Humility seems to come more “naturally” to some than to others, but the hard reality of life is that we have all been humbled. And, when our pride does get out of hand, God has a way of helping us realign our perspective, usually in a way that involves significant humility.
In 1885, the St. Louis Browns (you know them today as the St. Louis Cardinals) won the American Association championship (this was before baseball merged the two leagues and formed what we now know as Major League Baseball) and decided to celebrate on October 7th of that year. To make this party as epic as possible, they city chose to celebrate it at night, and to complete the grandiose festivities, a significant firework show was planned for the conclusion of the champion’s parade.
It is estimated that over 250,000 people lined the streets to celebrate the Browns, and overzealous fans brought their own assortment of fireworks, guns, bombs, Roman candles and torches. It probably won’t surprise many of my readers to know that a number of serious injuries marred the baseball celebration in St. Louis that night. Who knew that the combination of alcohol, fireworks, gunshots, revelry and mass crowds could result in dangerous circumstances?
During the night of celebration, a visitor to the city was sitting in his hotel room located in the middle of the parade route. He looked out his window, saw the firework display and noticed that thousands of people were lining the street on which his hotel was located. Surprised by this unsolicited outpouring of supporters, this man opened the door that led to his 4th floor balcony and proceeded to give an impromptu speech to those who had clearly come to honor him.
The man was Thomas Hendricks, the 21st Vice President of the United States of America (serving under Grover Cleveland).
You can guess there might have been significant embarrassment, when he was told that the gathering was not in his honor. Can you imagine what would happen in today’s culture? Every late night TV host would have a heyday with this debacle and social media memes would mercilessly shame his presumption. Just ask Steve Harvey what happens when you make a mistake in a public forum!
Hopefully Vice President Hendricks enjoyed a good laugh after that night, and relatively speaking, a wrongfully given speech is pretty low in the spectrum of ways we can be humbled. This story does however, bring to mind the teachings of Christ about what it means to humbly follow Him. In fact, it is absolutely impossible to follow in the footsteps of Jesus without humility.
Ultimately, humility is the perspective that keeps God is in rightful place, and me in mine. In other words, I’m not God and when I live in humility I’m recognizing that He knows all, sees all, and through His own accord is accomplishing everything according to His will. My role isn’t to be commander of my ship, but rather, to follow the Commander’s orders so that my life aligns with His work. I fly His banner and I serve Him, He doesn’t serve me.
When I lose that perspective, when pride drives my life, I’m living for me (no matter how much I candy coat it or try to make it sound spiritual!) and for my pleasure. When pride takes over, Joe is my number one priority and at the end of each day my primary goal is to make sure I’ve served me, well.
So when Jesus was facing the final hours of his life on earth, what did He do? He had a very symbolic dinner with his disciples followed by a powerful lesson I’m certain they never forgot. Taking off his coat, he got down on his hands and knees, and He did the work of a servant, washing the feet of His disciples. The message was so simple: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:14-16).
If you want to live the Overboard Life, you have to recognize that you are a servant and messenger of Jesus, and if He made His life about humble service, so should you! You cannot follow in obedience to the Master and make your life about you. In fact, in Philippians 2 we read that the mindset of Jesus was ultimately about obeying the Father by serving the needs of others and humbly giving up His life for our salvation. His entire 33 year human existence was about humble service, and those living the Overboard Life must follow His lead.
Are there any areas of pride creeping up in your life? Are you trying to take control of your ship? Let today be a good day to regain perspective, and daily may we strive to live as humble servants of our great King.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!