Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
We have seen in the first two parts of this review how Humble Roots points us to see humility not as a way we feel, but as an understanding of our creaturely dependence on God. The bulk of the rest of the book looks at how this humility plays out across a variety of aspects of life. Anderson tackles our bodies, our emotions, our intellect, how we steward our gifts, make plans and face suffering and death. There is much to be challenged by and reflect on in each of these sections, but I thought I’d share with you just two that stood out for me.
The first one of these was her chapter on how humility will affect our emotions. Anderson describes how Christians can take on board the world’s tendency to prioritize our emotions as a source of truth. She contrasts this to the change humility brings to understanding our emotions. She points us to 1 John 3.20 to see that “God is greater than our heart” and as such “humility teaches us that we don’t have to obey our emotions because the only version of reality that matters is God’s.” Anderson goes on to use the example of being slandered by a friend to show how we can be trapped by our emotions. She describes how our hurt, anger and fear may drive us to strike back, cling to others for reassurance and rush around trying to correct people’s impression of us. And we do all this because our emotions are driving us to protect ourselves. She goes on to share how resting in God’s judgement of us through Christ and allowing humility to root our sense of self in God, will free us to respond from a place of control and grace. We can see the world from a perspective greater than our own heart.
This same humility not only frees us from the condemnation of others, but also from our tendency to condemn ourselves. I know that too often I fall into this camp. The rebuke in this book was sharply felt. She writes, “When we navel-gaze or become preoccupied with our weaknesses, we’re simply turning our attention back on ourselves; and by judging ourselves, we put ourselves in God’s place.” There is an arrogance in this too, our place is not as judge, but as grateful and joyful recipients of grace. I could easily go on sharing more wonderful nuggets from this chapter on emotions. I underlined so much of it and so much deserved reflection, pray and repentance.
Another question dealt with is how humility teaches us to navigate our desires and dreams. How do we go about making plans and having hopes for our earthly lives, while acknowledging God is sovereign and seeking to surrender our lives to him? She is keen to stress in this chapter that to be humble doesn’t mean to have no desires, but rather to see God as actively redeeming our desires through Jesus. He is teaching us to want the right things, in the right way. She speaks against the pride of demanding to know God’s will before we act, or to expect a knowledge beyond our human capacity to know. Rather, Anderson highlights how the “slow-reveal” of God keeps us dependent on him. Humility in this area will look like acknowledging your desires before God, trusting him with your plans and submitting to the possibility that they won’t be fulfilled. I found this chapter such a thought provoking one, I still have questions about how this meshes with the call to deny ourselves and take up our cross. But like so much of this book there was much rich food for thought here.
I found Humble Roots such a well written and helpful read. Anderson is a thoughtful writer and there is much to feast the mind on in this look at humility. I appreciated her ability to bring what the Bible has to say about humility together with some very insightful, practical applications. The invitation of the gospel to move from pride and self-reliance, and instead humble ourselves under our merciful Creator rung clear in this book. I think it would be hard to read it and come away unchallenged by ways at which pride has crept into your heart. Anderson has a way of cutting through the motives and thoughts that so often derail us. I’d highly recommend you read it.
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.