Do I stash the cape or keep it? It’s fun designing characters for a children’s book. Artists and authors often use attributes they see within themselves or others for character development. Though superheroes in flowing capes make great comic heroes, they are hard to live with in daily life.
Recently, everything coming my way (videos, sermons, personal studies) focuses on the element of humility — an attribute I possess too little of! As much as I desire less pride and more humility, achieving that goal often requires time and effort.
Paul wrote to the Philippians,
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
These wise words establish godly perspective. In both artistry and life, perspective is everything. How we position ourselves in relationships determines how vibrant those relationships become.
When artists portray a character struggling or defeated, they view the image from a high angle looking down. The reader will automatically perceive the character as being fearful or shy. Even slight variations, like a hand turned upward, give the subject a subordinate position.
For most people, deliberately assuming this lower position creates internal struggle. For most people, only rarely do we willingly desire to appear inferior to others.
Jesus noticed this propensity to choose the best seats, highest places, and honored positions. In Luke 14, He tells His followers,
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor . . . take the lowest place . . . “
Sooner or later, self-promotion ultimately leads to humiliation! Most of us consider ourselves too cultured and dignified for such brash behavior. But I honestly need to ask myself a few straight questions: How willing am I to seek advice? How readily do I receive correction, especially if it is from someone not in authority? Do I ask others for help or do I find my own way?
For me, these are all difficult. I would far rather be the teacher than the student or the one who provides than the one receiving. Most of us gladly halt what we are doing to help others, but stutter when asking for similar assistance.
For relationships to grow and mature, they must be reciprocal. Lopsided one-upmanship disappears when we let go of pride and perfection, offering permission to stash the cape. Reciprocal means giving and receiving — a willingness to take the lower position.
Eye to Eye
I hope many genuine relationships fill your life. Paul says,
“Therefore if you have any encouragement for being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
The strongest relationships I enjoy are those “united with Christ.” Though natural families form incredible bonds, spiritual ones become even stronger. When our natural family also becomes our spiritual family, we possess the best of both.
What propels relationships grounded in Christ? The first two attributes Paul mentions are the comfort of Christ’s love and sharing in the Spirit. To know how loved we are, despite our weaknesses and failures, releases us to love others — not as superiors but equals. Eye to eye! The Spirit dwelling within us, leads us into a fuller re-presentation of Christ in the world.
Every picture book or movie presents a hero by looking from what is called the “worm” view. With a few artistic strokes the hero looms large, powerful, and independent within the scope of their surroundings.
A child running through the yard with fabric flowing off their shoulder’s announcing the world will soon be delivered, brings smiles from adult onlookers. Unfortunately, many of us carry our imaginary capes into adulthood, viewing ourselves with superhero status: superior and strong.
We pull invisible capes from who-knows-where and masquerade as someone significant. Oh, don’t worry, we maintain our “Christianese” behind the polished mask of false humility.
Jesus’ words echo in my heart as a warning,
“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Scripture gives no room for “might” or “maybe.” They will be! Experience has taught me, the sooner I choose the low position and look up, the better for everyone!
When I’m willing to stash my cape, refusing to pretend super Christian status, I clearly see the real Hero — the only Hero, the true Hero worth looking to. What made Him so heroic? He lowered Himself lower than I could imagine, becoming nothing, so we could become everything He designed us to be.
” . . . he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8
Jesus became Superhero #1, for all time, for all people. He didn’t just stash a phony cape; He left Heaven, descended from the highest place of glory and power, to become like us — dust. Talk about a giant step downward!
Only when we see our glorified Lord will we fully understand how low He came. And the result? He snatched a dying world from eternal hell, trampled the head of that slimy serpent, and declared victory over every oppressive dis-ease the enemy once unleashed.
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Stash the Cape
Jesus set the ultimate example, showing us how to restore relationship. The One who could have come like most comic strip heroes, looking down on the world, didn’t! He could have dominated, intimidated, and controlled, but He wouldn’t.
Jesus came — looked humanity in the eye and walked at our level. He allowed people to pay His way, wash His feet, and serve Him, without feeling demeaned. Jesus also lifted people (demon possessed, adulterous, wicked, sketchy, diseased, contaminated people) from low positions. Each time, He demonstrated honor and value.
So why do we struggle to stash the cape, to show our flaws, and be real with each other? Why do we obstinately refuse the low road?
Jesus chose a different way.
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;”
Because Jesus KNEW — understood completely His identity in the Father and His ministry — He was secure. The same possibility is true for us! Insecurity causes us to reach for superficial capes and earthly titles. Insecurity motivates us to look down on some, compare ourselves with ourselves, and desire the accolades of others. Security allows us to stash the cape and relate honestly.
Every artist or illustrator considers how to “frame” their characters. Wide angle, or close-up? Left, right, or center? Through reading Daniel, God reminded me of the “frame” I need to walk in humility.
A dream disturbed King Nebuchadnezzar. He called in all his astrologers, magicians, enchanters and sorcerers — his full arsenal of dream interpreters — demanding they both tell him the dream and interpret it. They panicked, “You’re asking the impossible! No one on earth can do what the king asks!” (Daniel 2) True story!
Daniel quickly solicits the prayer support of his friends. As a result, God reveals both the dream and meaning. When he approaches the king with the answer, Daniel clearly says, “God in heaven reveals mysteries. It isn’t about me or my wisdom. I’m no better than anyone else, but God wants you to know and understand.” (Dan 2:28-30)
Daniel showed complete humility. He responded to situations by taking the low road, seeking the help of his comrades, claiming no credit for himself, and desiring the good of others.
That’s our frame for humility. God exalted — first, last, and middle — and others honored as better than ourselves.
So when you see the evidence of pride (no matter how subtle) in my strut, carried in my continence, or waffled in my words, I give you permission to tell me plainly, “Stash the cape, girl! Be real!” Please help me swap my phony cape for the legitimate cloak of humility.