Humble Grace: Humility Comes Before Happiness

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God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. — Matthew 5:5 NLT

I’m standing in a mudroom, sorting children’s dribbled shirts, grass-stained jeans. I live in laundry. How to be Little-One in now’s wonderland, in Kingdom of Heaven coming? How to live in a state of awe when life is mundane and ordinary? I know layers of the eucharisteo* answer because I have felt the miracle — but there are layers I don’t yet understand.

Light falls in gold bars across laundry.

The watch on my wrist chimes the hour, modern bells to prayer.
I stop the spinning thoughts, the probing questions, the hands sorting, the laundry work, because God needs knees more than hands. Bowed like Daniel, I move to the other side of prayer with on-the-hour prayers of thanks.

Thank You, Lord, for the perspective of a child
Thank You for door frames and doorknobs
Thank You for soaring ceilings and bed barges and tables that loom largeFor her laughter and her wonder and her eyes that turn the world inside out and stretch it large and leave me again in surprise… in awe

I murmur eucharisteo thanks in a pile of laundry and the world expands and heightens and deepens and surges with the glory of God, and I can feel the body decreasing and the soul increasing and joy filling the breadth between. This, this is like a child happily capturing pixels, our daughter giddily grasping the ball — the perspective of smallness that cultivates surprised wonder, that grows gratitude, that yields joy. The orb awe of a moon that makes the eyes see, the kaleidoscope of a bubble that makes the time slow, this is eucharisteo working its change on a life, but here, isn’t this here another layer of eucharisteo?

Eucharisteo makes the knees the vantage point of a life.

I shake my head, my quiet laughter remembering her glee, because isn’t that how children live? Life as a large surprise. A child has no expectations… A rolling ball? Surprise! A laughing aunt? Surprise! Again and again? Surprise!

That’s what a child doesn’t have — this whole edifice of expectation. Without expectations, what can topple the surprising wonder of the moment?

My mama, valley wise and grief traveled, she always said, “Expectations kill relationships.” And I’ve known expectations as a disease, like a silent killer heaping her burdens on the shoulders of a relationship until the soul bursts a pulmonary and dies.

Expectations kill relationships — especially with God.

I think of it only a couple hundred times a year, that single wide-eyed night by the bed of one of our sons in the pediatric wing of a city hospital. The moaning of babes, the crying of sick children, the murmur of nurses with grim prognoses on lips and morphine in hand, these haunted through the endless hours. I did not sleep, the pain of that place begging me to pray.

After our son was given the thumbs-up and signature of release,
I came home to bedrooms and bathrooms and kitchen and fridge and windows and unmerited, luxurious health and I threw up my arms in relieved gratitude.

Here? This place? Surprise!

I was a woman who saw what her life could well have been. And things but forty-eight hours earlier I entirely took for granted — even rather half resented as flawed and less than — I spun around: All surprising grace! And there has not been a single night the nearly ten years since, that my son and I haven’t whispered in bedside prayers for those who cry out in the dark, for we witnessed and we remember and we will always carry…

Is it only when our lives are emptied that we’re surprised by how truly full our lives were?

Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing — and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! These people! This place! This day! Surprise!

C. S. Lewis said he was “surprised by joy.” Perhaps there is no way to discover joy but as surprise? This, the way the small live. Every day.

Yes, the small even have a biblical nomenclature. Doesn’t God call them the humble?

The humble live surprised. The humble live by joy. [tweet this]

Lord, I repent of it all: the expectations that kill relationships and the entitlement that steals all joy. Please, Lord, today, make me small and surprised by staggering grace! Make me remember that humility comes before happiness.

Excerpted with permission from One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp, copyright Zondervan.

*Eucharisteo = The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread (in Luke 22:19) and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy. ~ Ann Voskamp

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Your Turn

Have you agreed with C. S. Lewis and Ann Voskamp and found yourself to be surprised by joy? How has letting go of expectations and being thankful made changes in your heart? How has humility deepened your relationship with Jesus? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about eucharisteo! ~ Devotionals Daily

Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp is the wife of one fine, down-to-earth farmer; a book-reading mama to a posse of seven; and the author of the New York Times bestsellers One Thousand Gifts, which has sold more than one million copies, and The Broken Way. Named by Christianity Today as one of fifty women most shaping culture and the church today, Ann knows unspoken brokenness and big country skies and an intimacy with God that touches wounded places. Millions do life with her at her daily photographic online journal, one of the top 10 most widely read Christian sites: www.annvoskamp.com

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