The sixth degree of humility is that a monk be content with the poorest and worst of everything, and that in every occupation assigned him he consider himself a bad and worthless workman, saying with the Prophet, “I am brought to nothing and I am without understanding; I have become as a beast of burden before You, and I am always with You” (Ps:22-23).
What does it mean for a lay oblate, husband and father, to “be content with the poorest and worst of everything”? Am I to subject my family to misery, to poverty? What I believe our Holy Father is getting at here is that one should be content with the portion one is alotted in life. If my current circumstances aren’t what I dreamed about, and vain thoughts needle me all the while into an interior state of turmoil, of dissatisfaction (“after all, I deserve better“), what does that result in? A foul mood will pervade everything I do; work will be done resentfully; I will become blind to whatever blessings I might have; I will begin to murmur and this will spread to those around me, especially to my family, leading them to sin as well. What about Providence? Not accepting these things that are out of my control, I rebel against the Lord’s will for me at this particular moment.
How does one deal then with these “adversities”? Perhaps by looking at our lives through supernatural eyes. Are we living in a difficult financial situation? Perhaps it is an opportunity for us to learn detachment from all those material things which seemed to be “needs”, but which in fact are only “wants”. Learning to live with less, to live with the old and used and not necessarily new, learning to give thanks for being fortunate to have even that, and to let go even of what is had. Learning to depend on others; to be humble enough to ask for help; and in turn to recognize the needs of others. Learning to abandon one’s self to the Lord, trusting that He shall provide. It is not an easy lesson, and one tends to fall into worry every time a new problem emerges, but it seems that bit by bit a certain feeling of security is being built up, a feeling that one is building upon rock.In all these years of difficulty, when it seemed that the chord was so stretched that it was about to break, He provided at the last minute, many times in the ways we could hae never imagined.
Does that mean, however, that I can’t strive for a better life for my family? I don’t believe so; rather, I can, just as long as I do not lose sight of why I am doing it. If I am striving to “move up”, that it may be to give my family some better conditions that it may grow; not because we want to “keep up with the Joneses”, or because we want this or that creature comfort.