Today’s Grace Challenge, day 16, is inspired by Jolene Flores…
If you have ever been a parent to a teenager, or if you have ever been a teenager, you know the truth in the adage “It is not what you say but how you say it.” As we seek to be more cognizant of our thanksgivings, I have been reminded of the truth kernel within such a maxim.
Being married to a pastor who is actively involved in the grace challenge, I have been impressed and humbled by his attitude. He genuinely is thankful, and seeking the blessings in all things. On the other hand, I have had a bit of a struggle. Though I strive to incorporate “grace” and “eucharisteo” in my every days, lately I have struggled with my tone.
It isn’t that I am not thankful, but tone and context indicate more than just my spoken words. Let me give you an example to help color the picture in a bit. Laundry. I was picking up laundry after a challenging day at work, and I bumped something and had all kinds of clothes (clean and otherwise) fall on me. Oh boy, did I grumble. And then a little voice (something like the angel on my shoulder) reminded me that I should not complain but in everything be thankful. And so, I “thanked” God for hangers and this mess. However, to say that my tone was off would be an understatement. My tone was the kind of tone that you would get from a bratty toddler…or teenager….that is more sarcastic and patronizing than true to the words spoken. “Thanks a lot MOM.” “This is just GREAT, thank you SO much.” Indeed, that was me. A cross somewhere between rebellious toddler and bratty teenager.
I immediately repented. After all, doesn’t God deserve more than a patronizing “thankful” grumble through clenched teeth? I think so. I remembered the Israelites wandering, having their breakfast manna, and saying “Hey God, thanks a lot for this bland, blah, cardboard to eat.” (Ok, so I am taking creative liberties in my imaginings of their conversations, but you get the point.) Can you imagine if your spouse came home to you on a special anniversary evening and said to you, “You know, you really are ugly. But I am glad you can at least ______ (cook / clean / cut the grass / fill in the blank).” Obviously tone and context is everything.
Gratitude is so much more than words. It is a condition of the heart. It is looking at the simple, seemingly insignificant, and finding awe in it. It is overlooking a dirty floor and reveling in the sound of child laughter spilling out of the next room. It is wonder in an embrace during a lonely season. It is looking at a sunset and marveling at the color palate that is never exactly the same as the days previous. It is quiet, introspective, and most importantly, honest.
So today, let me challenge you. Don’t patronize God with your thanksgiving. If you are not thankful for a pile of dishes that need to be washed, don’t “thank” Him. He created you, after all, and He knows better than anyone what is in your heart. Be honest when you practice gratitude. Only then will you truly understand the incredible gift that it truly is.
Jolene Grace Flores