My son and I sat in the yard two days ago and wondered at the crocus. Its purple arms spread and welcomed the sky, the tiny orange flame of pollen flickering at the center. I gave thanks to the Lord for this certain sign that in fact spring has begun.
Many of us have expressed fuller gratitude for spring this year, having passed through an especially deep winter. Of course, most of us had equal reason to express gratitude to God even in the winter, because we had warm hearths and stoves. We had equal reason for gratitude last fall, because we live in a place of relative abundance and access to myriad goods and services of every kind. We had equal reason for gratitude last summer, because we had heartbeat and breath—as we do today.
For every reason we might give thanks, there is a voice in the ether calling us to fear. There is always a “Yes, but” from the world which seems stronger or more persistent than the mellifluous voice of divine grace. So gratitude that illumines the enervating darkness of this world requires a certain discipline to maintain.
Paul, as he writes to his Philippian flock from prison, tells them to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (4.4-6). His coupling of “thanksgiving” with “in everything” is notable because he presently lived in a state deprived of his freedom and, quite likely, most of the amenities he grew up with. But still, he could be grateful.
Many Christians keep the tradition of saying grace before meals. This simple discipline acknowledges every table spread as a gift. By starting the meal with gratitude, food is changed from fuel to feast. Even the most basic fare becomes manna from heaven. Gratitude transforms our reality.
I think most of us view gratitude as dessert after the main course of life: icing on the cake, so to speak. But in fact gratitude is the spice without which daily bread becomes intolerable. Gratitude gives life texture, depth, and meaning. Our particular branch of the Christian family tree has a strong emphasis of trust that God is operating even in the suffering, the trials, and the lost times. So it is a brave act of faith to give thanks even for the hard things in life, calling one’s own spirit to seek out how God will use the darkness to magnify the light.
Paul promised the Philippians, as he encouraged them to give thanks at all times: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Perhaps thanksgiving invites peace. Perhaps it invites generosity. Perhaps it does nothing more—and nothing less!—than turn our eyes upon Jesus, in whom our peace rests. However it works, gratitude places us on a rock that can withstand the storms of this life.
So thank God.
~ emrys tyler
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