For once my hands weren’t cold. Snow lay everywhere I looked: on the ground, on the trees, on the rocks, even on the edges of the river which carried it swiftly downstream. The mountains and foothills all around proudly displayed their gleaming white peaks and jagged rock faces, shining in the cold but clear sunlight.
For once my hands weren’t cold. Usually they were the first to freeze. But for once they weren’t; my feet were. Snow had found its way to my soles, falling into my boots a little at a time with each step I took onto the powdered ground.
In spite of the cold, I was enjoying myself. Indeed, I was enjoying myself in spite of many things, one of which was what my friends were doing.
When I’m honest with myself, I have to confess I am a jealous person. It doesn’t take much for the I-wish-I-could-do-that-too spark in my head to ignite into a bonfire. I hate this, but I can’t deny it exists: it is always burning, sometimes an imperceptible ember, other times a forest fire consuming all my conscious thoughts.
Yet that day something seemed to have weakened it to a smolder: I could hardly feel it burning at all. Whether it was the cold or a gift to my soul, I don’t know. I had joined two friends in a venture to the mountain pass to capture photos of the glory of Washington’s winter. They are photographers, and have a passion and eyes to see the visible wonder and beauty all around them.
I enjoy learning about photography, but I do not consider myself a photographer. I know very little about cameras, exposures and “getting the right light.” As such, I was along for the ride, but my ignorance felt almost tangible next to my friends’ knowledge and experience.
And for once I didn’t mind.
When they first invited me to join them, I hesitated to accept, thinking I’d feel out of place without a camera. As soon as I got into the car with them, however, I knew I had nothing to fear. Simply being with them made it a good day. After driving to a valley nestled in the mountains, I spent all of a few seconds wondering what to do. Though I didn’t have a camera, I did have my love of adventuring, so I let this side of me take over. While my friends were watching every step they took to ensure their cameras weren’t damaged, I ran, hopped and leapt like a mountain goat (albeit a clumsy one) over snow-covered rocks and frozen edges of the river. I allowed myself to act like myself and didn’t worry about doing what my friends were doing. Each of us had our passions and let ourselves enjoy them. Indeed, I found out after not a little time passed that one of them had been taking photos of me as I stood in various precarious areas and gazed at the magnificence of the mountains all around. We all had fun letting loose our passions.
As we were returning to the car to go back to the city, I was struck by a thought: maybe this was a taste of humility. In years past I have tried to pick up my friends’ hobbies in order to gain their acceptance, but it never worked: the feeling of being an outsider remained. This time, however, I didn’t try so hard to belong, and this time I felt truly welcome and accepted.
This time I didn’t try to be someone I wasn’t; I didn’t try to be, as I have so long thought, better than the real me. I simply let show my true self, the man God has made me to be. This time I was honest, and this time I was free.
As C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” And on that day, I gave scarcely any thought to whom I should be and let show who I am. That left pride (in who I want to be) and fear (of who I wish I wasn’t) no thought to attack. I simply enjoyed the time with my friends in the mountains, and I’m sure that brought a smile to God’s face. He made us to live fully present in each moment, and that takes humility.
For years I have lived in fear, not letting my true character show. But that day changed my life. On that day, I befriended humility.
And when truly embraced, how wonderful and liberating this humility is.