Micah 6:8 is a championed verse among progressive, social justice minded ministers of the Gospel. We love the prophet’s heralding of believers to do justice and our call to mercy. It’s a verse that has long been a friend of mine as if the prophet himself were saying it to me over a cup of coffee. My personality is wired for bold actions of justice making it hasn’t always been wired toward what is humble. For enneagram geeks, us enneagram 8’s are known as the justice-y brand of personality. For us, going to a protest, standing up in a boardroom, speaking our minds is not necessarily courageous it is what we have to do. It is faithful to our skin.
Here’s the part of the verse that I haven’t always understood, the humble part. The prophet says that God’s way is doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly. Those three don’t always fit together in my mind, but that is often the way of God. Taking things that don’t always fit together and God arranging a new world through them. It’s a hard word humble because so often to be humble has been gendered for women in church circles. Humility has been gendered and preached to women as to be quiet or make yourself smaller. Gross. To be humble, in some Christian circles, is like religious manspreading. Remain humble, or smaller, so that the guy on the subway who spreads his legs can take up more space and you must become smaller. I think some Christian circles teach humility this way and it is usually from the guy who is spreading his legs to take up more space in the name of humility. No wonder the “walk humbly part” of the prophet takes some work for us to understand today.
A year ago about 15 clergywomen and church leaders found each other through God’s working. We created a sorority called The Hedge of Protection. You know that prayer “God I just pray a hedge of protection around my friend before they head to wherever they are going.” I prayed that prayer so many times growing up, but I never knew what a hedge of protection was. Was God a gardener who put some special spiritual green hedge around someone when they were traveling that protected them when they were traveling? I have always liked flowers and my imagination has always worked, so I kind of liked this idea. But I didn’t really get what a hedge of protection was until I met these boss women showing up in their congregations and showing up in the public theological conversations trying to make a more just, loving, and generous world. We, the 15 of us, are a hedge of protection called to protect each other and that’s when I understood that phrase when I met these women. God gives us each other to protect each other. When I pray a hedge of protection around me in my travels I imagine Rachel, Nadia, Neichelle, and the whole crew around my protecting me. They are fierce women so I know any evil that comes my way will be met by these women and I know God uses them to protect me and I them.
One of the Hedge of Protection sisters, Rev. Jodi Houge is glorious. They are all glorious, but in regards to humble walking, Jodi is especially glorious. Part of why I find her so glorious is because of her authoritative humility. She is not forced, but she holds her authority in ways that make me believe that we can be both tender and firm. She named her church that she planted Humble Walk. Brilliant. The prophet Micah speaks to her, too. Jodi has been not only a sister to me, but also my pastor, that’s what we do in the Hedge of Protection. Bearing witness to small degrees of transformation and cheering on each movement forward with tender and firm prayer. Humility changes people and makes them more loving and more connected to people and more connected to you. When I think of the prophet calling us to walk humbly, I think of Jodi. She takes up all of the room she needs and makes sure others have enough room for them, too. No spiritual manspreading, but enough room for all. That’s humility.
There’s a lot going on in our society right now. Lots of yelling. Lots of injustice. Lot’s of hubris that walking humbly is something that is alive in my soul that I need.
On the front page of the website of Jodi’s church the first words you read are “Welcome. You already belong here.” What if that is what humility is about? Really believing that the best parts of us and the worst parts of us already belong. How does that change how we treat ourselves? And what if that is true about our neighbor, the best parts of them and the worst parts of them already belong? How does that change how we treat our neighbor? Maybe, the prophet Micah whispered in the ear of Jesus, too, when he told us we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. I think Micah and Jesus were friends and since I’m friends with Jesus and Micah, I think that love of neighbor might have something to do with walking humbly.
Let’s give this humble walking a try this week. At the protests, in the pulpit, over coffee, seeing that family member you don’t like…it’s humble walking time. Take up your space and make sure there is space for your neighbor. We need all of each other in this way of doing justice and loving mercy. It may just help us love.