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Key ingredient

Banana bread. Since childhood it has been one of my weaknesses. It was a longed-for treat, made by my nana. Her recipe was one of those written in her head, stirred in her heart and shaped through the deft movement of her hands. Even the smell of it, now, takes me back to her kitchen, to those thin, old hands, and the tiny lady who worked wonders.

Some years after she died, I was a bachelor preacher, fresh out of seminary, and I attempted to make some banana bread myself. This was before the internet, and my best source for a recipe was a cook-book from our church’s United Methodist Women. One of the pages sounded promising and I set to work. Ingredients in, stir, stir, stir. Pour it in the pan, put it in the oven. Wait for the aroma to smell familiar and promising.

With high hopes, I set the timer and waited for the moment. You know — fresh butter on warm-sliced bread. Soft, sweet … alas.

When I pulled it out of the oven, I knew just by the look, it wasn’t right. It smelled like banana, but the shape of it was definitely off. Perhaps a banana brownie (if that’s a thing?), I looked back at the cook-book to be sure. Something about baking powder, or was it baking soda? I tried again and included this overlooked but essential element. That vital ingredient made all the difference.

In life, one vital, and often forgotten ingredient, is humility. I am studying the Old Testament prophet Micah this fall with a group at our church. Micah 6:8 states, “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness/mercy and walk humbly with your God.” The way that Jesus Christ embodied this is essential for my life if I truly seek to follow him.

Humility is not a natural tendency. It is a chosen posture, and one often misunderstood. As one writer put it, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking of yourself less.” Each day is a gift from God, to be lived building others up with caring words and tender kindness.

With this ingredient, life takes its intended shape. Without it, whatever else we include, we fall flat. Nana infused it into every part of her life. I pray that I live a life so well.

Rev. Michael Kendall is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. He can be reached at mkendall@farmvilleumc.org.