The Queen of the Night is a desert marvel. Once a year, this cactus – which usually looks like a barren, ugly stick – grows a single, white orchid. The majestic flower blooms only a few short hours under darkness of night, giving off the sweetest aroma and displaying her true glory. Until then, she’s easily mistaken for an unremarkable, humble plant.
I discovered this cactus at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens, and was immediately reminded of Easter. The Easter story starts out ugly and hopeless (with a trial, flogging, and crucifixion) but ends in glory! Our humble Saviour laid aside true power and beauty (Philippians 2:5–8) to dwell among us. He was easily mistaken as unremarkable and ordinary. But on Easter Sunday, he arose a victorious King over sin and death, demonstrating his true majesty and glory.
Most of Jesus’ life was lived in relative obscurity – a lowly carpenter with a ragtag group of followers. Even in the end, Jesus’ death on the cross was far from glamorous. In true humility, Jesus accepted his Father’s will, and was mocked and labelled a heretic. Only after his resurrection did Jesus shine with greatness.
This lesson in humility is a critical one for us to grasp – especially in Western society, where vanity, arrogance, and big-headedness are celebrated with gusto.
In North America, the goal clearly is to be the “best ever” – and, more specifically, better than everyone else. Examples aren’t hard to find. The Atlantic hailed this year’s Super Bowl as the “best ever.” Critics touted Skyfall as the “best ever” James Bond film. And there are more “best ever” chocolate chip recipes on the internet than you can count!
As Christians, our goal isn’t to flaunt ourselves as being “the best” at anything (including ministry!).
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
And false humility isn’t any better. To completely diminish our value and worth is the worst type of narcissism – and ignores God’s hand of creativity in our lives.
“Humility is not humiliation,” explained John Dickson at Willow Creek’s 2011 Leadership Summit. “Humility is the noble choice to forego your status and use your influence for the good of others before yourself. It is to hold your power in service of others.”
Our goal isn’t to outshine others. Our goal is to build into the lives of others so each person can reach his or her full potential in Christ. Our goal is to build up one another – without suspicion or envy – so that, together, we can be the shining bride of Christ.
True humility recognizes that we’re all made in the image of God – wonderfully created with unique gifts – but that we mustn’t use those gifts to serve ourselves.
As we walk through the Easter season, let’s be ready to sacrifice for others and lay down our right to be “the best.” Let’s be content to walk through life as humble individuals so the remarkable story of Jesus may take centre stage and his glory may shine.
Artwork: “The Garden Way of the Cross” by Saskatchewan ceramic artist Louise Tessier (www.gardenrhymes.com) is part of a Christian-themed group exhibition, Moved by the Spirit, showing at the View Gallery, Fraserview MB Church, Richmond, B.C., Feb. 17–Apr. 7, 2013, and at the Mennonite Heritage Gallery, Winnipeg, in 2014.