“Unthankfulness is theft.”
and why? Because if we are given anything at all we owe a debt.
Someone gave. Someone received. The selfish take without seeing-they do not recognize the effort, love or sacrifice behind the gift. They see only themselves, getting what they deserve, or don’t. If the gift is a good one (health, children, job, a sky on fire with sunset) they take it for granted– they are silent when they should be loudly praising. When the gift is unasked for (the flat tire, bronchitis, unemployment) suddenly they are animated and noisily protesting when they should be silent, and trusting. The Bible goes so far as to say that beyond silent trust…even in the unwanted, unhappy circumstances…we are to give thanks, and “rejoice, always.”
We teach our children to thank Aunt Polly for the itchy purple socks, whether they will wear them or not. Why? Because it’s polite, because it’s kind, because we are teaching that Aunt Polly’s heart matters more than the unwanted socks. We are teaching how to LIVE. We are assuming the best of Aunt Polly-that she loves us and means well, and humbling ourselves to accept whatever is given, with no demands for better or more.
Doesn’t God deserve as much courtesy as this?
Can’t we assume (from the ample evidence in His Word and in His World) that He loves us deeply and has the best of intentions towards us?
Isn’t it for our sake that He teaches us to say “Thank You?”
Gratitude is not natural, it must be taught. When I say to God, “forgive my selfishness. open my eyes. help me be grateful for it all.” He is faithful to do that very thing. He teaches me and I teach them and we learn this life stuff, together.
Part of our daily schoolwork is a gratitude journal, where the boys are to list 5 things each day that they are thankful to God for. Since they can’t repeat the same thing twice (legos-family-food-home-wii game would be on there everyday) their little minds stretch with the effort. I am still a student, so I write in my journal, too. Sometimes the kids are stumped, and get whiny about this assignment and how hard it is to think of anything and I start reading my list out loud, leading by example.
licorice. raindrops. the sound of laughter. hot water. books. the smell of grass. friendship. crisp sheets. coffee. living in America. candlelight. the Internet. eyes to see. grilled cheese sandwiches. a running car. bird song. oak trees. christmas…
They get animated with the reminders.
“I never thought of ***! Can I use that one? Oh, I like *** too! I forget about ***! Okay, so even something as little as ***?!”
Yes! That’s what I am saying to you, sweet boy! There is nothing too little. There is nothing too small to remember. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of Christ. It changes us, not Him. I read somewhere that the two greatest prayers you can utter are “forgive me” and “thank you.” We don’t say either, near enough.
gratitude…It’s the solution to discontent.
It’s the balm for disappointment.
It’s the antidote for selfishness.
(But it will only change your life if it is cultivated more often than last Thursday in November.)