We’re mid-way through my favourite 15 days of the year, from October 1, the feast of St Therese of Lisieux, to October 15, feast of St Teresa of Avila, with our wedding anniversary, my birthday and the full bursting forth of Spring in between.
This month I set aside to dedicate to a humility project, whereby I would try to focus on the characteristic of humility, what it is, how it works, and how I could try to cultivate it. I am equally fascinated by and drawn to admire this virtue as I am repelled by the thought of actively practicing it! But as Jesus taught that it is the way, his way, to heaven I figure I have little choice than to do something about it. Besides, so many saints have taken pains to praise and explain it, including St Teresa who believed that:
There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.
That’s a pretty big statement.
It’s probably approaching 40 which makes me think this way, but it seems to me that God has built-in to humans an increase in humility as we approach middle age. For one thing, we begin to realise that certain avenues we might have entertained and even cherished for a long time are closed to us, or are closing.
I will never, for example, be a young book author. I had wanted to write and publish a book before I turned 30, and then decided 40 was the upper limit for objectively ‘young’. Now it clearly isn’t going to happen. And it’s an act of humility for me to accept that gracefully and move on, not to feel bitter about it or waste time blaming various circumstances or people (including myself) for it.
I can choose instead to focus on the fact that I gained a wonderful husband and five children which crammed out book-writing in that time, and I do. That act of humility brings gratitude for my family, peace, and some clarity about how best to use my time from here on.
Last night I had a great opportunity to exercise humility. It was our 13th anniversary and this year we opted not to go out dinner (for I think the first time). Happily, it coincided with our Labour Day public holiday so Peter was with us all day. We went to Mass in the morning. Friends we met there invited us over for a late morning tea and we spent the rest of the day chilling and pottering around at home.
Our eldest two children prepared an over-the-top dessert for the occasion (cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and jelly!) and I made nori rolls (sushi). I wanted a photo of the two of us, mostly because the last one is two years old, and also because I wanted it for my Facebook profile picture. Friends were already posting us their congratulations and all I had mentioned so far involved the children, nothing on my husband!
I kept forgetting until it was almost the kids’ bedtime and we were all tired. Plus, with our flash-less portrait camera in the dim light of our loungeroom the photos cast us in a hideous orange. I was pretty annoyed, since all day I’d been hoping for a much more flattering photo to keep and show off to friends.
I picked out an ok one and was too tired to try and improve it, just swallowed my vanity and posted it anyway. It was a very small, humble act of love for my husband, to show my pride in being his wife on our anniversary. Still, I couldn’t do so completely humbly – I added a comment to basically say I knew it wasn’t great. Out to the world went my very imperfect new profile picture.
And guess what? That tiny, flawed act of humility was rewarded straight away. Two of my Facebook friends adjusted the photo for me, and it’s a lovely thought to think maybe God designed us in such a way that when we are able to reveal our weakness our humility can draw acts of kindness from others.
- Yeah, you’re not getting a before-and-after, just a post-orange-people photo 😉