Right After the Parade

Psalm 147-6

My oldest girl was in first grade when she saw the parade for the first time.

It was the biggest news she shared with me on the last day of school, like it was the best thing she’d ever seen–better than the circus, better than her favorite movie.

There’s a tradition at our elementary school and she witnessed it for the first time that year.  On the last day, the fifth graders take their “final lap” around the school.

They play celebratory music on the school intercom system, and all the younger classes line the hallways as spectators.

Then the younger grades cheer as the fifth graders go by, and they high-five the new elementary graduates.

Every year since then, my daughter has stood in that hallway and celebrated the fifth graders with the best of them.  She knew one day, it’d be her time for the fifth grade parade.

This year was her year.

Parents don’t get to witness the “final lap” for the fifth graders.  After all, the hallways are packed already with cheering students and the parading graduates.

But, even though I didn’t see my daughter enjoy this moment, I tear up every time I think of it.

I saw parents all over the gym dabbing away tears during the promotion ceremony.  I didn’t cry then, but thinking about the parade makes me all emotional.

This is what my girl had been waiting for all these years.

I love how after all their hard work, these fifth graders say goodbye to the school that invested so much in them all this time.

And I love how the younger students come home inspired.  One day, they think, they’ll be the ones in the hallway parade.  They’ll hear the applause.  They’ll reach out for high-fives.  They’ll be honored for their success.

Before the fifth grade class enjoyed their final lap of victory, though, they sat in the gym wearing their nicest clothes and they listened to the principal’s final words of wisdom.

She said, “Be humble.

Work hard.  Accomplish a lot.

But always humbly take the time to cheer for others around you.”

She said exactly what’s in my heart, the very message I want my daughter to hear, and I dare to hope that these fifth grade grads tuck those words away and remember them.

Just in those moments when we feel like we know the most or we’ve accomplished the most or we’ve reached the top, that’s the best time to remember the beauty and the power of humility.

Maybe it’s age that impresses this on me.  After all, the older I get, the more I know that I don’t know.

In fact, I wish I knew at 14 all the things I didn’t really know.

Or maybe it’s motherhood.  Maybe the moments I mess up make me tender about failure, make me compassionate, make me realize that we’re all in this together and none of us is perfect and cheering each other on is the best thing we can do for our fellow moms.

Scripture tells that God:

saves the humble (Psalm 18:27)
leads the humble (Psalm 25:9)
teaches the humble (Psalm 25:9)
lifts up the humble (Psalm 147:6)
and gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

No doubt about it, God’s heart is for the humble.

He wants us listening and teachable.  He wants us others-focused and self-sacrificing.

In The Blessing of Humility, Jerry Bridges writes:

“The apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians about AD 54. In it he referred to himself as the “least of the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9). In AD 62, in his letter to the Ephesians , he considered himself as the “very least of all the saints” (that is—all believers—Ephesians 3:8). In about AD 63-64, in his first letter to Timothy, he referred to himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1:5)—Paul was growing in humility

Paul could have been proud of all he’d accomplished for God.  Year after year, he had more spiritual markers to add to his apostolic resume and more reason to boast.

So, he could have been growing in pride all those years.

Instead, he grew in humility.

The more he knew, the more he knew what he didn’t know.

The more he did, the more he remembered what Christ had done for him.

This is the heart I long for and this is the heart I desire for my children.  Even in the moments of their greatest accomplishments, when they’ve marched in the parade and listened to the cheers, may they cultivate a humble heart, which:

…listens instead of always demanding to speak.

….allows for differences and recognizes that “my way” doesn’t always mean “the only way.”

…accepts correction without defensiveness.

…receives counsel.

…cheers for others

…says, “I’m sorry” when they’ve messed up.

May we grow in humility like this.

Father’s Day Surprise . . . or not so much

Last Father’s Day, my daughters and I shopped together for Daddy.  When we arrived home, my middle girl burst into the house, ran over to my husband and announced that we had gotten him a game, but she couldn’t tell him which one it was because it was a gift.

Oh, the suspense.

Then for Christmas, the girls shopped for each other at the church’s Awana store.  At the end of the night before we had even clicked on our seat belts in the minivan, my daughter spilled the news to her big sister:  “I got you a doll!!!!”

“You spoiled the surprise again,” we all complained.

“But I didn’t tell her what color doll,” she explained, as if that was enough to keep her sister on edge until Christmas morning.

We’ve become accustomed to the missing element of surprise on holidays all because my little girl can’t contain her excitement over good news.

A few weeks ago, one of the women in my Bible Study group expressed a similar disappointment in the fact that we can’t surprise God.

And I get that.

There are moments when I wish God would look down and say, “Wow!  Did you see what she just did?” when He sees me serve in a way that brings Him pleasure.

God, all-knowing and all-seeing, though, isn’t surprised by what we do and say.

Yet, even though we can’t surprise Him, we can please Him.  He can delight in us and rejoice over us and even be amazed at the growth in our faith. We can bring him joy.

This is a precious thought to me.  We all know that God loves us because of his character, his faithful commitment to keep his covenant with his people and his unwavering grace that offers salvation to sinners like us.

But there are moments when we may wonder if we can please him as individuals.  Can he delight in us, as Scripture tells us he delighted in David (Psalm 18:19)?  Can we find favor with him, as Mary did (Luke 1:30)?

In her book, Knowing God By Name, Mary Kassian notes that there are two different words for the “love” that God has for us.  The one is “chesed,” which is “firmly rooted in God’s character, loyal, steadfast, unfailing love, kindness and mercy” (p. 38).  This is unfailing covenant love.

Yet there’s another kind of love—“ahab,” which means “to desire, to breathe after, to be inclined toward, to delight in” (p. 38).

We see both kinds of love at work in Jeremiah 31:3:

“I have loved you (ahab) with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (chesed).

Perhaps it’s true that we can’t surprise God, but clearly He can love us personally and passionately—not just because He made a covenant of loyalty long ago.

In fact, I imagine God, grinning ear to ear at times when he looks down with love and affection and sees our hearts motivated by love and our service to others, untainted by pride and self-glorification.

This is what causes our God to “take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17).

Indeed, it’s not the moments when we’re conscious of our good deeds that make God break out in song over us.  It’s not when we’re in it for accolades or when we are patting ourselves on the back for being such a nice person.

It’s never when we’re thinking, “Wow, I’m such a good Christian.  I’m such a loving person.  I’m so self-sacrificing.”

It’s never, ever about earning salvation or His loyal love by adhering to rules or performing well.  God’s covenant love is constant and dependent on His character, not on our works.

It’s not at all because God needs something from us.

Instead, God is amazed by our faith when we come to Him and admit that He alone can rescue us.  When the centurion, a man of power and authority, petitioned Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus “was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel” (Luke 7:9 NIV).

This is the humility of acknowledging that our own good works or personal strength are not enough; our only hope is in him.

Psalm 147:10-11 similarly tells us that “the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love”

In The Pleasures of God, John Piper explains that “it is because our fear reflects the greatness of his power and our hope reflects the bounty of his grace.  God delights in those responses which mirror his magnificence… When I cry out, ‘God is my only hope, my rock, my refuge!’ I am turning from myself and calling all attention to the boundless resources of God’ (p. 187).

James said this with all his usual bluntness:

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
‘God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble'” (James 4:6).

God becomes a doting Father and rejoices over us when our hearts are truly humble and we are living lives that are intentional about glorifying Him, not ourselves.  This is when we please Him, maybe not surprise Him–but certainly bring Him joy and delight.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King