Downgrading to Upgrade
I think we would all love life to be a neat path of upward mobility, which gets easier as we rise higher. Realistically though, this is the opposite of what happens. Mountain climbers would testify that the path typically gets steeper and more treacherous the closer you are to the top. Hikers are more likely to face frostbite, and to encounter health and terrain challenges as they approach the zenith of Everest. It goes without saying that attempting to reach the peak of Everest is not for wimps...or quitters....or people with too much pride.
Let me explain. There's nothing pretty about freezing your gonads off while ice cold winds slap you in the face and you're probably starving and regretting your decision to start this climb in the first place. You may not have showered in a couple days because you need to keep up the pace with the few members of the team that are left; besides, there's no showering in those sub- zero temperatures. You probably had to relieve yourself humiliatingly in a pile of snow somewhere while the other hikers looked the other way. Ok, I'm just imagining because my fitness is incredibly situational, and I don't see a climb to Everest fitting into any of my "situations". I'm more cut out for racing from my car to the water-taxi terminal in my work clothes while the fishermen yell "RUN GYUL, YOU GO MAKE IT" and the parking lot security comments on how much I "FRET" her because I can never just park on time and walk like normal people; but I digress.
What I'm trying to get at is this. On the journey of life, especially life in Christ, we have to endure challenges that may seem debilitating and humiliating in order for us to progress both secularly and spiritually. These challenges may appear to be downgrades to the untrained eye, but are actually precious pit-stops that prepare us for purpose. For example, you may feel strongly that God has called you to have an extensive sphere of influence, yet everything in your present situations seems to shroud you in increasing obscurity. You may have had a job a few months ago that was paying the bills, but now you find yourself jobless due to the economic downturn. You may, as an adult, have to return to living with your parents due to sudden financial difficulties or family illness; or maybe you just got married and have to put your tail between your legs and live at the mercy of your in-laws with your spouse for a season because you're now starting out. Or maybe, you are called to be a leader in some arena, but you're presently called to humbly submit under the tyrannical leadership of someone else. I could conjure more scenes, but only you know your own story.
In times like these we have some choices. We can take our circumstances at face value and allow the lowliness of our current estate to dismay and defeat us, or we can put on our spiritual lenses and see these downgrades as the Lord sees them - opportunities to upgrade. Even if the situation you are in is a result of poor decisions on your part, you can allow the sobriety afforded you in the midst of your humiliation to work to your benefit. Being humiliated has many surprising pros, if you think about it. For one, often times we are shocked into a state of needful rationality after we emerge from the initial quagmire of self pity that we sink into after hitting rock bottom. This rationality often can push us to realize that we have dethroned God in our hearts, or if that isn't the case, that we need to come before His throne and make our requests known. Also, humility (that often comes through some type of suffering) teaches us obedience. Since in the current gloom when we cannot apprehend any tangible benefits to serving God, we can really test whether we can take God purely at His Word and if we love Him first. Finally, (I'm sure there are more, but this is what I can think of at the moment) in the centre of a downgrade our hearts become pliable to God's conscientious molding of our character to be conformed to the image of Christ. In my opinion, taking stock of these benefits is way more productive that wallowing in "what-if"s and "why-me"s and missing the blessing of the season entirely.
A final thought:
"A servant isn't greater than his master" - John 15:20
Jesus Himself was subjected to the ultimate downgrade in order to be glorified. He as God, stripped Himself of His glory to dwell in the cage of a human body, and to be subject to ridicule of His own ignorant creation. He made proper use of His humiliation by "learning obedience through the things that He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8) and kept His eyes on the Upgrade that He knew was sure to come, which included reconciling all of humanity and creation to Himself (Hebrews 12:2 - if that isn't an upgrade, I don't know what is!).
I hope this offers some encouragement to some reader today, even as it is blessing me as I write it.