Taking stock of our place in the universe

By James Willoughby

Our Halloween candy is finally gone. Fewer and fewer rotting pumpkin carcasses reside on porches in my cookie cutter community. Santa statuettes marched their way into stores a month ago. And cupid is waiting in the wings sharpening his arrows and marketing ploys.

In the harried pace of our modern existence, there is danger in not making the time to reflect, and to think about the ‘why’ more than the ‘what.’ The great Barry White once implored listeners to “Slow Your Roll.”

I need that reminder to slow down, to process and to reflect. Today as I slow my roll, I am looking back over my summer. I faced some challenges during that three-month span, and I want to ensure that those trials were not encountered in vain.

I have spent a lot of time over the past couple years trying to harness humility. For me humility isn’t a lowly state where I am have no opinion and no voice. The humility I’m pursuing is one where I am not the center of the universe, where I am more aware of the needs of people who I encounter every day and where I am compelled to action to serve the needs of those people.

When I am lacking in humility, my priorities become misaligned. I lose sight of the bigger picture. I do damage to my relationships. So I have been prayerfully focused on this trait. And I’ve learned to be careful what I ask for. This summer I had three incidents that helped me grow my humility.

The first was a health scare. After some unusual chest pains and faintness, I ended up in the hospital for four nights. Aside from an enlarged right ventricle, I am okay. But this stay reminded me of how fragile we humans are. In an instant, our worlds can change. Life is short. That’s not an ad campaign. It is truth.

The second humbling event was being a leader at a church camp. Spending a week in the woods with kids, was a solid reminder that I need to be more childlike. In the woods, we were stripped of possessions and titles. There was no me-time, no fancy food. There was no self-importance. But there was fun, singing, laughing, budding friendships and a distinct sense that there is more to life than what we see.

Lastly, I ran over a chunk of concrete on the highway that destroyed my car’s exhaust and took it off the road for two weeks. I drive a luxury car that I have personalized and have spent a lot of time caring for. The car feels almost like an extension of me. I didn’t realize how much of my identity is wrapped up in that car until I lost it for a couple weeks. Possessions, no matter how precious they may seem, do not matter. They all fade.

I am stubborn, so sometimes my life lessons have to take the shape of a 2×4 upside my noggin. I don’t particularly enjoy those moments, but I recognize their importance. I need them to put me in my place. We should all try to remember our place in the universe. Here’s a hint — we don’t reside at the center.


By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.