Gratitude Brought On by Perspective

Try as I might to cultivate a lasting awareness of God’s goodness and mercy, I’ve nevertheless found gratitude to be an elusive anchor for my soul. In my last post here on ESI (“Fighting My Way Toward Gratitude“) I confessed that I, too, am a forgetful person – very much like the ancient Israelites wandering in the desert in the book of Exodus. Just like them, it seems as though I need constant reminders of God’s presence and protection.

Recently, I’ve been reminded that sometimes God sees fit to use the removal of a gift – something for which we should be grateful – to help us fan the flame of gratitude in our hearts. In God’s great mercy, though, my most-recent example is quite tame.

I am grateful for...Our family’s schedule runs at a fairly frenetic pace; sleeping in on a Saturday morning is more of a pipe dream than any sort of reality. I am nearly always awakened by one of two things, sometimes both: 1) a very-loving but also very-early-rising little boy climbing into our bed to “snuggle” – a ritual which is much like trying to snuggle with the Energizer Bunny, or 2) a cold, sloppy-wet dog nose in my face, “encouraging” either me or my husband to meet his very-urgent need to go outside. Most Saturdays, I get out of bed early in a selfless act of husband preservation; I figure at least one of us ought to be allowed to sleep past 6:30 a.m. (And we both know who is more likely to make it through the day short on sleep without getting terribly crabby.)

I know that the idea of having a child who wants to snuggle up is indeed a very good thing. But I have to be honest; after a long and draining week, I am very often “less than thrilled” with my walking/talking alarm clock. Even one more hour of sleep holds a significant amount of appeal, and I sometimes resent not being given even one day a week in which to rest undisturbed. “Could I please just wake up when I darn well feel like it?!”

Recently, my husband and I decided to be horribly irresponsible and run away for an overnight date. Our goals were modest: 1) We wanted to have dinner together somewhere that didn’t serve food wrapped in paper or offer plastic toys as a side dish; 2) We wanted to watch a movie not necessarily driven by parental viewing guidelines or involving talking animals, and; 3) We wanted to sleep in on Saturday until we felt like waking up.

“Lame?” My teenage daughter certainly thought so. “Glorious?” That’s exactly what us old folks thought. So off we went.

Our brief time away went exactly as we’d hoped. Chinese food, a good movie, and sleeping in until 10 a.m. Truly, it was just what I – I mean, we – needed. I found myself immensely grateful for the ability to get away and share some much-needed “alone time” with my husband. But what I didn’t necessarily see clearly until I got back home was how consistently ungrateful I was for “my real life.”

Ingratitude really is an insidious sin, slipping so slowly between the covers with us that we hardly notice its presence. Just the opposite of my son, it will lay quietly, oh-so-slowly cuddling up to you until before you know it, you’re nearly suffocated by a heart of ingratitude. In God’s mercy, He sometimes brings trials into our lives in order to help us see better the blessings all around us. As I said, many of those trials include the removal of a blessing we have previously failed to appreciate and/or give thanks to the Lord for.

For example, I know plenty of people who will say that they are “sick and tired” of various aspects of their employment. On the other hand, being involved with the Care Ministry at The Crossing brings me into regular contact with others who have unexpectedly lost their jobs and would do anything to trade places with the person who is constantly irritated with a coworker, supervisor, or the company snack machine that never carries their preferred brand of cracker. So when I find myself whining about my own job, I try to stop long enough to consider what it would be like to be unable to work, with bills stacking up and our bank account draining down to nothing, entirely unprepared for such a drastic change in our situation.

Are you discontent with your friendships? Imagine if, like many among us, you had to move to another city somewhat rapidly, and suddenly had no one nearby who knows you as well as your current friends do. Are your current relationships really so bad that starting over from scratch seems preferable?

Does your spouse drive you crazy? What if he/she drove out of the garage one morning and never returned, having suffered a car accident, a heart attack, or some other manner of tragedy? Is the bickering over the smaller details of life really so bad that you would be content with his/her immediate disappearance from your life?

Praise God, though, that it doesn’t always take a deep tragedy to actually occur for us to stoke gratitude in our hearts for all that we have. Sometimes we simply need a reminder that what we have been given is all an incredible and gracious gift, and we are thus enabled to trust Christ with what has been withheld.

It’s so easy for me to slip into behaving as if things all around me will last forever and, as such, it’s so easy for me to take them for granted (or to even not want them). I need only to look at my adult son towering over me – and to recall how it seems like only yesterday that he was a toddler running around in shorts and cowboy boots – to remind myself that I won’t always have a little boy in the house whose first thought upon waking is to snuggle with his Mommy and gently harangue her for some warmed-over Pop Tarts.

This past Sunday morning, my Energizer Bunny climbed into bed next to me, right on cue, just as the sun came over the horizon. Our dog put his cold, wet nose into my husband’s face. We were both abruptly awakened by The Dynamic Duo working in tandem to ensure we didn’t get any more rest…and we were both so very grateful for them both. But especially grateful for the wiggly little body making my desire to sleep entirely futile.

Back to our world of little boy alarm clocks and wet, annoying dog noses. Thank You, Lord.

Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Luke 17:11-19
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

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