Just as I am (VII:11)

CHAPTER VII. Of Humility
4 Feb. 5 June. 5 Oct.

The seventh degree of humility is, that he should not only call himself with his tongue lower and viler than all, but also believe himself in his inmost heart to be so, humbling himself, and saying with the prophet: “I am a worm and no man, the shame of men and the outcast of the people” (Psalm 21:7): “I have been exalted, and cast down, and confounded” (Psalm 87:16). And again: “It is good for me that Thou hast humbled me, that I may learn Thy commandments” (Psalm 118:71).

Si omnibus se inferiorem et viliorem non solum sua lingua pronuntiet, sed etiam intimo cordis credat affectu. “That he should pronounce himself lower and more common than all the others, but also believe in his inmost heart that he is so.” There is in each of us a little boy who wants to shine, who craves to be noticed, who thrills at the notion that he is special, outstanding in some way, and remarkable. At about age 3, such feelings are normal and healthy. They contribute to the development of a sense of self-worth and personal identity. A 3 year old child begins to perceive the ways in which he is different from others. For example: I am taller than Tommy, or shorter than Paddy, or stronger than Liam, or faster than John. The perceptive 3 year old may even say, “I know more, or I know better, or I am smarter than so-and-so.” These affirmations re-emerge in a stronger and more competitive way at about the age of thirteen and are a necessary part of forging one’s identity in the wider world.

The mature man, having grown through the tumultuous emotions of adolescence, has moved beyond the stage of needing to affirm himself over and against others. He has accepted himself as he is, with his gifts and his limitations, with his strengths and with his weaknesses. Such a man, by the grace of Christ, can begin to practice the seventh degree of humility. “I am who I am. I have the genealogy and the parents that I have. I have the body that I have. I excel at some things and I am not very clever at others. I have my own history of sin and of grace. I have stopped wanting to be someone who I am not: the famous athlete, the prince in the fairy tale, the acclaimed artist, or musician, or lecturer. I am who I am, content to live with my brethren and to make my way to God as I am.” There is a hymn written by Charlotte Elliott in 1835 that is popular in Evangelical circles. Dr Billy Graham, notably, made the hymn a feature of his preaching. Although the sensibility of the hymn appeals to nineteenth Protestant piety, it also expresses something of the seventh degree of humility.

Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – though toss’d about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am – of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Going to God “just as I am” does not mean that one forsakes hope or settles into one’s weaknesses and sins with a passive resignation. It means that one does not need to be different in order to be. The man who accepts himself as he is, can live in peace among his brethen and offer himself to God, and the man who offers himself to God, opens himself to the operations of grace. Where grace is at work, there will be healing, pardon, cleansing, and relief.

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