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Last Wednesday I spent six hours hearing about the ways I'd fallen short. I sat and listened as Ken, a trucking inspector from the state, told me the ways he didn't like my personal style or organization, he wasn't impressed with the absence of a few important documents in my files, and he couldn't believe my "mamby pamby" taste in coffee. Ken told me all the ways he was disappointed.
At first I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry and tell him that my dad is dying and beg him for just an ounce of mercy. I wanted to blame the missing documents on other people, to point fingers and save face. I wanted to shed hot tears of shame and embarrassment in hopes that he'd have a soft spot in his heart.
But I didn't cry. And I bred some really angry anger in my heart. I told myself about the ways he was unjustified in his expectations, encouraged my own heart by tearing his down, silently berated him in return for his criticisms. I didn't shout or complain or share with him all the hideous internal dialogue I was having. I didn't speak unkind words as deeply as I believed he deserved them.
I sat and I listened and finally, after sweating through my t-shirt in shame, I told him I was deeply apologetic. I told him I was embarrassed because I like to do well at things. I acknowledged his critiques and said I understood the inspection process now more than ever so I could update my organization. I nodded and took notes and found a book that'll help me with all the expectations his employer has of me.
And then, after too many long hours of togetherness with Ken, I breathed a sigh of relief as his white van with government plates pulled out of our yard. I breathed a relief and looked over the notes one more time. I looked over the orange paper covered in black pen and saw my heart there on the paper.
I'd written: Do better next time.
I pride myself on doing a good job. This isn't the same as doing my best because I don't want to just try hard, I want to succeed. I want people to be impressed with my efforts, encouraging of my process, and kind in their critique. When I fall short of their expectations, I feel like a failure. Feeling like a failure is humbling. It's a deeply humbling feeling.
We are not a failure simply because of someone's feelings. We are not defined by the way we are seen by others, but we need humble. We need humbling for three simple reasons:
1. Our pride.
2. Our hearts.
3. Our peace.
Without humbling, we forget our place. We become Gods in some pretend-control of our lives. Without humbling our hearts grow hard with perfection, sure of our own righteous souls. Without humbling, He has no place in our lives. And so, we don't cry, we don't speak anger, we take notes and breathe.
Yes, we thank Him for the reminder, hoping it comes in a kind package, not one that's six hours long and full of sighing disapproval. But regardless the shape and size of our serving, we always eat the humble pie.