Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Imitating Christ's Humility

Last night when you went to sleep everything was the same as usual. You brushed your teeth and even took the time to floss. You set your alarm and plugged in your cell phone to charge. Your pillow was cool against your face and the breeze coming in the window was a relief to your feet. You eased into a dream that was safe and brilliant.

But, what if when morning came you felt some one tickle your face? You brushed away the irritant and tried to call back the strange and lovely dreams you had the night before. Again, the tickle, again the hand to brush it away. When the soft movement came across your face the third time you opened your eyes. A small fly wisps away. Nothing is right in the scene before you.

You wake to find yourself lying on a mat on the dirt floor of a hut. When you sit up, you feel that your body is lighter and looking down you realize that you have small skinny arms of a child. You are dark and your skin is scaly and dry. You are dressed in a shirt, but that is all. You run your hands down your chest and your stomach is extended. For all that your mind can grasp, you are a small, frail black child sitting in a hut. But, you are still you. You are able to recognize almost exactly where you must be, because you are still you in all your thoughts and have retained all of your knowledge of the world.

Fear should have been the commanding thought, but because this is so impossible, you cannot fear, you can only question the validity of it all. You rise to your feet and look around. The hut you are in is small, smaller than your bathroom at home. Outside you hear voices and they speak another language. “Maa” you say to yourself. Somehow, you know that their language is called Maa. And then you realize that you are fully aware of all their customs, even though they are nothing like your own. You are aware of their lifestyle in comparison to your own.

You step to the edge of doorway and peek outside, the men are leaving to herd the cattle and you see the woman who you know is your Mother. She turns and you see a baby on her back. You know immediately that this is your brother. And without delay you realize that you love him as though you have always known him. He is too young for a name; he is only 2 moons old and will not have a name until he is stronger. You are struck by the oddity that you know this. You think of your own family at home that you have somehow left behind. You think of your Father and how you long to see him and have him explain all of this to you.

The woman who is your Mother enters the hut and you speak to her, and the words that come out of your mouth are in the language she knows. She laughs at your sly words and then tells you to move along. As you look around the area that is yours, you find cloth that you will drape and wrap to wear—as is your custom. And while you move though this moment the one thing that never fades is your ability to be completely Maasai and be completely American. You are fully Maasai and are aware of their customs and the challenges that will be coming your way and you are fully American and are aware of the luxuries that are not here for you now.

The ways that you have always known are still in your mind and the longing for those ways will not falter when the day is long and hot and when your stomach is aching. You cannot escape the reality that you know what it is like to live in a place of easy fulfillment where there is too much food and too much self-indulgence. But, you know that there was also good that was happening where you were. You miss your Bible. You miss the fellowship of other believers. Awareness comes over you that life with the Maasai would be different if you were unaware of what you had left. Some of the events that are coming for you will be painful beyond anything you have ever had to bear. In this culture, emorata, or teenage circumcision for both males and females is a part of your future and in the place where you have always lived there is nothing more humiliating. If each day you wake, you continue to wake in this hut with these people as this child, then that is your future.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Obviously, this illustration of what one might experience to “wake up” in someone else’s skin is a far cry from what the Creator of the Universe went through in his humanness. God taking the form of man and leaving Heaven to live with us and as us was not a surprise to him in any way. But, what was it like to have all of the thoughts and the knowledge of God and be confined to a human body? What kind of humility did it take to come and live as we live, when He had spent eternity living as God? He had foreknowledge and he had answers and, yet, He lived among us and taught us slowly, so that we might discover the answers on our own. He chose to teach us in parables that we could understand, because the things of Heaven are too far reaching for our minds.

For 33 years He lived in human form while He had the power of the Universe at His beckoning. I cannot imagine taking the form of child and living a lifetime in an African village with the knowledge of what was coming and what I had left behind, and what Jesus did was so far beyond that. I wonder what the thoughts of Jesus must have been when he watched us struggle with things that have no eternal value. I wonder what God thinks when He watches me struggle each day. I am so grateful that His grace is so big and that it covers me.