The Quality I Most Admire

May 13, 2013

I’ve been touched by the lives of two men this week.  Struck by a quality that they have that I want.  Humility.

Some of you might know that Dallas Willard died this past week.  He was a mentor and close friend of my pastor.  Because of this relationship, Dallas Willard has made a huge impact at our church.  I was very sad last week.  I felt the loss.  John Ortberg has had a huge impact on my life through his teachings.  I felt the loss of his mentor and friend.  I remember sitting in a sermon where Dallas and John were talking about big questions in the faith.  Dallas told John that when people had questions, they needed to lean in.  Lean into their doubts.  Give their doubts room and space.  If you’re curious about other religions, lean in.  Read the koran.  Look at the life of Muhammad.  Get to know the Buddah.  Look at Hinduism and see what it offers.  Lean into Jesus.  Get to know Him and see what He was about.  Coming from a culture where the default was “be careful” about what you fill your mind with, this was truly helpful.  It helped me to feel more courageous and hopeful.  It helped me not to be afraid.  To take the next step.

Dallas Willard has been a huge influence in the spiritual formation movement over the last 20 years or more.  When asked by one of his mentees what most concerned him about the spiritual formation movement, he said “Willardites”.  People who followed Willard, not Jesus, to whom Willard was constantly pointing.  Willard was also quick to tell people that they didn’t have to cite him when referring to his ideas in scholarly writing.  He considered any kind of spiritual knowledge that he wrote about to come from the Holy Spirit.  He told one of the people who was discussing his ideas to think of them as open source.  John Ortberg tells a story about one of Willard’s philosophy students at USC.  The student was being insufferable, and the class was ending.  Intellectually, Willard could have crushed this person, but he didn’t.  He just ended the class for the day.  When one of the students asked Willard why he didn’t put this student in his place, his response was that he was practicing the discipline of not having the last word. I love this sense of humility.

The Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen is on my bedside table right now.  You might know Gary Haugen as the CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization that works on behalf of those who are oppressed throughout the world.  They fight for the widow who has had her land illegally seized.  They fight for the slaves in the brick kilns in India.  They fight for those who are jailed in Kenya for crimes that they did not commit.  They fight for girls enslaved in brothels in Cambodia.   The book was published in 1999.  It was re-released a few years ago with a new forward, in which Haugen talks about people confusing who should be celebrated.  He was concerned that readers not celebrate him, but rather Jesus, who time and again had come through in the work of IJM.   I think that Haugen is a complete stud, but I love the fact that he doesn’t see himself that way.  In the forward, he talks about the fact that through his work with IJM, he has seen how wonderfully small he is.  Time and again, he and his colleagues have gone to the edge of themselves and seen God come through.  So, the celebration in this ten-year edition of the book is not in honor of Haugen and IJM, but rather the celebration is for God, who has come through time and again to bring about justice through His people.

In a day when people are worrying about how many Twitter followers they have or about how many likes they have on Facebook.  In a day when people are writing about how to go viral.  In a day when people are concerned about how to get attention and press, I deeply admire these two men because they haven’t done that.  They haven’t sought attention- at least not for themselves.  They’ve brought their gifts and abilities to the table and then pointed to the One who is the source of their gifts and abilities.  They’ve drawn a picture of what Micah 6:8 looks like.

He has told you, O man, what is good

and what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

So, I’m thankful that Dallas Willard walked on this planet, and thought and read and engaged and wrote and discipled.  And I’m thankful that Gary Haugen is still here doing justice and inviting us into that great work.  Because I want to be more like these men.  I want to lean into my God, who is big and able.  I want to be more like Him.  I want to point others to Him.  And I want to be involved in His work of redemption.  The list is long- these people who do great things humbly.  For that, I am grateful.

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