Saying “thank you” is one of the first things our parents taught us to say. I hear my daughters tell their children all the time, “Say thank you to…” My older grandchildren say it without being prompted and one of the little ones, who’s just learning to talk, uses sign language to say “thanks.” This generation-to-generation teaching develops lifelong attitudes and actions of gratitude.
When I think of thankfulness, I think of my beloved flowering plants. I have an ever-blooming orchid, a Christmas cactus that continuously outgrows its pot and African violets with blooms of different colors. To keep them growing and producing flowers, my plants need the proper care. They need the right light, food, water, pruning, and a pot in which to flourish. However, proper care doesn’t just happen; it takes my commitment and my work.
Living a life of thankfulness, like my plants, takes care, commitment, and work.
Henri J.M. Nouwen, one of my favorite authors, was a Catholic priest, professor, and writer. He died in 1996, but his words and life experiences live on in his books. His thoughts always stick in my head. He wrote:
“Gratitude goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
We flawed, broken human beings don’t come into the world thankful. We have to be challenged and taught and nurtured. This is the hard work and commitment, which results in the discipline of gratitude.
God has given us a way to nurture a thankful life. It begins in our relationship with Christ. When we root ourselves in him, and invite him to nourish and grow us, thankfulness blossoms. In doing this, our lives become an outpouring of gratitude to the giver of all things.
Repeated four times, yes, four times, in Psalm 107 are these words:
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind…”
Let’s thank God for what he’s given us thus far, and ask him to cultivate in us a deeper level of thankfulness for what is yet to come.