“The Bent Knee”

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading this summer. Lots and lots of holds at the library, books borrowed from friends, and old favorites pulled off the shelf. It’s been good so far. I’m enjoying myself, reading some painful stuff, and learning more than I imagined. I’ve taken to writing striking quotes in a notebook, keeping a log of sorts on what I’m ingesting this summer. Which brings me to this post. I’ve been reading A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Several friends at school recommended it, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve got a nice page of quotes, and I’m not quite one hundred pages into the book.

When I came to the quote that sparked this post, I almost skipped over it. After all, it’s not spiritual, is it? It’s not the attitude we ought to have as Christians, right? True. But that’s why it’s so important. While this sentiment is not ideal for Christians, it is reality for humans, for all of us. The bare words struck me as so true and so vulnerable that I stopped to consider whether I could relate to them. I found that I could understand–maybe more than I liked. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what this golden quote is. Please don’t be disappointed. It’s only one sentence, just 17 words excerpted from one of Vanauken’s letters to CS Lewis.

“Indeed, there is nothing in Christianity which is so repugnant to me as humility–the bent knee.”

Wow. I was amazed. How could someone so succinctly describe perhaps the greatest struggle that we can have with the reality of Christianity? Certainly, this is not everyone’s stumbling block. In fact, it is perhaps a more in-bred fault; that is, children of Christian parents and who were raised in the Church might be more likely to find this struggle their reality. Maybe not. I can only speak from my experience as a young woman who has spent her entire life going to church every Sunday and most Wednesdays unless she was sick. Now, I don’t suppose I ever really thought about humility as my issue. Come on, now! When I was only 8 years old, I learned a good definition for humility. My 2nd-grade teacher promised that we would remember that definition for the rest of our lives. I’m inclined to believe her, seeing as 11 years later I can still quote the words from my flashcard: Humility is “thinking of yourself less often.” Certainly humility is more. We could write volumes on what that concept is, what humility truly means. But for an 8-year-old, that definition is plenty. Even for an adult, that definition is a helpful reminder. But that’s not my point.
My point is that humility is the issue that gets to me. I don’t think about it often because that requires too much consideration. Do I really want to face the monster of my pride? Or would I rather nurse him as my pet, feeding him the “good girl” list? I teach Sunday school. I’m leading a Vacation Bible School class this summer. I just read X number of Christian books in the past month. I found a good church as soon as I got to college. I take communion. I, I, I! Me, me, me! This certainly isn’t humility, is it? This is, in fact, both identical and foreign to Vanauken’s struggle. He was not a Christian already. I am. He did not base his good standing with God on what he had done. I often do. He openly wrestled his desire to rule his own life and his desire to surrender to the One Who ruled–if such a One existed. I privately consider this dichotomy and publicly proclaim how I have it all together–with a smile indicating that I really am fine, even if I’m not. Yet Vanauken and I can share this struggle, this wrestling with pride and humility. This revulsion to bending our knees to the King. This attraction to throwing our whole lot in with the One in control. Back and forth we struggle. And I wonder if this struggle is not common among us all. Isn’t this the fight between our flesh and the Spirit? Praise God we have the Spirit to convict us and bring us into the light! The glorious light… May we bend our knees and surrender our all, even our pride.

¡Dios te bendiga!

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