Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pause In Lent #3 – Humility

A Pause in Lent Floss

Humility – the Pursuit of Modesty. This virtue is the counter to the Sin Of Pride.  In my childhood, there was much teaching [particularly from some well meaning Girls’ Brigade Officers] about attaining modesty and displaying virtuous womanhood. They said that we could never display true Christian humility if we were vain, and over-concerned with our appearance.

But I never found this a very easy path to tread – on the one hand use of cosmetics [the Devil’s War Paint] was frowned upon, but on the other, any girl who turned up wearing uniform which was anything less than immaculate was admonished. I remember…

…Your white gloves are rather grubby, Angela. When did your shoes last see any polish? You really need to re-sew that badge on your armband…

gb uniforms“Girls, we must take pride in our appearance when we are on parade”  Do you wonder I got confused sometimes?

I cannot find a photo of myself in GB uniform, this one is from the Internet [see here]. These officers look very smart, back in the 1970s!

Then I read a more realistic book about ‘Christian Womanhood’ [and unfortunately I cannot remember what it was called, or who wrote it] where the lady described a similar upbringing. When she found herself on the ‘Christian Speakers Circuit’** she went out and bought a smart grey suit, and two white blouses. That way, she decided, she always had a ‘good outfit’ to wear, and could not be accused of flashy dressing, or wasting money on fashion. Then one day she was sitting in a service where a meeting was announced where she was going to be the Guest Speaker. She was horrified to hear the woman behind her say “Oh she’s quite good, but I do hope she doesn’t wear that wretched grey suit again!” After that, she varied her ‘public speaking’ outfits. [**Am I on that yet, Mags?]

DSCF1033I concluded that maybe the instructions in Matthew 6:15-17 are relevant here. Let’s not go overboard with fashion and spend hours worrying about our appearance, but we do not want to give the impression that Christian women are dowdy and dull.

Surely we can be both smart and spiritual? I think it is not sinful to wear a pretty necklace, or enjoy a pair of killer stilettos [especially when you are Very Short!]

And maybe there are places where pride is acceptable. Perhaps our GB Officers were trying to instil a sense of pride in the uniform, and the organisation and values it represented [I am sure Jane and other ex service personnel will have something to day on that one!]

knittingAnd I am incredibly proud of my family. I think my daughters are brilliant young women, and I am proud not just of their many and varied achievements, but more than that, of the people that they are, their caring attitudes, and selflessness – all that they do for others, the things they do for charity [have I mentioned Steph is running a half marathon today for the MS Society, and would love more sponsorship? Click here] If I ever become a grandmother, I shall be unbearably proud of the next generation too [and probably knit them lots of hideous jumpers]

But all that is the negative side – avoiding pride. What about the positive side – how to be humble? That’s a different matter

I am preparing this on Saturday afternoon – Bob is busy downstairs planning tomorrow’s All Age Service, and I believe he is using Philippians 2, and Christ’s humility as his starting point. Perhaps I should wait, and post his sermon instead! Maybe details of that will follow later on. Last week, at the WWDOP I reminded the ladies of Micah’s words

What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

True humility is recognising that I am not the greatest, that I must follow the example of my Servant King – and put others first. Joy is found in following the simple acronym Jesus, Others, Yourself.

The tiny village school where I am currently working [and loving it] has a minuscule car park. Space for only a few vehicles – those of the Head, the Chair of Governors, and the lorry delivering the lunches at mid-day. Certainly no room for the tiny Daewoo of a humble Supply Teacher like me! So I park up the road in a nearby layby. Next to the layby is the old Village Pump.


It stands there, proudly painted in green and gold. Looking quite splendid.

But it doesn’t work!

The original job of the pump was simply to dispense clean life-giving water to the people and animals of the village.It looks good, but today it is useless. The insides are all seized up and blocked. You can pump the creaky handle up and down – but achieve nothing.

Lord, let me never be so proud that I spend time making myself appear good –while inside I have filled my brain with rubbish and my heart is so full of ‘me’ that I cannot serve You and bless others.

Teach me to walk humbly with you, and be prepared to serve you, however, wherever you want me to.


  1. I love your Girls' Brigade stories! My mum was brought up with those strange double standards (wear smart clothes, but deoderant is sinful, for example) and was careful not to put us through the same confusion! In fact, I think my 'dress up every now and then' approach used to upset her a bit - she wanted to see me looking great every day.

    I am thinking a lot about humility - I'd better not give away too much of a future post, but I think that my parents' overwhelming pride in me made me feel that I had a lot to live up to, and sometimes made me more concerned with 'looking right' than with actually 'being right' on any matter - appearance, jobs, parenting... I felt I had no excuse not to be the perfect person they seemed to take me for. Fortunately, God is patient and is getting through to me, slowly and gently!

    1. Your last sentence is wonderful Floss- we are ALL in need of God's grace and patience.

      We're getting there...slowly...

  2. Well you're certainly on my List of Significant International Speakers!! We love that Micah passage- that was the one we chose to be Matthew's theme for us, and for his baptism service. And certainly I am very proud of him and his already passionate grasp of the theology of wealth and the state of Afghanistan. Maybe pride, like love, should be discussed with all its Greek subtleties!

  3. Yes, we had great pride in our uniforms, and what they reperesented..we were protectors of our country.We were less than charitable about the appearance of the other branches of HM Forces...after all we were the 'senior' service.
    We were accountable to those who had gone before to 'be the best we could be'.....much as we strive to be the best we can be for Go adn be in their image...though I'm not sure that Jesus got the same shine on his sandals as we did on our shoes/boots!!!
    Jane xx

  4. A very thoughtprovoking post. I think that as women life is hard to get a balance sometimes and I don't think God wants us to be dowdy and frumpy, but to display beauty especially from within us without being proud and conceited.

  5. I think Fiona has it here, it is a question of motive and balance.

  6. I always remember a pastor saying from the pulpit, in the context of a sermon and with regards to cosmetics: "If the barn needs painting, paint it!"

    It's okay to be proud of our loved ones, I think, if behind it is the realization that every good and perfect gift comes from above. All that we love and admire in others has been put there by God. Admiring it should redound to His credit.

    P.S. I avoid high heels like the plague - not for spiritual reasons but because I just can't walk in them! By all means wear your high heels, to the glory of God. "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?" No one - it takes high heels to do that. :)


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