There is so much in life that is not fully appreciated until it is a memory. Relationships come quickly to mind. When Amy and I were newlyweds we lived on a very meager income, rented a garage apartment that smelled of mothballs, and did not have a television set for the first six months of marriage. It seems so long ago and as I now recall that first year of our life together my heart is warmed with gratitude that Amy and I said “I do.” A few years later children forevermore changed our lives as they do for all parents. I remember those early days when our boys were infants and the midnight feedings and diapering and the long sleepless nights of colic. To be honest, it was just about impossible to notice and be grateful. Yet looking back I am grateful, even for those grueling days of early parenting. Through the years we would gripe about driving all over the state to visit relatives during the holidays and wonder if we should just stay home. Now many of those same relatives are dead and we wish we could just share a sandwich.
We do not always see our gratitude until it is a reflection of the past. And then we are often rushing right past gratitude on the way to something else. Perhaps it is too obvious to point out our indignation that Christmas decorations have been out since early fall. Already there is a radio station playing Christmas music 24 hours. I am not Scrooge, but I have a deep problem with our rush to Christmas because in doing so we trample Thanksgiving.
To be grateful is to both see and say our thanks. Alan Culpepper writes in his fine commentary on Luke: “Gratitude may be the purest measure of one’s character and spiritual condition.” Of course he is right. To be grateful shapes every relationship on earth as well as in heaven.
Here is what I have seen to given thanks:
- My life: It is far from perfect – but mine nonetheless to enjoy and live fully within. I have been marked by grace and receive much that I have not earned or deserve.
- My wife whom I have enjoyed over twenty years of marriage where we are still raising each other.
- My two boys whom I admire because they are becoming not the men I want them to be, but the men that God has created them to be.
- My dog Samson, who is getting old and feeble, but is always glad to see me when I get home.
- Beautiful books written by brilliant people and for all those teachers that instilled upon me a love for reading.
- My back porch and yard and fires and Adirondack chairs where I sit with people I love to watch the stars go by.
I am thankful for you too:
- Those delicate hands, gnarled with arthritis that grab my scruffy face in an embrace.
- The children and youth of this church whose very presence blesses me beyond words.
- Your stories – not just the ones of success but even the failures and tragedies, for they too have their meaning and it is a privilege to share them.
- And yes, for our time together and the hope I have for our days ahead. May God bless us even more so as he has these past years.
Since I see it, I have to say it: thank you.