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Jo 17I wonder what the most appealing personality trait is for you. What virtue do you most admire in others and perhaps wish you could cultivate a little more in yourself?

Mine has been the same for years now—and that is humility. Recently, I came across the following statement:

Find humility or it will find you.

I could not help but agree. And these words set me thinking about my quest for more of that rather elusive commodity in my own life.

I grew up feeling quite proud of certain things I could do, particularly in the academic area. That led to my looking down on others who did not do so well at school. Never mind that they left me for dead on the sporting field and in other ways. And it seems to me such thinking can lead to a kind of self-protection, where we feel safer and better about ourselves by judging others to be inferior in some way.

We often come to hate some trait in another person that we ourselves have, don’t you think? We may be unable to acknowledge or even recognise it in ourselves—but we can see it clearly in someone else. It’s for this reason, I believe, that I came to hate pride and arrogance in others. And perhaps it’s for this reason that I longed to be much more like those who had achieved great things in their lives yet seemed so humble about it all. I remember several amazing people I have met, some only fleetingly, whose humility both amazed and challenged me. And I am grateful for others who have shown me over longer periods in my life what it is truly like to walk that humble road.

But it has been through my writing journey that God has taught me the most about humility. I believe God has a great sense of humour. Not long after I started writing, I suspect I heard God say to me, in a loving but slightly rueful tone: ‘You want to be more humble, Jo-Anne? Right—then writing’s a sure fire way to reach your goal!’ There is nothing quite as daunting and confronting, I have discovered, than putting one’s creative efforts out there for all the world to see, to like or dislike, to criticise or to praise, to tear apart or to truly ‘get’ and appreciate. One of the most unnerving experiences I have ever had was to see a man whose opinion I respected reading one of my early novels. Was he enjoying it—or did he think it was rubbish? I could not tell. I looked the other way. I did not want to find out.

In 1 Peter 5:5-7, we read:

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

I would much rather that God extend grace to me than oppose me, wouldn’t you? And that’s one reason I plan to keep going in my quest for that elusive commodity of humility until the day when God’s hand, and not my own, lifts me up.

Is humility something you long for more of in your life too—or has it found you already?

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This past weekend, I experienced a reality check. I happened to glance at the calendar on our kitchen wall and noticed it was showing the dates for January. That’s okay, I thought—we’re still in January, aren’t we? But wait! We had Australia Day last weekend—we must be in February!

With a sinking feeling, I reached out and tore off that sheet showing all those January dates, crumpled it up and threw it in the bin. Usually whenever I get rid of the past month’s dates, I pause to reflect on all that has happened during that time—family events, appointments, speaking engagements, writing days. But this time, there was a big blank in my mind about it all. Where had that first month gone? How had I let it slip away like that?

Granted, there have been some extenuating circumstances that need to be taken into account—like a back operation in the middle of the month! Prior to that, I was largely focused on coping with pain and deciding on the best way forward health-wise. And afterwards—well, I’m hanging onto the theory that my brain fuzziness is due to the anaesthetic I had rather than anything else! I’m slowly getting on track again, but realise I have missed out on most of the planning I usually do in January to set up speaking engagements and promotional events. As for my current writing project, I can barely remember what it is about right now! Any wonder I felt a little discouraged, as I tore that first month from our calendar?

I almost laughed out loud, however, when I turned to that well-worn part of my bible, the Psalms, yesterday and discovered I was up to Psalm 18 again. I suspect God has a sense of humour, because there I found the following verses:

You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help, I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. (28-29)

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. (33)

You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. (36)

Now I’m clumsy at the best of times. Somehow I don’t think my feet are anything like those nimble deer’s feet. Right now, I’m not advancing anywhere too confidently. And as for scaling walls—forget it! Yet do you think it was any accident I read those verses? Do you think God was mocking me or trying to give me false hope? That doesn’t sound like God to me.

So I’m choosing to hear God’s positive, encouraging messages to me via this psalm. Right now, I’m choosing to accept God’s help as I step into this year, knowing that help will include strength for what lies ahead and the ability to stand and to overcome any obstacles along the way. With God, I know I will even be able to scale those walls that might look impenetrable. And as I live in God’s light and love, I know my own lamp will not go out but shine brightly.

So I’m looking forward to the year ahead—and I hope you are too. Let’s scale those walls together!

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