Finding Rest in Humility

Apparently, in addition to all his better-known gifts, Thomas Jefferson was a gardener. His experimentation with horticulture added over five hundred new fruits and vegetables to the world, but he was never able to successfully cultivate a vineyard at Monticello, his beloved Virginia home.  Here’s why:  the French varieties of grapes he coveted had no resistance to the tiny root louse which feeds on the roots of grapevines and thrives in North American soil.  His dream of a beautiful vineyard was being, quite literally, cut off at the roots.

Hannah Anderson shares Jefferson’s gardening woes as an illustration of the effect of pride on the human heart.  An infestation of pride not only cuts peace and joy off at the roots, but also heightens stress levels and causes the oblivious host to strive for levels of self-sufficiency and competence that we were never meant to shoulder.  In Humble Roots, Hannah shares a number of definitions of humility that give structure to her words and that also reveal the important role that a humble heart plays in the formation of a soul that is both grounded and nourished.

“Humility is accurately understanding ourselves and our place in the world.  Humility is knowing where we came from and who our people are.  Humility is understanding that without God we are nothing.” (56)

In directing our gaze to the lilies of the field, Jesus invites His followers to a humble dependence on His provision.  With 75% of Americans reporting that they experience some level of stress on any given month (21) — and all its attending health issues — a humble acknowledgement of our need can be life-saving.

“Humility is not feeling a certain way about yourself, not feeling small or low or embarrassed or even humiliated.  Theologically speaking, humility is a proper understanding of who God is and who we are as a result.” (103)

This clear view of the self reveals that most of our struggles are rooted in a pride that exalts and prioritizes our own feelings over all else.  It takes a certain amount of courage to agree with John the Beloved Disciple’s assessment that God is “greater than our hearts.”  The humble admission that He “knows all things” — and by extension that I do not know all things — is a tremendous first step in admitting the limits of human reason and in acknowledging the truth that all is gift.

“Humility remembers both your human limitation and God’s transcendent power.” (157)

Proverbs 16:9 yields truth that eases my control issues with the knowledge of the choreography that exists between my decision-making and God’s sovereignty, for indeed, plan as I may, it is God who directs my steps.  How glorious that God invites me to dream, while also reassuring me that I need never lose sight of His ultimate control as the One who is writing the patterns for every figure of the dance.

“Humility teaches us to find rest in confession.  Rest from the need to hide, the need to be perfect.  We rest by saying, both to God and others, ‘I am not enough.  I need help.'” (186)

Life here outside The Garden means that no one is immune from brokenness and fallibility, but humility alleviates some of the sting, for when we freely confess our brokenness to God and others, we are free to grieve it, to stop hiding it, and to take grace.

There is irony in Hannah Anderson’s choice of a title for her book, for it quickly becomes clear that it is pride that lives in the roots of humanity.  Thus, it becomes the lifelong journey of the Christian life to uproot all that is harmful (or, depending on one’s perspective, to cooperate with God in His uprooting) and to transplant (by grace) all that redeems.  In the meantime, having read and allowed the truth to land on plowed soil, I’m enjoying the message that “God raised Jesus up because this is how God responds to humility.” (199)

And on this February day in which my refrigerator is playing host to two tomatoes that can only be described as “plastic,” my gardener-soul is nourished by this lovely sentence:

“A sun-ripened tomato is one of God’s clearest acts of common grace.” (118)

In Humble Roots,  Hannah Anderson has drawn a clear connection between the cultivation of those sun-ripened beauties and the pursuit of soul-nourishment, peace, rest, and an end to the ceaseless striving.  Using metaphors as earthy as our clay-based bodies, she cooperates with the Word of God to reveal that the quality of life we most desire will not come to us through power or reason or productivity or any number of quick fixes, but, rather, through roots that are sunk deeply into a theology of need and answering grace — and a humble acceptance of a life that is lived close to the ground.

//

This book was provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

74 thoughts on “Finding Rest in Humility”

  1. Wow! The few quotes you chose from the book about humility are powerful. Knowing that humility is knowing who God is and who we are as a result speaks to me as well as being able to confess that I am not enough and I need help. I am not good at admitting I need help. But I can sense the freedom in that. Love the review!

    I listened to your podcast with Holly and loved every minute of it. What a treat to hear your voice and imagine you as you shared such wisdom. I think you have found a new calling-speaking!!! 🙂

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    1. Mary, I truly loved this book, and it is finding its way into so much of my thinking these days. So much of what God requires of us (for our good and His glory) comes out of a place of humility, and even the Brave Faith you have written about is a brave casting of ourselves onto His mercy — knowing that we do not know all that He has planned.
      Thanks for listening to my chat with Holly. I sure know why you two have become such good friends.

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  2. Just today I sat down to write a poem that so captures what you have shared here about this book, Michele. This quote especially: “Theologically speaking, humility is a proper understanding of who God is and who we are as a result.” Love how God encourages us through each other. Thank you for these words.

    I have always understood so well what I am not without my God, but somehow I am still learning to see myself as who I AM in Him, understanding that by His grace I’m no longer covered in guilt and shame, but in Him instead, where I choose to turn toward, rather than away in shame. Again and again He reminds me:

    “Fearfully and wonderfully
    Have I made your frame
    To hold the very Heart
    That bled and died and rose again
    To beat within your very own

    I ask not that you hold
    I ask not that you strive
    I ask not that you try so very hard
    To be what beats within you even now

    All I ask is that you come
    And sit here at My feet
    To pour all out
    That hides behind that wall of shame
    Those lying tongues do place before your very frame …

    Rise and shine instead
    In all My Light of Grace
    That beckons from behind
    That wall
    No more

    Into My loving arms that wait
    To each beat of flowing truth
    That girds you now in who
    You truly are in Me

    Forgiven, held and pure
    That’s who You are in Me
    And evermore will be”

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    1. Wow, so beautiful. Thank you for attaching it here so that others can read it in this context of talking and thinking about humility. Confession and the discipline of trusting our identity to God is a huge act of humility.

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    2. Thank-you for sharing this…it echoes a concept I’ve been mulling over–
      “Keep yourselves in the love of God…” and the ensuing benediction: Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy….! Amen. (Jude 21,24)

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  3. I think I’ll add the bit where I placed the “…”, as otherwise I think it loses the importance of confession, I think:

    “Let it out that it may die
    A death to flesh that holds you captive even now
    Not to who you are
    But to who those lying tongues
    Would have you be”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much for giving us this review today. It seems I may need to read this book! These concepts are precisely what I sense the Lord teaching me these days in very tangible ways. It’s revolutionary when head knowledge begins to stir our hearts and change the way we perceive God and ourselves. Thanks so much Michele. The quotes are treasures as are your own words! I’ve been copy/pasting eagerly this morning. Just wanted you to know your labor is not in vain in the Lord ( :

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    1. Lessons from this book have found their way into a lot of my thinking lately, too, Linda. I want to go back and re-read, so if you do decide to read it, let me know your thoughts, because I’m not done processing.

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      1. Yes, I actually had read that and have been wondering about some of the points she made. I would love it if you could begin writing on your blog again, and since I now know that you are pondering “the writing thing,” I will be praying for you as you consider what God wants for you in this area.

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      2. Thanks Michele. This is never far from my mind and conscience. Desperately needing grace to start again, and direction for the details. Can’t seem to live without writing!

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  5. the theology of need wouldn’t be half so comforting without the answering of grace. thanks, michele, for a book well-offered, as His grace always is when I’m humble enough to sink down into it, like the common yet delicious sun-ripened tomato.

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    1. Oh, that tomato image just haunts me on this February day with two feet of snow outside more door, more in the forecast, and two more “plastic” tomatoes in my fridge. So many great images in Hannah’s writing!

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  6. I like the quotes you share about humility. I’m in the middle of reading a book called “I am not but I know I Am” and it sounds like the themes are similar- getting a proper perspective of God’s greatness and our limitations. Thanks for sharing about this book.

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  7. I really liked the point ““Humility is accurately understanding ourselves and our place in the world. Humility is knowing where we came from and who our people are. Humility is understanding that without God we are nothing.” Knowing and understanding. What a great review of Hannah’s book. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

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  8. Good morning Michele! Thank you for sharing a refreshing and enlightening perspective on humility. So often we seem to equate humility with weakness. You and Hannah help us understand it is the conduit to grace, and the beginning of grace. Prayers for a fruitful day.

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  9. So true! Pride is what got Satan kicked out of heaven, what lead to Adam and Eve’s down fall, and what feeds virtually every sin in all of our lives. Recognizing our actual wretchedness, God’s holiness, and realizing He still condescended to save such worms as myself…there is nothing more humbling.

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  10. Humility to me is such a fascinating topic, Michele. It feels a bit like a butterfly that, every time I come near, it flutters elusively out of my grasp. I really love what Hannah says all throughout, but especially this, “Humility remembers both your human limitation and God’s transcendent power.” That’s a tension that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time, so I clearly wanted to say, “Amen!” to that thought. Thanks for sharing this, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Michele,
    Seems like we’re both in the same current this week…perfectionism, pride, humility – oh how they are all interwoven. Hannah offers some very wise, sage, and grounded advice in applying humility at the roots of our lives. Otherwise we bear no fruit. As the saying goes, God is God and I am not. Knowing one’s place, our limitations, and our dire need of grace is a good place to be. This looks like one I’ll have to get my hands on.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. I’ve really enjoyed the reactions of readers to this book. It does seem as if we are all on the same journey in which we see the joy and peace possible in a life lived close to the ground — and yet we are so tied to our own way of doing things with our hands fused to the steering wheel.

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  12. These are some enlightening definitions of humility. I know I struggle with understanding what true humility is, as it has been skewed by so many. I love this post and how eye-opening it is to true humility!

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    1. One thing that Hannah helped me to see is that a clear view of God — who He is, what He has done, particularly what I need Him to do for me — is the best way to have a clear view of myself. Reality therapy!

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  13. “A life that is lived close to the ground.” What a pretty phrase. The small life is the peaceful life, isn’t it? Looks like a lovely book, Michele, thanks for sharing the review. 🙂 — And thanks for being such a faithful sharer with #ChasingCommunity. I appreciate you. xoxo

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  14. Those founding fathers were busy people! They wouldn’t have had time for the internet like we do. ha. Humility is such an easy concept to hear, but such a hard one to do. I know I need much more practice. Thanks for sharing this resource, Michele.

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  15. Love this: “We rest by saying, both to God and others, ‘I am not enough. I need help.’” Your words echo a message I keep hearing about our roots, our identity, and abiding in Him. Thank you for sharing this, Michele.

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  16. I was surprised – and saddened – to read that Thomas Jefferson tried – and failed – to grow a vineyard at Monticello. Now, some 200 years later, there are hundreds of vineyards in Virginia, but they use different varietals. He garden and dream would have flourished, if only he was humble enough to work with – rather than force his will on – his environment. What an important reminder that, despite our best efforts, we cannot control all things. I seem to learn (and forget) this lesson again and again. Thank you for continuing and encouraging my education 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a great comment, Melissa! Thanks for sharing this insight from the perspective of a vintner, thereby “continuing and encouraging MY education”! This is a view of humility that has broad repercussions as we steward the riches of this planet and humbly receive riches from the earth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Michele, I had not even considered the repercussions for ecological stewardship. How true! I am so looking forward to reading more on your blog and in this book. They’ve got me thinking!

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I love this, Michele: “The humble admission that He ‘knows all things’ — and by extension that I do not know all things — is a tremendous first step in admitting the limits of human reason and in acknowledging the truth that all is gift.” Great quotes and commentary. And I know what you mean about those winter tomatoes … nothing beats one straight from the garden. 🙂

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    1. Having read Hannah’s book on humility within range of Jen Wilkin’s book on the attributes of God (None Like Him) has worked a powerful combination in my brain — the greatness of God, the traits that only He can possess, the blessed neediness of being less or admitting to powerlessness.
      Just one more example of the sovereignty of God – even over our reading choices!

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  18. So true that as you wrote when we confess our brokenness we are free to grieve and experience grace. It’s a needed message. I’m still a work in progress as He reveals layers of brokenness and cultivated that peace and rest in me!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I, too, grow vegetables, so the roots analogy really makes sense to me.
    I am surprised at the statistic that 75% report stress. I honestly think this is a low percentage. Everyone I know seems stressed about something, making this book all the more important. Thanks, Michele.

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  20. Great review, Michele! I love your writing and insight.
    “How glorious that God invites me to dream, while also reassuring me that I need never lose sight of His ultimate control as the One who is writing the patterns for every figure of the dance.” Beautifully worded!! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

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  21. This looks like a great book. Today I find myself tired, and this quote stuck out, “Humility remembers both your human limitation and God’s transcendent power.” Today I need to humble myself and rest. I have reached my human limitations.

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  22. A well crafted review to be sure. A few pieces really struck me, and I love the way you phrased this, “an end to the ceaseless striving” because I definitely feel this is an issue I personally struggle with. I’m glad you linked up at #FridayFrivolity.

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  23. I too am rejoicing in what the Lord is teaching me about being humble. I am doing I study right now in a book called “Jesus Style”. Thank you for sharing . Knowing who you are is being humble knowing Jesus is the ride. Blessings Christie

    Liked by 1 person

  24. As Stuart Scott says, pride is not something you struggle with and I don’t. He says we all struggle with it, it just shows up in different ways! It’s a lifelong battle, isn’t it! His little gem of a book entitled “From Pride to Humility,” has a long list of the different ways it shows up that I always find very convicting!

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  25. Thanks for the great review of this book. The analogy using Thomas Jefferson’s garden took me back to our various stops at Monticello over the years and how much he did enjoy gardening. The root of pride is a difficult one and I think only the Lord can cut it out at the depth it grows.

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      1. It’s a delightful place to visit….especially if you are a student of history and have read a good book on Jefferson, but it can be very hot if you choose July or August. There is a great trail from the top of the hill where it sets to the bottom that has wooden bridges over parts of the path and round trip it nets almost 5 miles and is a lot of fun as well. We have very close friends who retired to Charlottesville so we walk that trail nearly every time we visit.

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