An attitude of gratitude, always.
We have a family habit that we do our best to practice most evenings at the meal table. It is a habit of gratitude. No matter how hard the day that Amanda or I may have had, or how sorry the kids might feel for themselves that we have run out of mayonnaise (their favourite condiment for most of our meals), each one of us in turn always manages to find something to be thank-ful for. Sometimes our youngest Olive will giggle her way through the names of every one of our animals (we have about 13). Other times my answer might be more somber - like simply for the breath to say “thank you”. Other times it might be for someone at work or school who may have shown us a great kindness or offered a word of encouragement. We find our spirits lifted by each others’ gratitude, and blessed too (like when someone is “thankful” for the food that was prepared in love - mayonnaise or none).
I’ve pondered the significance of gratitude as I was writing this in the light of three of my favourite passages of scripture: the first is the well-known story of the ten lepers in Luke 17. I am struck again by the fact that only one of the lepers returns to offer his gratitude following his miraculous healing and that of his comrades. I am reminded how easily I can hurry through life taking the many blessings in my hands for granted. My desire is to be like the lone leper who pauses and returns to the Master with a “thank you” before going his way to revel in his new-found freedom. I also notice the added blessing this leper receives from Jesus in the King James Version: “your faith has made you whole”. I wonder if that leper walked away not just physically healed of his outward condition, but also free in the very core of his being in a new way.
The second passage I am drawn to is Psalm 100:4, where the Psalmist reminds us that our password into the place of worship is “thank you”. The children of Israel did well when they remembered the wonders Yahweh had performed on their behalf and lived lives of gratitude in the light of those wonders. Things didn’t however pan out so well for them when they forgot, which they all too often did. I am reminded that though I am sometimes inclined to come into Yahweh’s courts with complaints or supplication for urgent needs, it is thanks-giving that should be the first priority as I enter in.
We are looking forward with great anticipation to singing a homegrown song called “Thank You” in this next season as a faith community. The song was inspired by the Lord’s miraculous protection over our daughter Olive in a horrific vehicle accident, and it serves as a reminder that His faithfulness to me and our family in the past is the assurance that He will continue to be faithful to us in the future. The Lord’s faithfulness to our family and myself personally isn’t a safeguard against hard seasons - I have learned that though I pray for rescue and deliverance and pulling me out, sometimes the answer is refuge and grace and His Presence as I walk through. Either way, I am learning the heart posture of gratitude.
A prayer that is often on my lips is “I was once young, and now I am old(er), and I have never seen the righteous forsaken” (Psalm 37:25). I have known the blessing of the favour and the presence of the Lord all my life - not just in the good times, but in the hard ones too. I resonate with the words of Matt Redman’s classic song “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”, which blesses the name of Yahweh “in the land that is plentiful, and when I’m found in the desert place... when the sun’s shining down on me, and on the road marked with suffering”. So whether I’m shouting it loud because I just can’t contain my gratitude and praise, or whether there is “pain in the offering” and all I can manage is a feeble and whispered “thank you”, I have resolved to be a thank-ful worshipper.
And that brings me to my third and final passage of scripture: Psalm 121 is a favourite prayer of mine when I am in a challenging situation or season. Mountains have long held particular significance for me - I come from a family that has a deep love of scaling and traversing their magnificent peaks. There are many layers to the significance of these giants of creation for me - but predominantly I am reminded that no matter how daunting the climb may look from the start, if I steadily put one foot in front of the other I will eventually be rewarded with a breathtaking vista from the summit.
Mountains also remind me of the need to keep things in perspective. Though I might feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the mountains ahead of me, the One who has promised his help to me is Yahweh - and He uses those mountains as a stool to rest his feet (Isaiah 66). With that as a promise for all my life, for my coming and going... the great moments of life when I am taking in the view, and the harder moments when I feel lost in the valley... I find the strength to take the next step in life’s journey with Yahweh. He has promised to never leave me or forsake me, and he has never once let me down. He has promised His help and the grace for every leg of the journey.
So, borrowing from the writer of Hebrews 12:1-2, I shrug off the things that weigh me down and threaten to turn me around for the relative comfort and ease of base camp, and I fix my eyes on Yahweh, and continue with gratitude on the path marked out for me.