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Jockeying for Position

Every morning the lambs get a hearty ration of lespedeza pellets. Lespedeza (aka “poor man’s alfalfa”) has a high level of tannins in it, which has been proven to reduce the parasitic loads that can take sheep down with remarkable speed and fury. Since we prefer not to use chemical dewormers unless absolutely necessary, these pellets have been helping to keep things well under control. What’s not under control is the way these lambs push each other around, always jockeying for a better position at the feeding troughs. I don’t know what drives the behavior (seriously, they have plenty of food). I only know that each of them is obsessed with getting their fair share…and then some!

As you can see from the video, Josie got crowded out one too many times and has that “do something, Mom” look on her sweet, woolly face. I can relate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been crowded out of the riding arena, the playing field, the writer’s circle, desired affections, or the cool-kids club in my life. Sometimes you’re in. Sometimes you’re out. Sometimes it matters. Sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does—when our pride rears and the urge to blame, stew, grumble, fight, fret, and defend or promote ourselves kicks in—we can easily find ourselves curiously at war with ourselves instead of our perceived offenders. You know who gets the giggles over that? Satan and his minions, those fallen angels who themselves have tumbled headlong from their once-exalted positions in the order of grace. They’re poster children for the expression: pride goeth before the fall and wouldn’t they just love more company?

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the less fight I have in me for life’s little injustices. It used to be that the only arsenal I carried was a cannonball. It wasn’t that I was ill-tempered. I just didn’t have time to dally with bb guns. Now (mostly), with age, wisdom, discipline, and tons of grace, my weapon of choice is a shrug and a practiced “so what?” I’m still a work in progress, but defending my position doesn’t much matter unless it has to do with things that matter to the heart of God: the care of the poor, the life of the unborn, the need for salvation through Jesus Christ, the Ten Commandments…you get the idea. The point is, somewhere along the line, I had to choose a lens through which to see the world and my place in it. I chose the lens and the light of faith.

Over and over again, Jesus made it perfectly clear what place and position we should jockey for in this life so that we can be happy with Him in the next:

“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

“Take the lowest place.” Luke 14:10

“Blessed are the poor in spirit … Blessed are the meek.” Matthew 5:1-12

"The last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20:16

And just in case we didn’t get the point, He stooped to humbly wash the feet of his beloved disciples on the night before He laid down his life for you and for me on a cross intended to punish and humiliate Him but ultimately served to exalt Him as the Savior of the World.

Saints throughout the ages have expounded on the virtue of humility as the foundation for living a holy life, but there’s one who stands out for me as the embodiment of what it means to be humble and holy. She came up with her own “list” of what it takes to practice and attain humility. Maybe with the season of Lent around the corner, you’ll join me in picking one or two (or more!) of the disciplines set forth by St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta to focus on for those 40 days, or for daily life in general. I’ve listed them below for you to ponder.

As the saying goes: it’s hard to be humble. But is it? In her tireless ministry to love and to serve the poorest of the poor, the diseased, the dying, the lonely, and the outcasts of society, people would ask Mother Teresa, “How do you do it?” A woman of few words, she would humbly reply: “My secret is quite simple. I pray.” And while, like our lambs at the troughs, we humans jockey for position at the table of public opinion, social media, power, honor, pleasure, and self-promotion, Mother Teresa clearly understood that we are in a position to receive our greatest power when we place ourselves on our knees.

“Self knowledge,” she says, “puts us on our knees and is very necessary for love. For knowledge of God gives love, and knowledge of self gives humility.” Let’s pray for the grace to “Know Thyself” in light of the way God knows and sees us (and our utter dependence on Him) for in His light do we see light. (Ps. 36:9).

Mother Teresa's Humility List

1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.

2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.

3. Avoid curiosity.

4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.

5. Accept small irritations with good humor.

6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.

7. Accept censures even if unmerited.

8. Give in to the will of others.

9. Accept insults and injuries.

10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.

11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.

12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.

13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.

14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.

15. Choose always the more difficult task.


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