“Pride lands you flat on your face; humility prepares you for honors” – Proverbs 29:23
*There’s an old story about a Navy warship that’s navigating through dense fog one night when directly in their heading a distant, faint light appears. As they continue, the light grows brighter. At length the captain appears on the helm to assess the situation. About that time, a voice over the radio calls on the vessel to adjust its course. The captain, an admiral, refuses to yield. Getting on the radio he demands, “No, you adjust your course.”
Several transmissions follow between the admiral and what turns out to be an ensign, each calling on the other to yield. Finally, the admiral says, “We are a U. S. Navy carrier, you adjust.” To which the ensign responds, “We’re a lighthouse.”
Some things are just bigger than we are; they transcend us. Take gravity, for example. Like the lighthouse, gravity invites us to adjust our course to its reality. If we do, we do well. But if we fail to yield to gravity’s reality, no matter how strong we might be, we’re going down.
Yielding to transcendent reality appears to be a simple matter of common sense, right? It would be except for the answer to a question that maybe more than anything else controls how we function in life. Here’s the question: “Am I God, or not?”
While we of course recognize that we’re not God, frankly sometimes we act like we are. Human beings have this tendency to overestimate our talents and importance and to think that life is all about us. Then, when we come up against a “lighthouse,” operating under the delusion that we’re “bigger,” we founder on its realities.
It was this very thing that led to huge corporate meltdowns in recent years. Universal values such as justice, honesty, fidelity and responsibility comprise a category of bigger things that transcends us. You’ll remember that a few senior executives chose to ignore these “lighthouses” and make their own self-centered interests the bigger thing. It all became a means to serve them. Theirs was the egocentric behavior that says, “I am God, and everything revolves around what I want,” as opposed to, “I exist to serve the things that are bigger than I am.” The result was predictable, these people not only foundered themselves, they took a lot of others down with them. Lighthouses always have the last say.
As with the admiral above, we may at times be ignorant of life’s bigger things. For instance, if we’ve reached the end of ourselves – life seems empty, meaningless – we may not recognize that what we’re missing is transcendence. That was my experience. Then I stumbled onto a transcendence that filled my emptiness. It was a person; his name is Jesus. “Come to me, and you’ll recover your life,” he promises. “Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” And I’ve discovered him to be a man of his word. I might add that if he is in fact the transcendent reality the ancient scriptures claim him to be, then, like the lighthouse, we do well or suffer shipwreck depending on how we adjust to his reality.
A final thought. Henry Cloud writes in his book, ”Integrity,” that it is the bigger things, not ourselves, that make us big: “As we join them, we become larger.” The paradox, Cloud continues, is that to join things bigger than we are, we have to humble ourselves by becoming smaller. “When we realize that we are smaller than the transcendent things, and we exist for them and not them for us, we grow into greatness.” Proverbs 29:23 puts it this way, “…humility prepares you for honors.”
*Many of the ideas in this article are drawn from Henry Cloud’s book, “Integrity.”
Dr. Jim Furr