I’m not talking about the humility of Jesus and his mother, their giving over to God, accepting themselves as God’s beloved and annointed children and serving the divine purpose confidently, without arrogance or ego. No, i’m talking about that human-based remembering of what specks we are in creation, good specks but nonetheless specks. I’m talking about when i fall off a pedestal i’ve put myself on–nay, i am knocked off by circumstances beyond my control. And then, humbled, i am restored to an authentic sense of self and saved from arrogance and ego.
Here are three incidents from my writing life to incarnate these thoughts:
My first book, Sunday by Sunday, was under publication and i had scheduled a party: sent invitations, recruited readers, contracted with a caterer. Breathtakingly satisfying, right, to publish a book and celebrate/promote it? High on life and proud of my accomplishment, sittin’ up on cloud 9, that’s where i was. With each passing day leading up to the event, however, it became more and agonizingly more apparent that i would have no books for my book launch. Two weeks prior, with little hope that publication issues would be solved in time, i fell hard off that author pedestal into a dark hole, a sleepless night of embarrassment, chagrin, bitterly blaming myself and others. But a quiet joy came with the dawn, my prayers answered by God’s reassurance that i am loved, i am good, i am more than my writing. I remember putting myself in the place of those who were coming to the launch. If this glitch had happened to someone else, would i blame then or think less of their book? Certainly not. That thought calmed my soul and gave a proper perspective that this was no big deal. The party came off splendidly, guests filling out order forms and enjoying the readings and food and camaraderie.
A few months later, i sat in the mallway outside Waldenbooks (2007) ready to sell and sign my babies. I had stopped at Kinko’s on the way to pick up a poster-sized facsimile of the cover laminated on to foam board and, pumped and stressed, i quickly stuck the adhesive easel stand on the back of it and set up my tiny table. Didn’t sell a book that day, but that wasn’t the most humbling part. No one even stopped to chat except one shopper. She was staring hard at my table as she approached so i began to hope for contact, but no, she passed by like all the others. And then… and then… her face reappeared right next to me, like in a funny movie, and she inquired, “Did you know your sign is upside-down?” Wow. I thanked her and we laughed and she said she had thought maybe it was a book about the anti-christ. hahahahahahahahahahahaha Any embarrassment i might have felt got lost in the hilarity of it all and how perfectly the mistake fit with the general bust of the entire day!
Advent 2011 at Read Between the Lynes bookstore (owned by the Lynes family) on the square in Woodstock, Illinois (my birthplace) was the setting for the third humbling incident at a book signing for the release of Sunday by Sunday III. The store was cozy, the atmosphere literary and hospitable, and snow fell gently outside the picture windows. “We’ve already sold several books,” one of the clerks told me upon my arrival. Flabbergasted i was. “Gosh, i wonder who bought them,” i marveled. “Oh, i can tell you,” and she pulled out sales records and read the seven or eight names. I was grooving on how cool that was–until i realized that my ability to know the names of every person who purchased my books clearly signified commercial failure. I still thought it was neat though, in a way, even as i was most certainly humbled.
I expect to struggle with embodying true, God-given humility until the day i die. I want to sign off with a humorous 4-line poem about human-based humility i heard once, but i have searched and searched and cannot find it. It went something like If i become famous/ i will stay humble/but if i never get to be famous/ what good is all this humility doing me?
Anyone know that poem? Anyone care to share a humbling experience?