How would you describe a humble man? Maybe you would say he is gentle. Gracious. Quiet. Meek. Strong. Patient. Generous.
Eh, maybe...but you'd still be thinking, "Not quite." You'd be thinking, "I don't know....he's....humble." And there's a reason you can't think of a better word:
Humble is not an adjective.
It's a verb. It's something you do. You humble yourself. It means you take a step down and maybe a step back, you hold yourself back a little bit, you give yourself up a little bit.
The books of the kings of Israel and Judah (1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles) in particular are full of men who had to humble themselves. David sinned and took a census; when he realized his mistake, the Bible tells us he humbled himself. Hezekiah found the book of the Teachings of Moses hidden in the temple; when he realized how far his nation had fallen, he humbled himself. A myriad of other men and women, kings and prophets, disciples and yes, even one Son of God, have humbled themselves in Scriptures.
It just means they've seen their own iniquity, taken a step down, taken a step back, refrained, and surrendered. Sometimes all at once. They have done this in private. They have done this in public. They have torn their clothes, shaved their beards, pulled handfuls of hair straight out of their heads, covered themselves in ashes, collapsed to the ground in tears, cried out, prayed, and prayed some more.
And for those who had seen their sin but refused to humble themselves, God had an answer for them. He would humble them. Again, a verb.
Because they refused to humble themselves, God took care of it. He sent foreign armies, strong kings, enemy nations to rise against them. He exiled them to strange lands. He sent plagues and sicknesses, famines and droughts until these sinful men and women took a step down, took a step back, refrained and surrendered - until they had been humbled.
In the midst of God's humiliation, some of them turned and humbled themselves even as they were being humbled! And you know what's cool about that? God always noticed. Every time! Every time a man or woman who was being holily humbled stopped and humbled him or herself, God stopped His humiliation of them, heard their heart turning, and turned His heart toward them. He granted diseased men healing, sick men new life. He granted new promises, renewed covenants. He granted refuge and peace.
Not because they were humble men, but because they were humbled men.
I have spent far too long in my life trying to figure out what it means to be a humble woman. How to graciously do this or quietly do that or generously give over here or meekly serve over there and they are all kind of sort of close to my idea of humble, but they don't really come close at all. And when I see what we might call a "humble" man, I can't help but think to a large degree, he's faking it. Humble always comes off fake.
As it should, I guess, because it's not the proper form of speech. It's not an adjective. I could never describe myself as humble.
But humbled....there's a fantastic adjective! There's a word I get. There's a word that introduces me to the promises of God. There's a word that brings my sick body healing, my death new life. There's a word that renews the covenant, the promises God has made to me. There's a word in which hides my refuge and peace. There's a word I can define, a good word I can live by.
It's a verb. It's something I do. And should I decide that it's something I do not do, God will do it for me. So there's that.
I've given up trying to be a humble woman; I want to be a humbled woman. I want to be a woman who has taken a step down, taken a step back, held herself back for a minute, and surrendered.
It's what I do.