Marian Anderson, the great contralto who won worldwide acclaim, didn’t simply grow great; she grew great simply. In spite of her fame, she remained a beautiful model of humanity.
A reporter interviewing Miss Anderson once asked her to name the greatest moment in her life. She had had so many big moments to choose from. For example: There was the night conductor Arturo Toscanini announced, “A voice like hers comes once in a century.” In 1958 she became U.S. delegate to United Nations. Then there was that private concert she gave at the White House for the Roosevelts and the King and queen of England. Moreover, in 1963 she was awarded the coveted Presidential Medal of Freedom. Which of those big moments, among many, did she choose? None of them. Miss Anderson quietly told the reporter that the greatest moment of her life was the day she went home and told her mother she wouldn’t have to take washing anymore.
Unlike Marian Anderson, some of us go to great lengths to hide our humble origins. The truth is, when we peel off our masks, others are usually not repelled; they are drawn closer to us. Frequently, the more painful or embarrassing the past, the greater the appreciation and respect.
The prophet Isaiah mentions this very thing as he reminds us “Look to the rock from which you were dug” (Isa. 51:1). That sounds much more noble and respectable than its literal meaning, for the Hebrew text the word “quarry” actually refers to “a hole.” Or, as the old King James Version translates it: “Look unto….the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.” What excellent advice! Before we get all enamored with our high-and-mighty importance, it’s a good idea to take a backward glance at the “hole of the pit” from which Christ lifted us. In fact, let’s not just think about it; let’s admit it.
Why, some of the greatest saints have crawled out of the deepest, dirtiest, most scandalous “holes” you could imagine. In addition, it was that which kept them humble, honest men and women of God, unwilling to be glorified and idolized.
The next time we’re tempted to believe our own stuff, let’s just look back to the pit from which we were dug. It has a way to shooting holes to our pride.
Remembering the depths from which we have come from has a way of keeping us all on the same level: Recipients of Grace.
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