Welcome to the Grace of Yes Book Club! We’re reading Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living.
“Saying yes to a book definitely changed things. Mostly, it brought great blessings, but it also brought new threats to my humility.”
Writing about the grace of humility has not been easy for me. The truth? This is my fourth attempt. I told my husband last night, “I think I am having such a hard time reflecting on humility because I am so not humble.”
Chapter 5, in my opinion, is the chapter of all chapters. It is the one that spoke directly to me. It is the one that struck a chord. It is the one that I read and thought, “This was written for me.” It is the one that I get to write about, and good grief, I don’t feel worthy. My words cannot do it justice. But I am going to try…for the fourth time…I will try.
Last year, I was introduced to the Litany of Humility, and was dared to pray it. Why dared? Because it is awful! It had me praying to lose the desire for all of the very things I do desire! Free me Lord from the desire to be noticed…to be praised…to be loved…to be set aside while others are recognized. I closed my prayer book hard, pushed it away, and thought, “Seriously? What kind of sick prayer is this?”
I have struggled with this. As a woman who loves to write, loves to speak, and loves to lead, I have often wondered if it is possible to do all of these things, and still truly be a woman of faith.
My secret inner dream? The thing that I pray silently for? I would love to be a Catholic Speaker, to travel around, and share my faith story, bringing all women closer to the heart of Christ. I would love to be a published author, to have my words reach the many women who might have doubts or fears or no faith at all, and show them how awesome their God is, that they are beautiful and worthy of His love, and that He has marvelous plans for them.
And then after I pray this, I immediately feel shame. I mean, how can I possibly ask God for these things for myself? Aren’t recognition, the desire to make money, and the love of attention the very things I should not be asking for? When preaching the Gospel is your work and your passion, how do you make a living off of that, without it coming across as shameless promotion?
“I encourage you to take those “Wow!” moments when the work you produce is compelling, beautiful, or simply awesome and see them as God’s handiwork through you. When we see our work like this, we give glory to God with a yes in our hearts, and when we share his work in us with those we meet, we take a step forward in humility.”
Lisa Hendey, published author, popular blogger, founder of a successful website, addresses this very struggle. And the good news? Her words let me know that while humility does not come naturally or easily, it is in fact possible to promote ourselves when necessary, and still remain a person of faith who lives beautifully and generously.
The key to avoiding your “inner Diva” and keeping yourself on a bedrock of humility? Use the gifts God gave you to praise Him and him alone, and never lose sight of the fact that He is the one who gave you these gifts to share in the first place! Sure, if I should ever become a public speaker, or be blessed enough to have my words one day published, the temptation to indulge in a puffed up sense of self and ego will be there, just waiting to grab me and knock me down.
And so I need to be careful; we all need to keep our eyes open and on the look out for this all too real threat. And we must ask Mary, the Queen of Humility, the Mother of God, who never pointed others to herself, but always to Christ, to intercede for us every hour of every day.
If we want to stay on course, we need to ask for help, and ironically, we need the humility to ask for the help in the first place. Women, especially, see asking for help as failure; we believe we need to be superwomen, we want everyone around us to believe that we have it all together. Lisa teaches us that it is precisely in these moments that a humble yes can bring us back on course.
“True humility accepts help when it is offered and asks for help even when the world seems to believe we have it all together.”
I may lack humility, but I can also say that I am pretty self aware. Through grace, I have come to recognize the very things that lead me down the path of selfishness. Through grace, I can see the situation that lures me into wanting to put myself before others, that begs me to want to take all of the credit, from a mile away. Through perseverance and prayer, grace and hope, and yes, that awful Litany of Humility, I am beginning to see that it is not important that everyone know how much I can do and how well I can do it, because God sees me, and He is the only one that matters; the reason I do any of it at all. I am also learning the real beauty in stepping aside, remaining silent, and allowing someone else, other than myself, to be recognized. It has taken me a long time to finally see that sometimes the greatest gift I have been given from God is the gift of allowing another to serve Him.
“All too often my ability to generously give my full yes to God’s will for my life is hindered by my own inability to forgive another or myself.”
What I was not aware of, and Lisa Hendey beautifully illustrates for us in chapter 5, is the connection between forgiveness and humility. And let me just be honest here: this is the part of the chapter I have the most trouble with, not because of Lisa’s writing, which is wonderful, but rather, because her experience in Rwanda is so moving, so powerful, so unimaginable: how can I possibly grasp it all? Truth is, I can’t.
When I have trouble forgiving the angry woman at the Cheer competition for yelling at me when all I did was ask if the seat next to her was empty, how can I begin to understand how a genocide survivor looks the murderer of her family in the eyes, and forgives them? When I have trouble forgiving my husband for leaving me with a gas tank on empty, how do I begin to comprehend the way those in Rwanda can be standing among the corpses of their children and spouses, and still wrap their arms around the very ones that took those lives from them?
I suppose I used to simply chalk it up to “they are just better than I am.” But it is not that they are better…it is that they are humble.
“Standing in a room full of the corpses of young children gives you both a grief beyond understanding and a sense of conviction that each of us must rise up and act to avoid such unspeakable acts in the future. But how, in the wake of such despicable acts, is it possible to have any hope?”
Soon after the shooting at our Sandy Hook Elementary School, my girlfriend who lost her daughter told me that not forgiving the man who murdered her beautiful daughter was never even an issue for her. In fact, the first thing she did when she got home that awful night, was to thank God for the six years she was given with her sweet child. She did not blame anyone, hold a grudge, or store up resentment. In the face of unspeakable evil and grief, she showed me a faith so strong, so courageous, you could taste it and not help but want it for yourself. Again, I thought, “she is just a better woman than I am.” But now, after reading Hendey’s words, I realize the grace she possessed was not one of being better; it was the simple and beautiful grace of true humility.
“True humility will not come naturally or easily for many of us.”
The grace of humility does not come easy for me, and yet, it is what I desire so badly. I desire it more than I desire recognition, praise and love, because truthfully, these things, while they feel great at first, always leave me feeling half full. But a “yes” to humility? A “yes” to humility is what truly grounds us, what ultimately sets us free. And when remembering Mary saying yes to the will of God and agreeing to have his son is not a good enough example for a stubborn and selfish person like me, that is when I picture her bravely standing at the foot of the cross; when I see Jesus, humble and meek, nailed to the wood of a tree, asking God to forgive us, losing his very life, so that we may all live. This is the grace I hope for, the yes that holds my heart.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- What gifts have you been given, and are you using them to glorify God?
- We have all thought at one time or another, “What’s in it for me?”, or “What about me?”. Thinking this way strains our relationships, puts the focus on ourselves, and limits our yes. These are the moments we need to think of ourselves less.
- Is there someone you need to forgive? Perhaps that someone is yourself. What are the benefits of holding onto resentment, and how has it kept you from a generous yes to God? Pray the Litany of Humility (if you dare!)
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 6: The Grace of Vulnerability. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Grace of Yes Book Club page.