earth. It's clear from Scripture that we are called to be humble, to adopt an attitude of meekness, and that if we do so, there will be many benefits to be reaped.
During the month of July, as a family we have been studying the character quality of humility, and its opposite, pride. We have had many interesting discussions as we have worked through our thoughts on this, and have also had time to consider how adopting a spirit of humility may help us in our relationships, both at home, and in the wider community we live and work in as a family. For us, it has been a great revelation! We have all discovered that it is far easier to be prideful, than it is to be meek! And we have also discovered just how damaging pridefulness can be. Some of the comments that I've heard around the dinner table this month have included ...
Pride can stop us from understanding other people's needs.
Being proud can isolate us from our family and those we care about, and make us less able to compromise and adapt to their needs.
Having a humble heart means being able to learn new things!
Humility lets me say sorry and really mean it.
It takes more courage to be humble than it is to be proud.
We can't grow in Christ if we don't see our faults.
These are just some of the comments that have arisen out of the many discussions, devotionals and family prayer times that we've had. Of all the "Monthly Challenges" that our family has done over the years, this has been one of the most enlightening and inspiring ones, and I have found it to be especially beneficial. Why? Well, read those comments again if you have time. Do you notice how all of them can be applied to the marriage relationship? Pride and arrogance, and a self-serving attitude, can cause enormous harm in a marriage, and yet we can find ourselves exhibiting these traits even wtihout realising that we are doing it. The shrink-wrapped, glossy secular society that we live in, poisoned as it is by its superficial attractions, the artifical lure of instant gratification, hollow promises and ephemeral sensations, drives us to be seduced into accepting character faults in ourselves even when we truly believe, with an earnest heart, that we are living as Christians not of this word, but in it (John 15: 19).
If we allow ourselves to fall prey to these ugly traits, which may naturally arise as a response to situations that all married couples find themselves in, especially in the early years, then it is all too easy to allow them to become your habitual mind-set. As wives, it is our duty to submit to our husbands (Ephesians 5: 22). But that is not to say that it will necessarily come naturally! There may well be times when we become convinced, by our prideful natures, that we shoudn't submit! In our weakness and inexperience, and in our unwillingness to serve God through serving our husbands, we may be sure that our way is better, that our rights are greater, that our needs are more. And we respond then with a heart of selfishness, not one of humility and meekness.
It can be a downward spiral, where we practise our negative responses even without thinking about it, and it becomes a habit that is ingrained in our natures. But we can - and must change. Rather than responding to the difficult emotions that cause us to react so selfishly, we can choose an attitude of meekness and humility. It might not come easily - and we will never be able to divest ourselves of it compltely, fallen sinners that we are, but if we are to seek to please God, we have a duty to adopt a spirit of humility as we serve our husbands. As Christ's disciples, our actions should reflect the state of our hearts so that all that we do speaks of His goodness -
"As in water face answereth to face,
So the heart of man to man" (Proverbs 27: 19).
Paul, writing in Colossians, Chapter 3, tells us that we must clothe ourselves in humility so that our characters can reflect the goodness that Christ reflected - goodness that through understanding God's plan for us, we must absorb into our natures. It isn't just about our behaviour - it is about our spirit too - our hearts. Not just acts of humility but the state of truly being humble. It is simple enough. We may choose to carry on as we are, living as everyone else does, but telling ourselves that we are Christians so we are different. Or we can have the courage to follow Christ's example, working God's plan for us into our lives and seeing the world through Him, and not through the false vision of secular society, and thus enjoy the blessings that a Godly life may bring - in every aspect of our relationships, but especially, in our marriages.
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ". (Colossians 3: 12 - 24).