Christine Pitt is the Lead Pastor at the Costa Mesa Seventh-day Adventist Church in Costa Mesa California. She has the joy of sharing life with her husband, William Pitt, and their blended interracial family of four children: Josiah (7), Hadassah (9), Abigail (14), and Lucas (15). They celebrate life together with every home improvement project, chore chart, homework night and family vacation. After seven years of higher education and eight years in the field of ministry she has come to the life-giving conclusion that our purpose comes from journeying hand in hand with God.
Humility. Have you heard of this ethic? Throughout my life, I have been told that as a Christian, I need to be humble. As a Seventh-day Adventist, I need to be humble. As a woman, I need to be humble. In every use of this one word, there are different meanings. Humility as a woman has been taught to me as being quiet, listening more than speaking, not taking up too much space or too much of the conversation, and never being bold or confident about your abilities. But, make sure you are always pretty and eloquent in speech and try to make everyone else look good. Humility as an Adventist, I learned, meant being a good representative of Christ because how the world sees you will determine how they see God. I was told we cannot be aggressive or political about your beliefs. But still, I was told we have the monopoly on truth, and the world will only be saved if we share this particular version of the truth. And as a Christian, humility meant respecting authority and being a law-abiding citizen that does not question the law or our leaders regardless of how they are destructive and discriminatory.
Humility. In my journey throughout the many seasons of ministry, this word has haunted me. It motivated me to stay in a toxic relationship with a man who ensured I knew he did not love me. I was taught "An Adventist woman doesn't divorce," or "a Christian woman needs to love her husband back to her and overlook all the toxicity," or "if a woman is God-fearing and humble enough, her husband will love her again." I lived in this reality thinking it was love. I believed that loving someone meant enduring every painful moment in order to somehow “make” them happy with your silent tolerance. I remember this pressure from my home life matching the pressure from ministry. I felt the pressure to do bigger programs to attract more people to somehow “make” them happy. Support evangelistic series that taught, “salvation by the spoon” or join in the scorn of a woman fleeing an abusive relationship. Silence as humility is the virtue I was taught. This was the theology I was living in as a family stuck in a fishbowl for all to see and judge everything we did while trying so hard to hide the messy realities of life in hopes our "perfect" family tricked others to believe in the “Adventist Home”.
When this “fishbowl” was broken into pieces and I could no longer hide the mess, humility took on a different meaning. I spent two years trying to figure out if I could put together the pieces of our fishbowl and somehow reverse time to what I thought was "perfection." I had to finally realize my definition of humility, my theology, and my faith could not hold water in the face of the imperfect reality of life. As I sat in many moments of pain and uncontrollable crying I would demand God to give me back what I thought I wanted. I would “claim promises” and talk with God as if He owed me for my “holiness”. When I finally stopped demanding God to give me back the perfection I thought I needed, I discovered true humility.
Humility isn't silence. Humility is speaking out. Humility isn't endurance. Humility is change. Humility isn't protecting perfection. Humility is admitting the mess of life and seeking authenticity. Humility doesn't know it all. Humility is a willingness to learn just how much you do not know. One night, after a healthy and long cry with God, I finally listened to the only One I should have ever listened to, God. I heard the Lord say the words that cut me like a knife and helped me abandon this futile attempt to rebuild the broken fish tank. The Lord asked me, "Am I not enough?" All this time, I was trying to be enough. I was trying to be enough for my husband, enough for my kids, or enough for my church. All the while, I was saying to God that my Lord was not enough for me. In my attempt to reclaim what I felt I had lost, I was ignoring the growth and depth with God that the Lord had for me. Friends, let me tell you, if I had not allowed myself to change in my understanding of the Bible, the church, my relationships, and God, I would not be a Pastor today. I found a faith that holds water, a belief that said I didn't have to have all the answers, the world wasn't dependent on me to save it, and God is truly enough.
We are called to be bold in the faith but humble in our assumptions about God's work. We must live in the humble reality that we are sometimes very wrong and must be willing to grow and change as God grows and changes us. This is the confidence of transformation in Christ. In this journey with God I was able to leave an unhealthy relationship and humbly receive counseling and long hard moments of transparency with God and myself. I have been humbled enough to love myself and be honest about my flaws and toxic attractions. I have engaged in more authentic faith practice and ministry, giving permission for my congregation to be transparent as well. And by God’s grace I was humbled enough to start dating and be ready for the man my heart longed for in the right time and right season. We have four beautiful children and all the beautiful mess that comes with blended families and co-parenting. This journey is the one I know I can walk in, because I am finally being honest and journeying with my Savior who is enough.
Author - Jon Ciccarelli
January 28, 2021