A few years ago, I read the following about gratitude from Thomas Merton:
“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us–and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise the goodness of God. For the grateful man knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
Merton makes a compelling insight about gratitude. It is an emotion and an act that comes from seeing, remembering, and acknowledging what is already there. When we are able to see the good before us, it elicits a response. In fact, Merton says it always brings about a response. The most important aspect of gratitude then is re-cognizing, or knowing again – recalling, the good. Our encounters with our Lord and Scripture always call us to do just this – to see God’s provision, faithfulness, promises, and His grace. Yet, we are a people who forget!
I once preached to a very small congregation from Psalm 50. It is seared in my memory forever! Every person in attendance was over 70. I had no idea who or how many people would be there or what kind of response I would receive. I was a young man and naive about what I was doing. I should have chosen something safe and simple…but I didn’t. The primary verse I was prepared to preach on was Psalm 50:22, which says, “Mark this, then, you who forget me, or I will tear you apart, and there will be none to deliver.” When I finished reading the text, I looked up and all but one or two of the congregants were in a deep sleep. What now, young preacher? It is funny now, but it was not funny then.
Whether we are elderly or or not, we all have the proclivity to forget and miss what is right in front of us. We get petty and see problems rather than provision. David Brooks says we do this because “expectations structure our moods and emotions.” Instead of recognizing the good, we have come to expect things and circumstances to transpire in a favorable way. And if they don’t, we can quickly resort to grumbling.
Anne Steele, in her beautiful hymn, Father of Mercies, In Thy Word, reminds us that God’s Spirit and Word is what allows us to see beyond the ephemeral and reset our expectations. She beautifully links seeing as the basis of savoring (thanksgiving and praise).
1 Father of mercies, in Thy word,
What endless glory shines!
Forever be Thy name adored
For these celestial lines.
2 Here may the blind and hungry come
And light and food receive;
Here shall the lowliest guest have room
And taste and see and live.
3 Here, the fair tree of knowledge grows
And yields a free repast
Sublimer sweets than nature knows
Invite the longing taste.
4 Here the Redeemer’s welcome voice
Spreads heavenly peace around,
And life and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.
5 Oh, may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see
And still increasing light!
6 Divine Instructor, gracious Lord,
Be Thou forever near;
Teach me to love Thy sacred Word
And view my Savior here.
Christian people, of all people, are those who have experienced infinite, undeserved kindness. As we remember and recall God’s provision and grace, let’s remember to give thanks in all things.
To close, I want to give a special thanks to God for my exceptional team at SCL. So much of the work we do is unseen and never gets acknowledged. Many long hours have been committed to serve the classical Christian school movement and provide support to our schools. This could never happen without the SCL leadership and staff!
I am also very grateful for the many schools and school leaders I have enjoyed the privilege of working with over the last decade or more. God is good and there is abundant evidence of His grace towards our schools, families, students, and leaders.