God keeps circling me back to the topic of submission over and over and over again. Maybe it’s because my INTJ self (sometimes known as the “architect” personality type) has a hard time with authority. Being among the rarest personalities, and even rarer for a woman (only 0.8% of the population), it can feel a bit lonely trying to learn lessons that appear to come much easier for other Christians. INTJs are constantly questioning authority and have a strong dislike for rules, regulations, and traditions. We can’t stand blindly following anything! We love to deconstruct and reconstruct, analyzing ways to improve efficiency and trusting our own ideas and intellect. As the 16 Personalities website describes us, “Architects tend to have an odd view of authority. This isn’t surprising, considering the bundle of contradictory traits that they possess (imaginative yet decisive, ambitious yet like their privacy, curious about everything but remain focused) — full of wonder yet unyieldingly suspicious of those around them.” I am convinced that this “bundle of contradictory traits” definitely plays a role in how I relate to God as the ultimate authority in my life.
It reminds me of a story from Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty that I read recently with the kids about a colt who got into the habit of kicking, even when there was no need to. An older mare wisely tried to counsel him by saying, “Habits are such tremendous things! If you don’t get into a habit of giving way, you mayn’t be able to give way when you want…Those who indulge themselves in kicking at all, will sometimes kick when they would give worlds to forbear.” The colt just goes on kicking and kicking, being passed from one frustrated owner to the next until his bad habit injures a young girl. Thankfully he ends up in the hands of a horse trainer who gentles him using the methods of the original horse whisperer John Solomon Rarey. The horse is laid down and tied in such a way that he cannot kick. All the while, the horse breaker stays close and remains kind. As the horse pants and froths and writhes and struggles against the straps, the man soothes him. The aim of the exercise is to bring the will, not just the body, into subjection. But the key is that it is done in love and kindness, showing the horse that the man, his master, can be trusted. And as the story says, “They may well be masters and superiors, in whom the abiding spirit of forgiveness and love is triumphant!” Eventually Firefly learned “that it was possible for submission and love and happiness to go hand in hand together.”
Submission and love and happiness — those are the same dots God has been connecting in my spirit. He is the ultimate “human whisperer”. He knows how to stand by our rebellious spirits and gentle us with His perfect love. This verse from Psalm 145 stood out to me this week as I thought about these things.
The Lord helps all who fall; he raises up all who are oppressed.Psalm 145:14 (CSB)
On the surface, at least in English, these two phrases appear to be saying pretty much the same thing. The word translated as “helps” means a support. God is there for us to lean our full weight on when we fall. The word for “fall” shares the same root as “nephilim.” Have you heard of the mysterious offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men in Genesis? They are the “nephilim” (the fallen ones) — bullies, tyrants, giants. So when I read that word for “fall” I thought of someone who’s been cast down or overthrown. When it says the Lord raises up the oppressed, that seems to fit well. But the meaning of the word “oppressed” here is actually to curve or bend, usually oneself! Immediately my mind jumped to James 4:10 where it says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
As I continued to follow this rabbit trail with the word כפף (bend), I landed in Micah 6:6 where the prophet is asking what he should bring with him when he goes to BOW before the Lord. And, of course, two verses later in Micah 6:8 we see what God is really after — people who will learn to walk HUMBLY with Him!
I wonder if Jesus had this passage in Micah 6 in mind when He replied to the Pharisees who had crashed Matthew’s dinner party. The newly-converted Matthew was entertaining all his friends to introduce them to Jesus. The Pharisees showed up to criticize the new Teacher, not understanding why in the world He would want to consort with such riffraff. But, oh, can’t you hear a hint of sarcasm in His voice when Jesus replies, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13 CSB)
I love Charlotte Mason’s poetic commentary on this passage. She wrote:
“The sick have need of healing, see, “The good physician hastes; but ye “Ye who are whole” (we hear His wrath In mocking irony break forth), — “Ye whole ones, ye that have no need, “What do ye here ‘midst this poor seed “Of sick and sinful, patients all “Whose needs on the physician call?” But ye are here — go ye and learn That word of prophet to discern! Not sacrifice, your lavish gift, But pity, that the weak shall lift, Mercy to pardon, these to Me, Saith God, the pleasing offerings be! Lo, I came, not the good to call, The satisfied, who cannot fall From out their own complacency: But sinners will I draw to Me; Poor sinners, fain their God would find That all their sin be left behind!”
Jesus brought to their attention words from prophets like Micah and Hosea to remind them of how God values humility over grandiose sacrifices.
“For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”Hosea 6:6 (CSB)
“What should I bring before the Lord when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or with ten thousand streams of oil? Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the offspring of my body for my own sin? Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”Micah 6:6-8 (CSB)
He is outlining His mission here on earth — to seek and save sinners, at least the ones who know they are sinners. Only those who know their need for God can actually find Him, not those who are satisfied with their own efforts. The way is narrow. The door is low. But whatever’s got you “down” today, whether it’s the wounds inflicted by giants in your life or your own willful disobedience and bad choices, you are in the perfect place to find God! Stop kicking against Him. The first step is done if your knees are already knocked out from under you. Why not bend your heart and join your whole spirit, soul, and body into a posture the Lord can bless?! He is waiting to raise you up, to reveal Himself to you as your greatest treasure and the only feast that can match your soul’s God-hunger.
Humility is a low doorway into a surprisingly spacious place of real happiness and satisfaction. God’s given me glimpses of that over and over again. But for someone like me, it’s a real struggle to stay surrendered. Maybe it always will be. But His love! His love just keeps wooing me to come under the wing of His provision and protection, to find my heart’s delight in Him.