Gratefulness & Humility


Posted on May 24, 2009 by Blake Leath

As tomorrow is Memorial Day, I hope that all Americans who can... will appreciate the many 'ultimate sacrifices' made for this great country.

It is 'holidays' like tomorrow that serve to remind us what liberty and freedom really cost.  For millions, it cost everything.  Through democracy, we elect and assign our leaders -- and fire those with whom we disagree.  Our soldiers, however, serve where they are sent, and whether we agree or disagree with their literal marching orders, their service warrants our respect and honor.  After all, were it not for them, we would lack our freedom of speech and the right to, in public fora, approve or disapprove of what they are called to do.  We all understand that war is not the answer, but en route to the day when peace is unilateral and terrorists and jihadists surrender rocket launchers in exchange for olive branches, we are left with irreconcilable ideologies and conflicts during which we have the responsibility to demonstrate values while preserving the security and rights of those without voices or defenses.   

As a great nation, we are duty-bound to be grateful for those who do this and put themselves in harm's way, and as any entity which possesses much, we are obligated to be humble.  And so, today, a few brief words on gratefulness and humility.

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."  (The letter of Paul, to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 3-4.)

Regardless our petty differences, be they individual, organizational, or geo-political, we are called to love one another and be gracious with others, especially those with whom we disagree.  Similarly, to become great, we are to become nothing.  To die unto ourselves that we may serve others and, forsaking ourselves, help others become greater.  In short, we are to be grateful.  Where we are currently insatiable, we are to be satiated by little and pour ourselves out for others; to appreciate and be thankful for the difficulties and sorrows, that we might appreciate more the seasons of bounty and blessing.

And equally important, to find that in giving to others and contributing beyond ourselves, we are more fully restored.  In the words of a great counselor-friend of mine, "Nothing helps the clinically-depressed so much as volunteering and serving others."

To provide a tangible example of gratitude, gratefulness, humility, forgiveness, and service, allow me to share a super-brief story. 

Three hundred years ago, the prolific Matthew Henry, scholarly theologian and commentator, was attacked and mugged and beaten to within an inch of his life on a dark, London street.  As he reclined in his bed, recovering, he was asked for reactions to his assault.  He thoughtfully replied, "I am thankful."  Seeing the puzzled look on others' faces, he elaborated, "I am thankful, first, because I was never robbed before.  Second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life.  Third, because although they took my all, it was not much.  And fourth, because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed."

Is this how you reacted when you realized half your net worth had evaporated in the last fourteen months?  Is this how you reacted when you were laid off?  Is this how you reacted when the world or its many minions danced gleefully on your failures, stomped on your heart, stole your livelihood for personal gain, or crushed your soul?  I doubt it.  And yet, we are to count our losses as blessings, and our sorrows as joy, if we are to be a grateful lot.  May Matthew Henry serve as a gentle reminder this coming Monday, week, and year.  When all seems lost, may you perceive the gain. 

Despite your worldviews, political persuasions, or views on the hereafter, may we all bow our heads on Monday and say a prayer for those who made -- and make -- it possible for us to enjoy this land, our family, and our harvests.  However great or small we perceive them to be, we undeniably and inarguably reside in a free country that has gone out of its way for 233 years to endow each and every citizen with three very enviable, exceptional, and uncommon rights.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...


On Monday, if you do nothing else, give thanks and count your blessings.  They are likely more abundant than you perceive, starting with the truth that you choose how you will spend your Monday, while many around the world cannot.