Today on the blog is my friend Esther. I have the honor of walking alongside her in motherhood here in the Charlotte area, as our sons are near the same ages, she is a breath of fresh air. I have already been so blessed by this post, I seriously can’t wait for all of you to read it.
I think I’ve never really understood about Thankfulness. I’ve always known it is important to be thankful and appreciative of the blessings in my life, but any admonition to be thankful always had this strange fearful undertone for me. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard anyone ask this question before, but it plagued me when I was young: “If everything you had was taken from you, except the things for which you’d been thankful, what would you have left?” I remember falling asleep at night when I was little and trying to think of everything I could possibly thank God for, thinking if I had forgotten to say thank you for something, I didn’t deserve it, and thus it would be taken away from me. Another common adage built on this same value is “Be thankful for the blessing while you have it, because you never know when you won’t have it anymore.” Or, perhaps the most popular spin: “Be thankful for the things you have, because there are so many people in the world who don’t have what you have.”
Which, when I finally think about it, makes being thankful pretty pessimistic. Because many of the popular reasons for being thankful are based on the fear of not having. Or what about the “silver-lining” thankfulness? That variety of giving thanks is born out of reaching for something positive because really everything else is terrible and negative.
Now, before you think I am down on being thankful, or don’t value the admonition to cultivate gratitude, keep reading :)! In addition to the practice of offering thanks and showing gratitude, I’ve come across a different perspective on the nature and purpose of thankfulness.
I heard Bill Johnson say in a sermon back in the summer, “Sometimes God releases a miracle in seed form – and it just needs celebration. Miracles are aborted for lack of thankfulness.”
Mary Englebrit is one of my favorite sources of inspiration. Her art always has a timely and instructive appearance in my life. This is her representation of what Bill Johnson was talking about.
I had never heard anything quite like that. Thanksgiving isn’t a desperate attempt to hang on to what we have, it’s a powerful way to ready our hearts to receive. It’s not only about looking back on the good things that have happened or the blessings that we already have, but thankfulness, coupled with faith, is about looking forward. Then, instead of thankfulness being the way I keep the little I have, it becomes the means by which I welcome good things while they are still far off.
While this sounds like a good idea, I’m the kind of person who wants backing before receiving it. I figure, if I want to know how my life should work, I need to look to its Author. The Bible says that Jesus is “…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). So, if I want to know how the Creator intended for my life to look, I need to look at Jesus. Take a look at what I found out about Jesus and giving thanks:
“So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me…” John 11:41
This comes from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. When did Jesus give thanks? Not after Lazarus walked out of the tomb, but before. While Lazarus was still dead, Jesus gave thanks for the miracle. He thanked the Father BEFORE he multiplied the loaves and the fishes. Jesus thanked His Father BEFORE he told Lazarus to come out of the tomb.
Thankfulness is the vehicle by which we call out to miracles and future blessings and welcome them into our lives.
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I was always taught the emphasis of the preposition “in” – that we are not called to be thankful FOR every situation, but to be thankful IN every situation. I never understood what that meant because I always wondered, where then is the object of thankfulness, if it’s not something about our current situation? Instead of looking for that “blessing in disguise” to be thankful for, I would suggest that this thanksgiving is linked to the prayer and petition of the previous clause – it’s being thankful for the thing we are asking for. Thankful for the thing that is not here, but we know is on the way.
So, in addition to being thankful for what is already a reality in my life, I want to start giving God thanks for what He is in process on, what I can see that is not yet here, but is on its way. Where do you need a miracle? What dream or hope has been laid in a tomb and sealed behind a stone? That hope will yet grow when watered with thankfulness. Send me your “seeds” and I will join you in watering them!