Life and FaithTheology & Spirituality

Afraid of God’s Answer

Be willing to be only a voice that is heard but not seen, or a mirror whose glass the eye cannot see because it is reflecting the brilliant glory of the Son. Be willing to be a breeze that arises just before daylight, saying, “The dawn! The dawn!” and then fades away.1

“What prayer are you praying right now that you’re afraid God will answer?” Dark, questioning eyes probed my startled face when my friend asked me this question many summers ago. What was I praying that I wasn’t sure I wanted God to answer? In a moment I knew. I blurted out, “I have been praying for humility.” My friend nodded. Yes, she had prayed for that before and knew the double-edged piercing of such a request. I looked down, ashamed to realise that I was afraid that God would grant me my request. Humility would mean a tumble from my self-aggrandised opinion-spewing. It would mean learning to listen to conversations, not joining in until asked. Humility would mean crumpling my desires to look intelligent in front of others.

At the time, I assumed that humility inevitably meant humiliation for the asker; as if that were the only way to expunge arrogance. I am slow to learn, and am no great expert in humility, even all these years after the above exchange. However, I have learned that God goes about shaping a humble person differently than I had imagined. Humility is an attitude of the heart, whereas humiliation is a surface blow to our pride. There are still moments when a friend pulls me aside to tell me I’m behaving like a jackwagon. My arrogance is suffocating in the workplace, in various conversations where I assert my opinion as fact, and in my own thoughts.

Sometimes it stings to be told to cease certain behaviour, but the pique is usually replaced by gratitude that my friend had the courage to speak up for my good and that of others. Oh, I still resent the remark, chafe against it, and doggedly defend myself until the Holy Spirit’s nudges and whispers become seismic shocks and bugle blasts. It is hard to get my attention when I am loudly defending myself. That flare of resentment is a reaction to feeling humiliated, taken to task, lowered by someone else. It is the rearing up of my pride that needs to be mortified. The flood of thankfulness at being told of my ugly pride and foolishness is the heart attitude of humility. Humility reminds me that I cannot say that I am an ambassador of Christ—His temple, in fact—if I am walking in the flesh rather than the Spirit.

Though I am still quick to defend myself when taken to task—by friends and family, or by God—I am learning to pray that I would more rapidly receive the truth with gratitude and humility. It remains a somewhat scary request because there is so much still to be pruned, and the clipping is painful for a time. Yet it is that pruning that is shaping me into the image of Christ, who “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”2

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Johanna Byrkett

Johanna Byrkett

Johanna (Jody) Byrkett enjoys hiking various types of terrain, foggy mornings and steaming mugs of tea, reading classic literature and theological essays, studying words and their origins, and practising the art of hospitality. (She also has the singularly annoying habit of spelling things 'Britishly'.)

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