It’s that time of year again, autumn and the season for pie, the delicious time of year when I begin to crave warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream melting on top, piping hot turkey pot pie with lots of gravy, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a cup of steaming apple cider. Of course in the middle of June you’ll hear me give the same rallying cry for pie, but at that time of year it’s for fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie. Oh man, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. In late July, there is nothing better than a fresh blueberry pie with real whipped cream. Well, that is, until August comes along, and peaches are in season. Peach pie is oh, so very yummy with a glass of cold milk.
Obviously, I love pie. Give me pie and coffee for breakfast, and I’m the happiest woman in the world. Pie with afternoon tea outclasses any other mid-day snack. Pie for dessert beats all. There is only one kind of pie I don’t like, humble pie. No matter how it’s prepared, humble pie ends up being just a little too tart for my delicate palate. To tell the truth, when humble pie is being served, I get really calorie-conscious, and quickly look around for someone with whom to go halves. Unfortunately, humble pie seems to be God’s favorite, and it is “in season” all year long.
The Old Testament tells us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) The New Testament implores us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), and to “humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10) According to St. Augustine of Hippo, “humility is the foundation of all the other virtues.” In the Canticle of the Creatures St. Francis of Assisi sings, “Praise and bless my Lord, give thanks and serve him in all humility.” Obviously, Christians who are serious about growing in their relationships with Jesus need to acquire the taste for humble pie.
My life’s experiences lead me to believe that we grow in all virtues — humility included — through experiential education. That is, we learn to be humble after we have pridefully fallen on our faces, stuck our feet in our mouths, or tripped over our own tongues. After we have done this one time too many, we learn that being humble enough to admit our transgressions is far sweeter than being humiliated by the negative consequences of them. I suspect most married couples come to humility after an overblown argument or two that could have been settled easily and quickly if one of them had simply said, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” In his book The Myth of Certainty, author Daniel Taylor writes, “Humility also helps one recognize that the errors or wickedness of one’s ‘enemies’, no matter how grievous, do not ensure one’s own correctness or righteousness.” Even if our enemy is wrong, it does not mean that we are automatically right.
Admitting that we are sinful is not the only way we can practice humility. We know we are on the road to humility when we can let other people take the limelight, head up the project, or get a pat on the back without having to either butt in and toot our own horns or sulk until someone asks, “What’s the matter?” I heard it said once that humility is “knowing our place before God.” St. Augustine shows us this place with his expression, “man is a beggar before God.” What a beautiful image. Our proper posture before God is on our knees in humble adoration, not strutting around like peacocks.
It is tempting to say, “Oh, thank you very much, but I’m trying to cut down,” when God comes around with the humble pie. I think, however, that this is one kind of pie for which we need to forget the virtue diet, forget going halves, and instead say, “Go ahead, Lord, give me a double portion!”