The Original Ingrate
October 14, 2011 | My Jottings
We finally got some much needed rain last night. Michael and I went to bed semi-early and laid there in the dark together, listening to the soft pelting outside on our bedroom window air conditioner. Time to take the A/C units out of the windows and get ready for winter, I thought.
I’ve loved the sound of rain ever since I was a little girl. Rain was a happy, uncommon occurrence where I grew up, and my mother especially loved it. I think her love of rain transferred to me, because to this day I feel a glad contentment in my soul when gray clouds begin to fill the sky.
I’ve been thinking lately about being grateful, and the spiritual discipline of regularly giving thanks to God. I’ve come to believe it is indeed a discipline at times, to give thanks. Giving thanks doesn’t always come naturally or effortlessly of course, but the more I think about it the clearer this gets: being thankful is essential to my mental health, to my being effective at what I’m called to do, and in pleasing God.
There probably aren’t very many people out there who haven’t either read or heard of Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. If you haven’t read it, may I encourage you to make it your next read? When I read that book months ago, I was so impacted by much of what she shared, but one thing has stuck firmly in my mind, and I’m going to share a quote from the book here:
“From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story.
“Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.
“Isn’t that the catalyst of all my sins?
“Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.”
(page 15 – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.)
Pause and solemnly think on that.
A couple of years ago I was sitting on our bed at the end of December, asking the Lord to help me in the coming year. I knew our lives were getting smaller as Michael’s Parkinson’s slowly began to steal more of his abilities. I had stepped down and away from a few things that were very nourishing and meaningful to me, so that I could focus more on what I saw were my increasing demands at home. That morning I sat with my Bible and journal, praying, reading, listening, and expecting to hear from the Lord. It isn’t very often that I sense an absolute, clear and loud directive as I did that morning. I already knew that He desires that I love Him with all my heart, soul, strength and mind…and that this is humanly impossible for me to do. I already knew that He desires for me to love others in a truly sacrificial way…and that this is also impossible. I don’t often fret over the impossible things God asks, though, because He’s been asking people to do impossible things ever since the beginning of time. He asks us to do things that are beyond our strength and nature with His strength, so that He can show Himself strong and near and awesome to us. He shows up in His mightiness to help us when we’re down to our last dregs and call feebly out to Him, knowing that only through Him can we do what we are called to do.
Here is the clarion call He spoke to my heart that morning as I sat and asked what I should do for the coming year:
Uh…what Lord? Er…was that really you? Is that all you have to say about the coming year and all the changes we’re going through and how hard this is for all of us?
You might think He could have worded it a little differently — perhaps like this, “Be more grateful. Practice giving me thanks and praise every day.” Or, “Seek me first, trust and obey,” or a myriad of other things we find in His Word that we’re to do. Or you might think He would have said, “I love you, my child, and will help you every step of the way this coming year — follow me as I order your steps and I will be your sufficiency.” And in His Word He does say those things. Those are already commands that Christians are to prioritize in our lives.
But…. “No complaining” ?? That’s it Lord?
I wrote it down. The tears fell. And I knew why He had spoken it so clearly to my heart.
I am a complainer by default. I may not often complain with my words (although certainly I voice discontentment sometimes), but I often complain with my sighs. I complain in my thoughts. With my silence. With my brusque, need-to-get-everything-done manner. I complain by trying to comfort myself in idiotic ways rather than going to The Comforter.
I knew the Lord was asking me to look at my life through a different lens. He wanted me to take off the heavy gray lenses I favor, and put on the lighter, clearer lenses that give me a view of the beyond, of the eternal. He wanted me to see what matters.
I don’t really think the Lord wants us to say thank you all the time because He needs to hear it (although surely He must delight in our gratitude, just as parents delight in their children’s heartfelt thank yous), but because He knows what gratitude will do for us. According to Ann Voskamp, studies have been done proving that people who regularly count their blessings are just plain happier most of the time.
Here’s what the Bible says happens to believing people when they refuse to give thanks:
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21
For those who are believers in Jesus, if we refuse to glorify God or give Him thanks for all that He has given to us, our thinking will become futile and our foolish hearts will grow darker and darker. I did not make that up. That’s what the Bible says, to you, to me. If there’s anything I don’t need right now, it’s for my thinking to become futile and my heart to grow darker. No!
So even though we all know this already, let’s give thanks to the Lord today. Not just once or twice, but all day long.
Satan was the original ingrate. I don’t want to align myself with him. He hates me. He hates you. And he hates your children and your marriage and your grandchildren. He isn’t just bad-tempered and mischievous. He is malevolent and evil to the core, and hates us with a fervency we cannot (and don’t want to) possibly understand. Let’s stay away from Satan’s camp and pound our tent pegs firmly into the spacious land of Jesus Christ. I want to live where I’m loved.
Before I end this post, may I ask you….how are you liking your husband these days? Is he annoying you? Disappointing you? Even causing you great pain? I may not know all the ins and outs of my readers’ lives, but I know this verse (Genesis 18:14) very well: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
The answer to that question is no.
How about those energetic children He formed just for you? Are they seeming like heavenly gifts lately? No? God is able to help there too — He knows all about challenging children.
Loneliness? Health issues? Financial troubles? God is an expert in all of these areas.
My husband Michael had a seizure a couple of weeks ago — the first he’s ever had. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance and during his stay we learned the possible reasons for the seizure, none of which we have any control over. Should we thank God for that? I know there are those who say we should thank God for all things and others who say we’re only asked to thank Him in all things. I don’t know which scenario is correct, but I think I’ll just begin by pouring out my gratitude to Him today for even the things I don’t understand. Is my husband happy his health is declining? No, but he’s still praising and thanking God, and it’s one of my greatest privileges to live with a man like that. Do I have a few things in my life that don’t elicit automatic thanksgiving? Uh, yes. I’m going to thank God anyway.
God has been lavish with me. I want to learn to be lavish in my expressions of gratitude toward Him. I have a long way to go, because I’m a complainer deep down. But today I will not be an ingrate. I thank Him for air to breathe, a warm furnace, falling leaves, crisp apples, teeth that work, feet that walk, hands that touch, books, faithful friends, sacred music, clean sheets, laughter, moonlight, the company of a fine husband, the love and care of three daughters, the hugs and delight of seven grandchildren, and the mercy, hope, and grace that come from being a Christian.
Will you pound your tent pegs down into the Land of Gratitude with me?
Will you share one thing you can thank God for today?