As the month of November opens, we will be seeing a lot of posts about gratitude;
and that’s a beautiful thing: sharing our personal stories of Thanksgiving in a way that will hopefully encourage others.
I’m going to write something a little different though, something that explains why I sometimes don’t express gratitude….and how and why I’m working on changing that.
I love the phrase wild gratitude. I love to picture it and imagine it and feel it and express it – to be wildly grateful, almost crazy with gratitude! What an image of how gratitude should be given – wildly – instead of how it is so often given – negligibly or grudgingly.
I am sitting here this morning thinking about the times in my life when I have been wildly grateful. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them. I am grateful for so many things: food on the table, a house to live in, working a/c and heat.
But wildly grateful? That implies a meeting of a need or want that you have been desperate to fulfill.
When I held my children in my arms for the first time, I was overflowing with gratitude. It wasn’t expressed by jumping up off of the bed and bouncing off the walls, but I was so full that I couldn’t contain it – gratitude leaked out of my eyes and flowed off of me in waves as I looked into those tiny faces for the first time. I am still wildly grateful for my girls.
I have expressed wild gratitude through a gasp of startled pleasure when I received something or someone unexpected. My love for my husband is something I did not expect to have. Finishing college, finding an extended family in my church, lifelong friendships that point me towards the Lord. For all of these I am wildly grateful.
Then I think of all of the times when I haven’t expressed wild gratitude. There are too many to list but one sticks out in my mind; the time that God supplied the diagnosis and treatment for my oldest daughter as she was dehydrated.
It sounds like a simple diagnosis but she’d been sick for six weeks.
What started with a stomach virus lingered in lethargy and constant headaches. She lost weight. She didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything.
We took her to the doctor, twice, and they drew blood and ran tests and still couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They implied that I was worrying too much or that she was acting lazy to get out of chores, not taking into account a mother’s knowledge of her child’s personality or the fact that the child was missing out on a lot of things she’d looked forward to for almost a year, simply because she didn’t feel like participating.
I remember the quiet desperation I was feeling. The nights I alternated between prayer and terror.
Then I remember the nurse practitioner who came to our house. I remember his diagnosis and my surprise and, quite frankly, a small amount of disbelief.
Dehydration. Not some strange and rare disease I’d never heard of or a terrifying one that I had. Not something that was going to require a long, drawn out cure and travel and more testing and long nights in hospitals.
A prescription that included IV fluids, rest, more fluids, and some ibuprofen. A cure that had a visible difference in less than an hour.
WHY wasn’t I expressing wild gratitude?
I think a similar example and an explanation is found in the Bible. A group of people who were healed, yet only one expressed his gratitude freely and openly.
Do you remember the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus in Luke 17? They were all healed, but only one came back to thank Jesus.
Do you think the others were grateful? I do! Leprosy was a disease that separated individuals from their families. They were required BY LAW to move away and live in colonies with other diseased people.
Lepers couldn’t work or participate in society. They were banished and shunned as their bodies became disfigured with the rot of their disease. They couldn’t hold or hug or even touch anyone else.
So when Jesus, the Son of God, took the time to heal them do you think they were grateful? If they were, then why didn’t they come back? Why didn’t they all jump and shout and dance and proclaim to the world that they were HEALED and FREE?
One did. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
I imagine this one returning to say thank you. Can you picture it? Did he just stroll back to Jesus to say thank you? I don’t think so: I see him sprinting back, shouting, rejoicing, and when he met His healer, his gratitude so overcame him that he threw himself at Jesus’ feet! That, my friend, is some wild gratitude.
But what about the others? Jesus gives us a clue to their lack of expression (and mine) when he tells the leper who came back your faith has made you well.
You see, when Kate was sick I was so worried. I couldn’t believe the answer was simple. I couldn’t believe that I deserved to have this child healed simply while others suffer for so long. I lacked faith. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I think maybe it was the same way for the nine lepers who didn’t return. They knew they didn’t deserve healing. None of us do. They were grateful, but doubtful. Like Thomas when he first heard that Jesus had risen, he wanted so desperately to believe, but he doubted. His faith wasn’t mature enough to overcome his fear. He knew he didn’t deserve it.
And you know what? I, and the nine lepers, and Thomas? We’re right. We don’t deserve the healing that God has provided for us. We don’t deserve the simple gift that we just have to receive. But God gave it to us anyway.
So that’s what I am thankful for today; the gift given that was undeserved. And that’s what I’m working on: unreservedly accepting the many gifts God gives me and believing that they are real and true and for me. Not because I deserve them, but because He loves to give them.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, may we all be wildly grateful this month and always.