Saturday, March 07, 2009

So Grateful...

A few months ago a friend instructed our small group to ask God what our sins were - personal, church-wide, and nationally. This, in itself, might seem a shocking enterprise, especially considering we were then to go around the circle and share them. Freedom was given to withhold sharing on any we'd like, though, and we happily commenced the praying.

Ungratefulness. It was the last, most personal, and most prominent one the Spirit whispered to me. But I had such a long list already, that when it came my turn to share them I didn't get to that last bit, the ungratefulness bit. Perhaps I was trying to downplay it; perhaps I didn't think it would strike anyone else as very important. Either way, I kept silent. But when the leader finished up the time with his own list, there it was in big, bold type, spelled the same, hanging on the air in his voice: ungratefulness.

At first glance it seems a sort of Oprah-ish concept. "Let's all be grateful!" In fact, I think there was even a book she promoted where one was supposed to write down each day something one was thankful for. This would have some sort of beneficial effect on "my spirit", she explained, pulling heavily on the swirl of new-age thought she was long ago lost to. Unfortunately (for me) her having handled it sullied the concept of gratefulness. (It felt rather like eating salad made by someone who'd been handling raw chicken.) And unfortunately (for her) the right recipient of this gratefulness was entirely missing -- the real God.

Perhaps in the save-yourself world a general sense of gratefulness will have the beneficial effect of at least reducing the harmful levels of cortisol produced in our bodies by ongoing, underlying stress. But in reality (the God-saves-me world) gratefulness rightly directed toward the One who actually gives all the gifts ("Every good and every perfect gift is from above..." James 1:17) will guard the soul against spiraling down into the worst mire of evil and wickedness. Don't think it's that simple? Read Romans one, eighteen through thirty-two. I'll Cliff-Notes it:

Every sort of vile wickedness in verses 22-32 [lesbianism, homosexuality, murder, deceitfulness, envy, hate, violence, strife, disobedience, maliciousness, unmercifulness, covetousness, etc. - it's a stunning list] has its source in two simple, smallish-seeming actions. Or non-actions, if you will. Verse 21: "because...they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful".

[For you word-lovers, "thankfulness" means feeling or expressing gratitude.]

What a horrible spiral to start out of not thanking God for what He does and who He is. Now, I'm not concerned that everyone reading this is, by their forgetfulness to be thankful, on the verge of tipping over into that big, black hole called eternal wickedness. God, after all, is greater than your forgetful mind. (I'm talking to believers here.) But it is sobering to see the connection between my own state of gratefulness and the long-term trajectory of my soul. And since my mind is so forgetful, I'm going to need the Lord to train my spirit to be always, unconsciously, habitually GRATEFUL to HIM.

[Ah-hem. I seem to be turning into my Dad with this liberal use of caps and italics and paretheses and brackets. Now all I need is to start changing font colors as well :) ]

All these are thoughts of a few months ago, which have been brought back to me by the gratefulness I now feel rising inside as I review His faithful kindness to me. Yesterday was my last day at a temporary job He provided for me in a local doctor's office. It was a place I was appreciated, praised, useful, and yes, paid. And of course, in the middle of it all, a place where I was able to bring the Spirit of the Lord and some of the light of God into the lives of those who don't know Him yet. He provided the job through a series of "coincidental" circumstances - ha! :) And I've been so thankful for it.

But what a good day it was to be leaving, to be moving on to a job that will require more of my skills and heart, and that will give the return of a certain satisfaction only to be found in the direct service of the Kingdom and fellow believers.

My list of things to be thankful for is far longer than that. It has to do with fireplaces, homes, nieces, nephews, siblings, beaches, books, revelations, feastings, fulfillments of promises to my friends, the prospect and experience of eternal love... Oh, it all sounds so drab in words. If I could just sit with you and describe, at length, the history of each of these, the length and depth and width and height of Christ's passion for me might make you shiver with delight.

I can't, of course. But just think -- your own list is as long as mine, whether you've ever noticed it or not. Spend today and tomorrow asking God to bring it to mind, and thinking about what He lists. In the process, you'll be building a protection around your intimacy with Him that is virtually impenetrable by the enemy's arsenal of lies and doubts and fears. Ah, freedom.

1 comment:

Annie Peterson said...

I'm thankful for you. And that you live in Kansas City with me. And I'm thankful that I live in Kansas City. And I'm thankful for your fireplace. And I'm thankful for our nieces and nephews. And I'm thankful for growth. And I'm thankful that we don't have to learn it all at once.