To have a grateful heart often requires emptying my heart of expectations and becoming thankful and joyful like a child. When I perceive rudeness or meanness, or some similar offense, I can become a self-renowned heart analyzer. I can build an impenetrable defense – all partitioned off in a secret locked compartment of my mind, or so I tell myself. But it insidiously leaks out into my thinking from time to time. I really prefer carefree joy.
Matt. 18:4 says “anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” I think sometimes we just need to study the attribute of humility in children and take some lessons. If they have had proper training, they realize that they are not entitled to everything they want, even if they push for it on occasion. They are so trusting, so ready to receive and react to the wonder of each moment, so spontaneous, empathetic, generous, forgiving and joyful!
Ann Voskamp, in “1000 Gifts”, said “And I’ve known expectations as a disease, silent killer heaping her burdens on the shoulders of a relationship until a soul bursts a pulmonary and dies. Expectations kill relationships – especially with God. And that’s what a child doesn’t have: this whole edifice of expectation. Without exceptions, what can topple the surprising wonder of the moment?”
Resentment over unmet expectations, the exact opposite of loving deeply and humbly, causes pride to kick in, possibly with a few side helpings of anger, doubt, cynicism, or a critical spirit (all roots of bitterness) and kills joy. Again quoting Ann, “That word ‘humility’ itself comes from the Latin root ‘humus’ – the kind of earth that grows good crops…Humility is that good humus that grows gratitude that yields abundant joy.” And, “A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” Though good crops spring from humus, there is that one crop called bitterness, that just springs up all too easily (and negatively effects others) simply when we miss the grace mark! And since I know the grace is unmerited favor, who am I to judge someone else’s character when they are walking in the best God-given faith they know how to, or even when they blunder and trust me with their sloppiness in the same way I would like to be trusted with mine!
When I “study” children, (i.e., spend time with them, have fun with them, listen to them, and especially observe their humility, I see what I want to become. I know what I deserve, and I am very blessed.