Lowly Worm is my favorite Richard Scarry children’s picture book character. For those of you who have been deprived of Lowly’s company, he is one legged, nattily attired, and totally engaged. Because of something I’m currently struggling with I’ve drawn a picture of Lowly and placed it on my refrigerator. My struggle is with the praise I receive.
Praise, like criticism, causes emotions to bubble up inside. What bubbles up with praise is just more pleasant, and every bit as dangerous. They both beg us to endlessly replay either the hurt or the compliment. “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.” (Proverbs 27:21). Praise and criticism alike bring dross to the surface. The test is to recognize the pride that bubbles up and to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.
So I put Lowly Worm on my refrigeration to remind me of how Jesus lived with praise and mockery. In Psalm 22, a Messianic psalm, Jesus refers to Himself as a worm. Although this psalm was written by David a thousand years before Jesus lived on earth, it expresses the words and experience of Jesus on the Cross. “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me: they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” (Ps. 22:6). He went low for us to save us.
This morning I read that Jesus “went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem” (Luke 19:28). He knew He was on His way to the Cross. But before the Cross, He rode a donkey along a road strewn with cloaks and palm branches amid loud praises and cheers. Jesus received the praises due Him. He even commented that if the crowds “were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). He was worthy of this praise. He deserved more than He could ever receive.
HOWEVER, the praise He received soon evaporated and was replaced with cruel mockery. Jesus experienced praise and abuse. Neither added anything to Him—nor took anything away from Him. Praise did not enhance Him and mockery did not diminish Him. He knew Who He is and why He came. He knew His Father’s love and His purpose on earth. He knew His future and hope. When Jesus was tested He was always Jesus: secure and lowly.
Lord Jesus, help me to be like You: essentially unmoved by neither praise nor criticism. Grace me to receive criticism with learning spirit, to put it before You for Your comment and application. In the same way, may I put compliments before You for your filtering wisdom. May I receive praise as Your affirmation when appropriate. Give me a sane estimate of who I am. Let me hear Your voice of encouragement, rebuke and warning. Keep me from letting either good comments or bad shape my sense of who I am. Free me from endless re-playings. Remind me to live lowly and confidently in You. Keep whispering in my ear: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:3,4).
I look at Lowly on the refrigerator and think of Jesus. I want Jesus’ life expressed more fully in me. A hidden life. A life secure and sweet. A life motivated and nourished by His presence in me, an unmoved and abounding life.