My familiarity with gratitude goes back to junior high. I knew and respected a young man who was about seven years older than me, and my parents were talking about him and his family.
My mom noticed this young man’s character too. “I asked his mother what she did [to raise such outstanding boys]. She told me, ‘I taught them to say thank you.’” She hoped, I think, that I was listening, and I was.
It was a small awakening for me. Character and thankfulness had intruded into my junior high world. No small feat, indeed.
And it is intruding again. If we read Scripture, it always will.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Ps. 118:1 and dozens of other places)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Col. 2:6-7)
When Scripture endlessly repeats itself the assumption is not that we are stupid; instead, it is that there is a difference between knowing something and acting on it. It is one thing to know that Scripture is nearly ready to burst with calls to thanksgiving, it is another to be thankful.
The saints we emulate have mastered thankfulness. For example, whenever a seventy-five-year-old great-grandmother prays, her gratitude is always prominent. She starts with things seen—family, friends, freedoms, pastors—and circles around until she gets to spiritual blessings—God’s rescue of her, God’s strange devotion to sinners, unfailing love and so on. In good circumstances or hard, her thankfulness never wavers.
“Grace and gratitude and glory,” says N. T. Wright.1 That is the rhythm of the family of God.
How would everyday life be different if this really was our rhythm?
1 Reflecting the Glory: Meditations for Living Christ’s Life in the World, p. 49.