Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
We know as Christians that we are called to be humble. But what does it mean to be humble? If you surveyed your average congregation I wonder what kind of answers you would get. Perhaps being a doormat? Or how about having low self-esteem? Perhaps being modest and deflecting praise? I’m sure you’d hear at least one person quote the classic C.S. Lewis line that humility is not thinking less of ourselves; rather, it is thinking of ourselves less. It is humility that author Hannah Anderson sets out to examine in her book Humble Roots. I was intrigued by her starting point in directing us to our need to humble ourselves. She describes herself lying in bed at night, wide awake next to her peacefully slumbering husband, her mind racing. She then shares how this same restlessness pervaded her days. The unfinished to do lists, neglected friendships, endless responsibilities and the guilt she felt at never fulfilling them. The sensation of being weighed down by the normal stuff of life. She relays how she was feeling stressed and unhappy, with no major reason to be so. There was no particular crisis, just all the little ones of day to day life. She describes how so many of us feel this same way “blessed beyond measure, but exhausted, anxious, and uncertain nonetheless.”
Anderson tells us that for years she heard that the solution to such stress came from setting up boundaries, finding ways to be more productive, cultivating gratitude, and scheduling “me-time”. Essentially, that our sense of peace depends on us. She then invites us to turn to Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. Here, she writes, we see that our peace doesn’t start with us, it starts with Him. And peace starts with learning His humility. The goal of her book on humility is to “understand how pride manifests itself in anxiety and restlessness; and how humility frees us from the cycle of stress, performance, and competition.”
We are going to explore some of what Anderson has to say about cultivating humility over two more posts, but first we get to the heart of what the book points us to. What Anderson sees as the heart of what it means to be humble. And it seems quite simple. She sums in up in three words. “You’re. Not. God.” This will be the key focus of much of the book. To be humble is to know that God is God and we are not and to know ourselves as creatures that are dependent on him. Where we fail to see this will manifest itself as pride in many of our everyday choices.
I have to say that I found myself nodding along as Anderson described the heavy laden-ness that she walked through life with. And I was intrigued by her diagnosis of the cause of so much of this as our lack of humility. Here at the beginning of her book she challenged me with this: “When we believe that we are responsible for our own existence, when we trust our ability to care for ourselves, we will have nothing but stress because we are unequal to the task.” She points us instead to the instruction of Jesus to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”, and it is here she sees the start of humility. We must seek God, and let him take care of the rest.
Meet our contributor | Jocelyn Loane is married to Ed, who lectures in Doctrine and Church History at Moore College. They have five children and enjoy church together at St Peters, Cooks River. Her children think her hobbies include laundry, finding lost shoes and making multiple versions of the same dinner.