So here's what happened. I got on the plane a week ago to come to this place where I am from, this small town rural community in Manitoba, and frankly, not my favourite vacation spot in the world. And as is often my practice when going somewhere, I asked God, "So, what about this trip? What are you doing?" The answer was swift: "You need to practice some humility."
Don't you hate it when God asks you to humble yourself? I have come far since I left my hometown: I have had strange and wonderful experiences which include supernatural and mystical phenomenon, I have drunk alcohol and realised it is not the end of my salvation, I have made friends from all over the world, I have learned another language, I have overcome a lot of fears and prejudices and lost reams of religious trappings, I have participated in planting several churches, I have spoken in public and taught and written articles to some public acclaim. So most times when we visit, I feel a certain smallness in the community here, like it does not look far outside itself or embrace change all that well. And I am all about change - learning, growing, stretching, and going beyond what I know.
So you see how easy it is to go from my trying to live in the largeness of this life God has blessed me with to looking down on those who will never travel far from where they were born and tell me they are afraid of the changes they see coming. I really don't understand that mindset, and I must admit, I have judged it. Oh heck, let me just get the ugly truth out there: I think I am beyond this place, better than this place, wiser than this place, cooler than this place, and more spiritual than this place. I am proud and arrogant and self-centred and stink with self-righteousness. Yes, I need to learn humility. I definitely need it.
And so I landed in Manitoba with a prayer: to see this small town where I am from the way Jesus sees it, to value it like he does, to hear and embrace and enjoy everything that God saw fit to plant into this community and not lace my observations with comparisons or criticisms. To listen more than I talk. To receive more than I offer (because I think I have oh so much to offer, you know). To empty myself of my self-importance for a few days and look and love and breathe and see the life here instead of the lack.
It is remarkable what a small dose of humility can do. I can honestly say that I am having fun here. I am enjoying my interactions with people and making it a point to seek out some folks that I normally would overlook. I stop and make time for those chats with the random, semi-forgotten acquaintances that one always encounters in a small town. I try to be pleasant and approachable and real and down to earth in every situation, whether it involves talkative children in the bathroom needing some help with the soap dispenser or a person I have not seen in years who asks awkward questions. These people are valuable. God loves these people. He hand-picked this part of the world as the best place for me to grow up, and I must believe that it was an extravagant act of love on his part.
If there are walls between myself and the people here, I have put them there. If there is disappointment in how things progress here, it is because I have not extended grace. If I am not willing to serve my family and friends in this place, I am a sorry excuse for a follower of Jesus.
This humility is more enjoyable than I could have imagined, and not all that hard. All you have to do is get down. And stay down. Much easier than trying to raise oneself up all the time.
This is a photo taken from the plane as we landed in Winnipeg.