Once I was a carrot. Seriously. I’ll never forget when I was employed as a carrot mascot for a company named, Full Circle. It was a farm to door vegetable delivery service expanding into the San Francisco Bay Area. I had a full black onesie. There was something unforgettable about wiggling into the bottom of my carrot suit, like entering into my own private suit where I was protected from the outside world. I became a carrot. I would yell at kids from my private, protected, carrot suit world, “EAT YOUR CARROTS!! I was the best dancing carrot you’ve ever seen! I would also have frequent thoughts of existential prayerful angst: “Lord. I’m becoming a carrot! What happened!?”
One of my roommates had offered me the part time gig, and honestly I had nothing else coming down the pipe-line. At that time in my life I had run out of ideas. All of my best ideas about how to live life had imploded on me. My best ideas weren’t bad ideas in-and-of themselves. Actually, they were quite inspired. The previous year I had been working on a Ph.D., living in a beautiful flat, with caring roommates who had been my long time friends from college. I sang in a choir. And yet, that year, I found myself at a bottom, a place of incomprehensible demoralization. I had lost myself and the dreams that I held so dear. How did I end up a carrot?
The down had its pitfalls, landslides, and mishaps. Becoming a carrot was not an overnight matter, but a series of poor decisions which when put together over and over led to suffering and a life without faith or hope. Coping with hopelessness requires really strong drugs – addiction set in and a period of homelessness quickly followed.
So you might be surprised when I say that becoming a carrot was one of the best experiences of my life. By the time I slid into that black onesie I had found an ever so fragile foothold in recovery. The carrot job was the first job I had been offered in over a year, and it was an experience of radical humility. God was putting me in my place! I had been unemployed and unemployable for years. I thought I was the most insightful, most handsome, capable human being around. I was so gifted that I needed a lot of drug relief to cope with the suffering those gifts inflicted. Actually, I used drugs in direct proportion to the suffering brought on by my over-inflated ego – EGO: “Edging, God, Out.” I didn’t understand it at the time but selfishness and self-centeredness were at the root of my problems, and I was driven by fear.
I’ll never forget being in prayer inside that carrot suit. Those were some of my most fervent prayers to God. I’ll never forget the experience of God laughing at me and at the experience that I was having – the most loving, hilarious laugh you can imagine, followed by the clear voice of God, “Yeah, its humbling isn’t it.” It was humbling; it always is when we’re, “put in our place.”
Humility as a character attribute is often misrepresented. It doesn’t fair well within a world that celebrates power, success, strength, and victory, “If you’ ain’t first, you’r LAST!” shouts Ricky Bobby in the film Talladega Nights. Humility isn’t against winning or being strong, in fact, it’s foundation of empowerment. As a spiritual principle humility is a requirement of power. Humility is all about being right sized in a world obsessed with taking more than it deserves. All I deserved, could do, was be the best carrot that I could. I was right sized in that carrot suit – the suit fit!! I was the best carrot, man. I had a blast doing it because I knew that God was with me, that God had directed me and was going to continue to lead me into something better. Still, I had to get a dose of humility.
Humility comes from a Latin root word, “humus,” meaning “earth” or “ground.” In agriculture, humus refers to maturely composed soil rich with organic matter and stability. Humus is rich because it has undergone a process of transformation where microorganisms thrive and produce organic carbon. It is often called the “life-force” of soil. (Thanks wiki) There is no transformation, no resurrection – plant, human, or otherwise without “humility.” I was transforming in that carrot suit. Each time I surrendered my will to do God’s will I was being made more ready, more mature so that new things could be born in me.
And, let us not forget the heart of the matter, Christ came to the world, humble. St. Paul‘s Letter to the Philippians 2:1-8 captures the enduring meaning: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
I did have fun in that carrot suit, but there were so many moments of anger too. I was angry at God, at myself, and my circumstance. I would argue and plea with God, “How could I have gone from working on a Ph.D. with some of the brightest, most inspired people on the planet, with so much opportunity, to selling my time for money in a carrot suit!?” I would try to justify getting out of my duty, my job, and in those moments God would remind me of the truth about my circumstance – that I had agreed to go to any length for recovery. God was always gently reminding me that staying in that carrot suit was somehow keeping me sober. My carrot suit was a literal and symbolic act of surrendering my life and will over to the care of God. I was always welcome to take back the rains and try to live life on my terms instead of God’s terms, but I had already proven that path to be false over and over. In my own small way God was taking me through the very same process Christ experienced – obedience – Am I willing to let go of my will for one more moment? Letting go, moment after moment as Christ first taught – even to the point of death. That’s the practice… Humility is a practice.