What is there about diminishment that feels so humiliating? I hear stories each week of people who have lost jobs and homes, whose grown children make unwise decisions, whose medical woes dehumanize them. For each of these individuals, fear, shame, and uncertainty arise as they face their perceived failure.
My heart goes out to each one because I know how hard it is to stand in humiliation when people are graduating, homes are being renovated and other people’s lives seem to be going on so successfully.
As I have pondered this for myself I keep hearing the Prophet Isaiah through whom God promised the creation of something new. This promise came after the destruction of the way of life the Hebrew people were choosing. It feels harsh as God shows the people what they have been choosing that has led to this moment.
(I am not suggesting that individuals who are caught up in the diminishment within society are at fault. In Hebrew Scriptures, it is the community rather than individuals that God addresses.)
So what is all this diminishment about? I know in my own life, it is about breaking out of an old way of being and becoming open to something new. It is about not my doing, but allowing what is happening to be done unto me. My faith says that is it God in action in and through my life in ways that I could not imagine myself. It is about becoming a ‘new’ creation.
To anyone who has gone through this, it is uncomfortable across the board. But even within the humiliation, there is something barely perceptible arising. There is a tiny glimpse of something stirring though it does not yet have clarity. There is a tiny insight though there is no certainty of how it will look in the future. And there is a new turning to God through the diminishment, perhaps a new way of being in relationship with God. As we journey through the experience, there is a glimmer of gratitude that something new is already emerging.
John the Baptist said, “I must decrease that he (Christ) may further increase in me.”
Diminishment paradoxically is about expansion and, as any woman who has given birth knows, it hurts!