Do you remember falling so hard as a child that you “had the breath knocked out of you”? Time slows down and you are in a state of panic; it feels like you might die.
Humiliation feels something like that. The immediate aftermath, in my experience, makes hiding away seem like the only possible response. I don’t want anyone to look at me; it’s clear I’m hopelessly defective and I cannot bear for that to be obvious to everybody else.
When my younger brother Ron was a very little guy and had made a mistake or done something wrong, he would sob as if his heart was breaking. Any time anyone came near, he would cry out in misery, “Don’t see 'Onnie! Don’t see 'Onnie!”
In the last six days I’ve humiliated myself twice, one time making an honest but terribly embarrassing mistake before two people I admire very much and the second time just before God and my own dismayed self.
Both times it seemed to me that the living God came to comfort me. After that first humiliation, I happened to open a lovely new journal (a Mother’s Day gift) to see the verse “Be strong and courageous! For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” In a flash I knew that it really did mean wherever; God had gone with me all the way down into “the miry pit” of my well-deserved self-imposed humiliation. God and I were in this together and God was encouraging me to buck up and take it, to be strong and courageous.
In the emotional aftermath of the second humiliation, I picked up a book I’d laid aside weeks ago -- Talking with God by Francois Fenelon. I opened it to the bookmark which was at chapter 8: Humiliation.
This isn’t just an interesting synchronicity; Fenelon gives me the encouragement and guidance I need. He writes, “It does no good to be discouraged. This is only the result of a disappointed and despairing self-love. The true method of profiting from the humiliation of our faults is to see them in all their deformity without losing our hope in God and without having any confidence in ourselves....We must hope for nothing from self, but wait for everything from God. Convicted of our helplessness, we have no confidence in ourselves, and yet we have unbounded confidence in God.”
So yes: twice in one week I’ve ended up falling flat on my face hardly able to take a breath. I can see now it’s okay to be that helpless and embarrassed, because God isn’t repulsed in the least. He doesn’t avoid my humiliation; he’s drawn to it. His love is that realistic and sturdy. Always and everywhere, no matter what, it’s completely safe to put unlimited confidence in him.