Humble Roots

Over the years I have read quite a few books on the subject of humility. To be frank, this is an area in which I need all the help I can get (and I am quite certain that I am not alone in this need). As I read the latest, Hannah Anderson’s Humble Roots, a thought occurred to me: All of the others have been written by men. I don’t mean to read any particular significance into this observation, but did find myself especially challenged and refreshed to read one that comes from a different perspective—a female perspective. This is just one of the many reasons I found Humble Roots a tremendously enjoyable read.

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The book’s starting point is anxiety, being overwhelmed, feeling “heavy laden.” “For years,” she says, “I’ve heard that the solution to such stress comes from setting up boundaries, finding ways to be more productive, cultivating gratitude, and scheduling ‘me-time.’ For years, I’ve believed that finding rest comes from both simultaneously learning to let go and keeping your act together. For years, I’ve thought that my sense of peace depends entirely on me.” But then she found herself pondering Jesus as he presents himself in Matthew 11:28, a Savior who is gentle and lowly in heart and who offers rest for our souls. Pondering this, she realized that the better antidote for anxiety and being overwhelmed is humility. “The goal of Humble Roots is to understand how pride manifests itself in anxiety and restlessness, and how humility frees us from the cycle of stress, performance, and competition.”

She explores theological truths and does it by considering the natural world. “We’ll explore the theological truths of incarnation, creaturehood, physical embodiment, and human limitation; and we’ll do this by considering the natural world around us, by lifting our eyes to the hills, the fields, and the heavens. But we’ll also consider more practical questions about how humility informs our daily choices—ones that generally take place in less idyllic settings. We’ll see how humility—how knowing ourselves as creatures—also helps us see the extent of our pride in our everyday choices, from how we use social media to how we give and receive compliments. But more than simply point out where we fail, humility also provides a way forward.”

Through eleven chapters she explores humility from its various angles. She looks at failure, rest, humanity, emotions, weakness, death, and more. She looks at the pride that so often fills our hearts and consumes our lives. She shows that humility is “not simply a disposition or set of phrases. Humility is accurately understanding ourselves and our place in the world. Humility is knowing where we came from and who our people are. Humility is understanding what without God we are nothing. Without His care, without His provision, with His love, we would still be dust.”

Let me point out three of the book’s most appealing strengths.

First, Humble Roots is relentlessly biblical. Anderson simply teaches what the Bible teaches about humility. Every chapter goes deep into a text or series of texts and shows how they call us to pursue humility by pursing Christ, to “celebrate the goodness of our physical bodies, to embrace the complexity of our emotions, and to own our unique gifts without guilt or feeling like an imposter.” In other words, she calls us to flourish as human beings made in God’s image.

Second, Humble Roots is well-written. Anderson is a skilled writer and her book is a joy to read. It is a great length in an era in which far too many books are just a little too long and it is beautifully integrated with her own life and experiences. This gives it an enjoyable authenticity and a “rootsy” feel. Each chapter is structured around something she has experienced in the natural world and this serves as a helpful and interesting “hook” to hold the book together.

Third, Humble Roots is practical. It is practical without being trite. Those who read the book will know about humility, to be sure, but they will also have ideas about what humility actually looks like in real life. They will receive wisdom on how to actually be humble.

I read Humble Roots because I had heard so many people praise it. I was delighted to find it is worthy of the recognition and worthy of both time and attention. It is a book I enjoyed thoroughly and recommend heartily.