I try to read Oswald Chambers pretty regularly, and this morning the reading was on living in the ‘valley of humiliation’, which seemed appropriate after the Nebraska-Wisconsin game last night. As usual, Chambers’ devotional was powerful:
After every time of exaltation we are brought down with a sudden rush into things as they are where it is neither beautiful nor poetic nor thrilling. The height of the mountain top is measured by the drab drudgery of the valley; but it is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mount, but we never live for His glory there. It is in the sphere of humiliation that we find our true worth to God, that is where our faithfulness is revealed. Most of us can do things if we are always at the heroic pitch because of the natural selfishness of our hearts, but God wants us at the drab commonplace pitch, where we live in the valley according to our personal relationship to Him. Peter thought it would be a fine thing for them to remain on the mount, but Jesus Christ took the disciples down from the mount into the valley, the place where the meaning of the vision is explained.
There is a temptation for me to try to avoid the valley, to escape it, to avoid it, and to live above the day to day. But when I am stuck in the mire of the daily difficulties, and am at the end of my strength, with no energy to pretend– that is when I have little choice but to give in to God and believe, because there is nothing else I can do. Chambers says, “It takes the valley of humiliation to root the scepticism out of us.”
Here in Milwaukee we go to a little Lutheran Church which is great for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the liturgy that we say together. Each week we have a prayer of confession together. This morning’s meant a lot to me, because it speaks to our brokenness, our incompleteness, and our failure to be what God has made us to be.
First, the pastor said:
Lord God, we confess our failure to be all that you have created us to become. We acknowledge falling short of what we could have been as a community, congregation, family, people.
Then the congregation all said these words together:
Where we might have been compassionate, we have shown indifference; present, we have been absent; our voices heard in protest or support, we have remained silent. Where we might have sown seeds of understanding and love, we have scattered conflict and confusion.
We confess the promises we have broken, the vows we have violated, the relationships we have compromised. We confess all the possibilites for growing up that we have ignored for the sake of being comfortable and secure.
There isn’t a line there that I couldn’t relate to. No one knows our own unfaithfulness like we do I suppose. I know I often am indifferent when I should have shown compassion. I know that I’ve been absent on purpose in situations where I should have been present. Many issues I should have spoken for or against, and I’ve remained silent. Many times where I caused confusion and dischord instead of bringing love and understanding to a situation. Promises I have broken, relationships I have scarred or broken, and many possibilities to grow and get stretched which I have given up for the sake of comfort and my own lazyness. Nothing like church to get you cheered up 🙂
But these things are true whether we confess them or not. It is not less depressing to hide them and cover them up, but we like to live in intentional ignore-ance of these truths. When we confess we acknowledge that we are in the valley, and then in our need we are able to receive from God. When we still pretend to be self sufficient and ‘together’ we are so busy holding things together that we cannot open up our arms for mercy.
I was reminded to two things today: I like Oswald Chambers, and I like to go to church…
May God have mercy on us all…