Postures of humility

Addie Michaelian

Christ calls us into a posture of humility as we engage spiritually and academically here at Westmont and in the surrounding society. Our society and our churches desperately need people who are willing to listen and admit that they do not have all the answers. Our culture of self-confident opinions and condescension breeds division and destroys deliberation. The variety of academic and spiritual experiences I encountered while studying abroad last semester have compelled me to consider: what does it mean to walk humbly in our spiritual and academic lives as we engage with complex societal issues? 

Walking humbly in our spiritual lives here at Westmont and as a part of the larger body of Christ means acknowledging our limited experience and the magnitude of God’s character. It means choosing to refrain from spiritual comparison or hasty judgements on styles or methods of worship. As Christians, it is tempting to exalt our experience with God or worship preferences instead of reckoning with our finite understanding of his character and the beautiful diversity of his Church. Throughout a variety of diverse, Christian worship experiences last semester, including visiting a monastery in Northern Ireland and reciting liturgies in German with believers across Berlin, God invited me to confront the pride I had unconsciously fostered growing up in a non-denominational, evangelical church. This pride hindered me from recognizing God’s presence in places where silence and structure are valued. Walking humbly challenged me to recognize the beauty and power in the traditional, liturgical services we experienced this semester instead of choosing to only see legalism and stale ritual.  In my pride and condescension I had placed God in a box when in reality he cannot be confined by tradition or style of worship. Our God is a God of structure and silence. Sometimes he speaks in a quiet whisper as well as in boisterous song. Until we experience the richness of the diversity of his church we will have a limited conception of who God is. 

Further, walking humbly requires us to surrender our desire for clear-cut solutions. When engaging in discussions about historical or societal issues we often present the situation in black and white terms, and refuse to recognize that there may be another side to the story. My semester abroad compelled me to explore what it means to walk humbly academically as we engaged with these complex historical and societal issues. Walking humbly challenged me to accept the uncertainty and complexity of the historical conflicts in each of the places we visited. These conflicts are riddled with issues of identity and historical memory, and deeper study often left me more uncertain. I was overcome by this sense of confusion and uncertainty when visiting the Narrow Waters bombing memorial in Northern Ireland. I left the memorial completely overwhelmed and exhausted by the complexity of historical memory, and the pain permeating both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland. As we encounter this complexity, we must accept that our understanding is limited and leave our desire for control at the feet of Christ, who alone holds all certainty. Walking humbly means continuing to dwell in the uncomfortable places though we may not have all the answers. Walking humbly requires us to acknowledge that things are rarely as simple as we may think. When we engage academically, walking humbly means striving for an attitude of empathetic deliberation that is willing to consider the nuances and areas of grey. 

Walking humbly is not easy. Yet thankfully we do not need to do it alone. The prophet Micah calls us to “walk humbly with your God.” He will go with each one of us as we continue striving to live out humility in our spiritual and academic lives here at Westmont.