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?
I thank God for his unchanging, unconditional love for everything He has created ((including me!); and for continuing to teach me, at times in my suffering, how to love as He does. I am more than grateful that he has come to live in me, by His grace.
Blessings to you and your Michael!
Thank you so much Roberta! I love seeing your comments here and am thankful for you…
Right now I am especially thankful for two healthy children. Particularly as we watch some friends deal with a 7 year old son with a brain bleed. I can’t even look at my kids without thinking of him and thinking how much I love my boys and how thankful I am that they are healthy, even when they are arguing. =) I can’t stop hugging them and telling them how much I love them. And as my heart breaks and feels like it weighs a million pounds for this sweet boy, I am so very thankful for the two that God has blessed us with.
Thank you for what you shared, Jessica. Your boys are truly special…Michael has said so more than once. Praying for your friends… 🙁
Hi. Gosh. OK.
As I understand it the teaching is to give thanks in all circumstances, or in all things to give thanks. My rock and mainstay is Philippians 4:4-9. Verse 6 applies here. Did I ever tell you (?), we have verse 8 cut in stone by Hebe and fixed to the front of our house, right next to the door so everyone who calls has to read it while they wait for us to answer.
I hear and salute the ‘no complaining’ instruction, and totally endorse the power of thanksgiving to change the energy of one’s life.
I think it’s least effectively achieved by the grit-my-teeth method. For me personally, the best rout to a thankful heart and an uncomplaining spirit is the KISS method (Keep It Simple Sister). To really set about ‘no complaining’ we need laughter and treats and enough rest and fun and things to look forward to and the company of encouragers. Like if God had told you ‘run marathons’ you would need the right diet. I have found the two Zen Habits posts on my blog today and yesterday immensely helpful too.
My heart goes out to you because I think you have a heavy pack to carry right now. But I know it can be done because I remember my husband Bernard, in the last weeks of his life, sitting in bed saying day after day “I’m so happy… I’m so lucky… I feel completely at peace… I feel totally content.” And we knew we’d won that race at least.
God bless you.
What am I thankful for? Having you as my friend <3
You said so many helpful things here Ember. I love the Philippians passage too…a prescription for anxiety. I also agree that to grit one’s teeth and say thank you is not what He meant…true, quiet gratitude would foster peace and trust and rest in His sovereignty. I read the blog you mentioned and was inspired! Small changes…I need to start that way in a couple areas of my life. I too am thankful for you…the cherished friend I’ve never met…
This is a wonderful post Julie – some times you are such an inspiration you know! I think what you say is so true though – being thankful for what we have and seeing everything with a glass half full attitude does make a difference!
What a kind thing to say Helen…thank you! You are an inspiration to me as well, in cheer and optimism and creativity and industriousness…I’m so glad we met through our interest in yarn. 🙂 God bless your week….
On the non-material level today I am most thankful for life and the gift of faith.
On the material level today I am most thankful for hot running water.
Have you been challenged on how to balance being honest in reporting hard life circumstances and the real grief that sometimes accompanies them with the desire to live an uncomplaining life? Where does one cross the line from reporting to complaining?
Yes Sue…I often wonder about the line between complaining and honest sharing. For me I think it’s a heart attitude…others might not know, but I know when I’m just sharing information and when I’m actually sort of whining. There’s an intimacy missing when people can’t share their hearts, and there’s a weariness that comes from being with people who only complain. When I think of someone who strikes a perfect balance in this area, I think of you….
I also love your posts. My list of what I am grateful for are too long to
list here. Being saved and knowing God, His Son Jesus and the
Gift of The Holy Spirit was the beginning for me. Meeting your
Dad and then all of his family changed my life. I told so many friends
how I loved you the day I met you. My prayer is for Michael to
be healed. He truly is one of God’s treasures.
Dorothy you have blessed me and our family in a thousand ways…if peoples’ riches were counted by the ways they love, you would be a gazillionaire. LY…
Thank you for a much needed kick to the attitude. I am so blessed in so many ways; but sometimes I can’t see the wealth of those blessing in the day to day process of living. You, dear Julie, are a blessing I never expected and one that I am most grateful to have in my life. God brings us what and who we need, and you are a shining example of that. I still hold hope that one day we will chat over a cup of tea and some knitting. Maybe you can come to Syracuse to the retreat with the Yarnista in March. Think about it, won’t you?
I know exactly what you’re talking about Patty…sometimes I’m so blind to the blessings poured out on me. I am seriously thinking about coming to Syracuse with Sharon….if I can get all my ducks in a row here, I’ll do it. It would be so lovely to meet you finally. You are a blessing.
I was touched by your blog today and am blessed by the things you have and are going through knowing that He will be using you all the way through what ever is coming.
In times during my days of what I would call blessings, I have learned that during the lowest of times, is when He is nearer, and so close I could almost feel His breath. It is during those times when I knew with all my being, that I could do nothing about my own condition or my future. Once I was hospitalized and after days and days and what seemed like eternity, my wife who had been putting herself through all that could be imanagable to be at my side told me that she needed to go home, and would need to start going home each night to take care of other things, like the living little blessing He had given both of us. I had up until then put my self and my desires and my needs first, before all or anyone else in my life. Even my wife and my daughter. I was at a stage in my condition that I knew I was perhaps dying, and that nothing could really be done any more than pray. I had been so blessed by both of the women in my life that I could not even begin to express just how or even to the extent that or the depth of just how much they both had blessed me. I was laying in bed with tubes coming out my side, I had been there for several weeks and could not take care of my own personal and private needs on my own. With all of this, god knew that my wife needed to minister to our daughter and that I needed to be ministered to by Him. On the ceiling above my bed were verses that my daughter had printed out and had taped them to the drop celing tiles so that I could see them at all hours of the day and night. The first night my wife had gone home to look after our daughter who was at that time being taken care of by our believing extended family of brothers and sisters, I felt very alone and now depending on those of the hospital staff to help me with my very persoanl needs where my wife had helped me before. I had put my needs before that of my family, those that I loved more than anything else on this earth. I needed to hear from Him and could not if someone else was there, and I did not realize that until later that first night, I needed to hear him say to me directly “QUIT FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF” “I AM HERE”.
From that point on, when I was alone with Him, it was then that He started to use me and that my room became a room of healing, a room of prayer, and I started praying for the hospital staff that had come into my room. It was then that I could have a in-depth peace with just Him. It was then that I grew closer to Him and was able to really see those verses on the celing above me and realize how blessed I was that they were there. It was those same verses that caused the staff to bring up Him to me in questions and about how those verses even got there and what those verses meant. It was because of the love for me that my wife and dauther had, and their being obedient to Him, that enabled me to minister then to others in the private of my hospital room. I would pray over the food servers, the room sanitation people, the nurses and yes for everyone but my self. It was not until then did I start to really get better. So Sis I say all of this to say, keep Him near, as it is your presonal and only your personal relationship with Him that truly matters, He will lead you in all things, He will always be there, He will always love on you when you need it the most, He will give you strength when you know you have none of your own left, He will provide you with the peace that is beyone all understanding, He will overlook and protect those of your loved ones that love Him as well, He will so all things, all he wants is just all that you have and that is giving Him thanks for all things, good or bad, for with out Him we have nothing. Thanking Him for all that He provides, recognizing Him for all that He is.
Thank you for all you shared, Lar. You have been through a lot too. And I completely agree with you – those two women God gave you are two of the most amazing blessings I’ve ever known. They bless you and they bless me. 🙂
I started to think of the many things I am grateful for and they are similar to what others have said. There is however, one thing that is so important to me these days… I am grateful that as He reveals those areas in my life, (the “closets” as I like to call them), that are still in need of His refinement, I desire to have Him turn up the fire and remove the dross. It is said that when the dross is removed and the silver has truly been refined, the refiner can see his reflection in the silver…what a thought!! Many have quit and just don’t care anymore. So rather than being discouraged about where we are or are not, let’s remember to be grateful that we still even desire His refinement! Happy de-drossing!
That is the sign of maturity, Ginny. To welcome and not recoil from that refinement….I want it too, until it happens. Then I become five years old all over again. Thank you for always sharing your thoughts here Gin. LY.