The Valley of Humility
By: Lindsey Mitzel
One of my three year olds was asking why our dishwasher sometimes made noise. In trying to explain, I asked her what she thought the dishwasher did. She said it “cleaned all the things.” “Yup,” I responded. “Its job, or its purpose, is to clean our dishes.” It seemed like as good a time as any to ask the next question: “What do you think your “job”, or purpose is?”
“To clean the dishes!” she exuberantly proclaimed. I attempted to explain that her “job” was to be loved and to love. It was over her head, and we quickly moved on, but it made me think about how that truth is simple but super complicated at the same time. One complicating factor is struggling with thinking that we’re not good enough. This can manifest in so many areas, but one of the things I was thinking about recently is feeling not good enough in prayer or spirituality.
It’s really comforting, I think, to consider how many Saints struggled through so much, yet persevered to become so holy. In one of his books, Edward Sri writes, “[That’s] one good reason we should study the lives of the disciples in Scripture and the lives of the saints in Church history. They are not models of a perfection that came all at once, but models of a lifelong process of gradual, ongoing conversion. They loved God, made heroic sacrifices, and gave themselves to the Lord in radical service. But they also had moments when they doubted. They lacked trust. They stumbled. They begged for mercy whenever they fell. And then they got back up again hoping in God’s grace to help them. All along the way, the Lord was always walking beside them, inviting them to take the next step of faith, catching them when they fell, helping them get up, and encouraging them to walk again. Through this process, they were subtly being transformed—gradually, step-by-step, they were molded by Christ, changed by the Holy Spirit ‘into his likeness from one degree of glory to another’ (2Cor 3:18).”
Dr. Sri also relates a story about St. Therese and one of her sisters who was struggling with feeling discouraged by her faults and weaknesses. St. Therese encouraged her: “You wish to scale a mountain and the good God wants to make you descend; he is waiting for you low down in the fertile valley of humility.” Dr. Sri explains that “when we encounter God [in the valley] . . . we come to know at a much deeper level how loved we are by God—not for what we do, but for who we are even with all our frailty and weakness. Second, we experience God’s forgiveness. And third, we learn ever more to rely on his grace . . . the fastest and surest way up the mountain of sanctity is not . . .ascending by one’s own effort but allowing God to lift you up.” I think sometimes when we think about not being good enough, it might be more about wanting others to think well of us, wanting to think well of ourselves, or maybe struggling to trust that Jesus is so much bigger than us or any of our problems. It can be so easy to forget how much God loves us and is willing to do for us to bring us closer to himself.
St. Faustina writes about how much our lack of trust in Jesus pains him, because of all that he suffers for us just to prove his ridiculously incredible love. However, when we choose to accept humility, we’re more able to let go of our pride, let go of what we think we need or want, so that we can receive Jesus’ love where we’re at, not where we want ourselves to be. Being accepted within our very failings and weaknesses is true love—supernatural love. Feeling not good enough can actually draw us closer to Christ, when we choose to accept ourselves as we are, because we are allowing God into our most vulnerable areas and allowing him to love us in our vulnerability and frailty. Just like the potter reworking his “spoiled vessel” into something new (Jer 18:1-6), humility allows God to take us into his hands and form us into whatever he wishes us to be.
Lindsey is a mostly stay at home mom to three girls and a nurse practitioner. She loves photography, decorating, painting, reading, and warm places in the middle of winter. She dreams about writing children’s books, gardening, and maybe owning a horse someday. She also cannot say enough good things about coffee.