What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? Psalm 116:12
Parents have a question that they ask their children. All parents do this. After someone gives their child a gift or does them a favor, the parent will say to the child, “what do you say?” How is a kid supposed to respond?
What do you say to Aunt Ramona for her Velveeta Cheese, Spam, and Lima Bean casserole? When parents ask that, they aren’t really asking a question. They are telling you to say the appropriate thing. They would be surprised if we would have said, “Aunt Ramona, what in the name of heaven were you thinking? Aunt Ramona you should not be allowed to prepare meals, someone should put you away.”
No. That is not the proper response. “Thank You,” is the proper response.
Our parents would have also been surprised if we would have said, “Aunt Ramona, I have a sense of awe and wonder at what I have just experienced. I’m a child. Without an adult providing for me as you have done, I would die, and yet you have done it freely as an act of love and service for me. Aunt Ramona, you are a humanitarian and in the name of children everywhere, I salute you.”
But parents know that even if a child doesn’t feel gratitude yet, we want them to learn to offer thanks.
Gratitude is really simple. What do you say?
The truth about gratitude is that none of us can force ourselves to feel grateful any more than parents can do that with little kids. But we can position ourselves for gratitude by paying attention to the grace that God has lavishly given to us.
You see the life of the Christ-follower is one large, vibrant, full-throated “Thank You!” for God’s staggering grace. We live lives of service to God, not out of obligation, but out of deep gratitude that swells and pulses through our whole lives.
All of our lives—every ounce of it—every dish that is washed, every wound that is healed, every nail that is driven, every note that is sung, every biscuit that is baked, every deed that is done, every smile that is offered—-every part of our lives is an offering of gratitude to the one who thought us up.
It is important to remind ourselves that we don’t keep the commands of Scriptures, we don’t do deeds of kindness, we don’t go to church and pray in order to get God’s favor. We do all of those things because it’s the language of gratitude to the God who sacrificed his son to save us.
If you are cynical of faith; if you could be completely honest perhaps it is hard for you to wrap your mind, much less your heart around the idea of faith at all. I wonder if you would do a little inventory of your heart and ask yourself what is that compulsion inside you when breathe the smell of summer rain, or you see the golden colors of the Aspen this time of year, or the laughter of a child. I wonder what you will do with the off chance that something that you have longed for to happen, against all odds, comes true for you.
That pull inside you when you hear a piece of music that makes you weep. What will you do with that? May I encourage you to process and puzzle over it before you move on to another task?
The Christian story will tell you that these moments are not utterly meaningless. They are generous gifts from a gracious God who longs to connect with you.
I love what G.K. Chesterton said, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.”
What do you give back to an omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresent God who has come down into the grave to rescue you from the Pit?
Years ago, when I was a very young pastor, I heard a sappy story in a sermon, but I’ve never forgotten it. Here is the gist of the story:
A nine-year-old boy from a very poor home came to church for the first time. He had no idea how to behave. The little kid just sat there, clueless of what was going on. A few minutes into the service these tall unhappy guys walked down to the front and picked up some wooden plates. One of the men prayed and the kid with utter fascination watched them walk up and down the aisles. He still didn’t know what was going on.
All of a sudden like a bolt of lightning it hit the kid what was taking place. These people must be giving money to Jesus. He immediately searched his pockets, front and back, and couldn’t find a thing to give Jesus.
By this time the offering plate was being passed down his aisle and with a broken heart he just grabbed the plate and held on to it. He finally let go and watched it pass on down the aisle. He turned around to see it passed down the aisle behind him. And then his eyes remained glued on the plate as it was passed back and forth, back and forth all the way to the rear of the sanctuary.
Then he had an idea. This little nine-year-old boy, in front of God and everybody, got up out of his seat. He walked about eight rows back, grabbed the usher by the coat and asked to hold the plate one more time.
Then he did the most astounding thing. He took the plate, sat it on the carpeted church floor and stepped into the center of it. As he stood there, he lifted his little head up and said, “Jesus, I don’t have anything to give you today, but just me. I give you me!”
When you begin to realize that every single breath you and I breathe, is because God wills it; when you understand that every selfish act, every evil thought, all of our sin has been wiped off the books; when you look at the cobalt blue sky over a mountain valley, when you watch a humming bird in flight, when you hear a baby laugh uncontrollably at the mere sight of a puppy, what can you possibly give back to express your gratitude?
Give Jesus yourself. All of you.
And so, my friend, may you embrace the unfathomable grace of God in the cross of Jesus and the countless daily good things that come your way and live a good life of gratitude.
What do you say?