Hurricane Strength Humility
Okay, here comes another weather one but like the others, it’s not really about weather at all. Once again a portion of our American citizenry is bracing for the approach of a monster storm. As of this writing Hurricane Michael is a Category 4 hurricane, still gaining in strength as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico and approaching the panhandle of Florida. By the time you read this, predictions of destruction will have been proven to be true.
When I first heard about what was then still a tropical storm, I knew it was going to end up a powerful hurricane but not due to any scientific reasoning. When they named this one “Michael” I just thought to myself: “Ut oh.” The descriptions of this powerful storm include “historic,” “epic” and “furious.”
You probably have a few Michaels in your family or circle of friends, so if you stop to think about it, you’ll understand what we can be like. Michaels tend to be stubborn fighters, powerful forces to be reckoned with. Often unjustly (but sometimes justly), we are often thought of as stubborn and headstrong. But whether or not you consider these traits positive ones or negative, we come by it honestly.
Our namesake is the warrior of warriors, leader of the Heavenly Host. When Satan was still known by his angelic name of Lucifer, he was God’s General and leader of the Angels. Almost inexplicably, he rebelled and attempted a coup against God Himself. And when he did it was Michael whom God called upon to put it down and to banish the rebels.
So, yeah, Michaels can be tough, and when you’re not on our side, we can be real trouble. But there’s another side to being “Michael-Strong.” It was ultimate arrogance that led Lucifer to the insanity of waging war against God and His loyal forces. And when a warrior was needed to be raised up to face him it wasn’t just unmitigated power that God was looking for. You see, the name “Michael” is often mistranslated as “one who is like God.” Sounds powerful, right? But the mistranslation is not in the words but in the punctuation. Properly translated, “Michael” does not mean “one who is like God” but is instead a rhetorical question: “who can be like God?” with the obvious and unneeded answer being “no one.” Michael’s humility is the antithesis to Satan’s arrogance and is, in fact, his strength.
Worldly standards of strength tend to be measured on one’s ability to exert one’s power over something or someone else. We mistakenly calculate “power” by the number of people one leads or even commands. But Michael turned that assumption on its head. It wasn’t just the Archangel Michael’s strength that made him the perfect replacement to not only take Lucifer’s spot, but also to defeat him. It was specifically the strength of his humility. While Lucifer could be counted on for pure strength, Michael brought the power of loyalty to the position: the power of knowing very well his place and God’s place. He brought the power of humility.
When we hear the word “humility,” “power” is not the next word that comes to mind. “Humility” often calls to mind concepts of lowliness, meekness, even weakness. But these worldly ideas couldn’t be further from the truth. It was Michael’s humility that made him strong and powerful. His loyalty to God connected him to God’s power and made him invincible. As improbable as this seems to our limited perspectives, this is how things work with God. We could (and should!) spend the rest of our lives contemplating the examples of how this works in each of the lives of the Saints. But this is so because of the One they followed. It was Jesus Himself who demonstrated once and for all the power of humility, shouted loudly to all people in all places in every age, when in humility He endured the suffering of His Passion and Crucifixion. It was His humility that led Him to “empty Himself” (Philippians 2:7) of His power and submit to suffering and death, into which He brought His Divine Power and destroyed the power of death. The most powerful moment of the most powerful man came when He hung on the Cross, bloodied and beaten and silent, and gave up His spirit (John 19:30).
Every wrong idea about what real power and strength look like could have died in that moment, but in many instances we still haven’t learned the lesson. Whether in the setting of our work, school or home life–and even, sadly, in our church lives–we still engage in our petty power plays, our political maneuvering, our attempts at getting what we want by the power of our personal strength. If we’re honest, very often these attempts at influence are fueled not just by arrogance, but by fear and insecurity. Like our animal friends, we are most dangerous when we are afraid. But regardless of the motivation, we continue to mistake the power of what we call strength with the power of humility. This is an easy mistake to make, as it can be difficult to place our trust in the invisible God, who–as He did in the moment of Christ’s Crucifixion–can seem so powerless. But this is one of those crucial choices that can change the course of our lives. We can continue the foolishness begun when Lucifer really thought he could take on God and win, or we can adopt the humility of Michael and find it to be the source of true and unwavering strength. Put simply, we can rely on our own power, or we can plug into the infinite power of our Infinite God.
As we pray for those about to feel the power of Hurricane Michael, let’s reflect on what real strength looks like shown by the great Archangel Michael in the power of his humility. This is the inspiration for us who share his name and for all Christians. And as Christians, followers of our Humble Lord, Jesus, we can all be inspired by the power of the humility of the One born as a humble babe and died as a humble servant, as we seek to strengthen our own humility. Only when we do so can we understand what constitutes true power and strength, and live by them, instead of our own. And only then can we rest in the all-powerful protection and strength of our humble God.