Saturday, December 14, 2013

The One Statement I Can't Go a Day Without Saying - and It's Not "I Love You"

Saying "I love you" regularly is important, but those are not the words I strive to say daily.

I never want to go a day without saying thank you to my wife, my son, and my God.

Thank you is different than I love you.

I can say I love you when I am still hurting, angry, upset, bitter because in some sense, I own the love. In other words, love is given. When I say, "I love you," I am acknowledge that I am giving you some kind of love. In an odd way, I control the level of love I care to give and as a result I can stare directly into your eyes with a straight face and lie through my teeth about it because it's my love. Even with all that I may be holding against you, I can still say these words and pretend everything's just fine.

However, while we still "give thanks" the action implies something else first. Thank you is always an acknowledgement of a gift received. The table is turned with thanksgiving because we are remembering a reality that is not in our control. You are the recipient of some action someone did for you or someone else in your life or some thing another person gave you. Now saying thank you can still be empty and may at times be sarcastic - "thanks for doing the dishes" when they're all still in the sink - but we all know those thank you's for what they are. Think about it. When you're pissed off at someone you care deeply about, perhaps even love, can you say thank you? Think about the people in your life, your parents for example. How easy is it to say "I love my parents," but how much harder is it to say, "I'm thankful for my parents?" For some that may be easy, but for many others that's hard because the difference lies in what you can do versus what's been do for/to you.

Giving thanks means, then, you have to do the hard work of forgiving or asking for forgiveness. The only way it has a place in your heart is after all the bitterness, hatred, and anger have been destroyed and removed. I love you can be said over those, like a blanket covering the horder's nest or the vacation taken just to get away from all the problems. Thank you can only be said once they're all gone.

One of the major critiques of Millennials is how entitled we are, how much we deserve, how much we're owed. Entitlement does not have room for thanksgiving because no one says thank you for what you deserve or think you deserve. You don't go bursting into you boss' office every two weeks saying, "thanks for the paycheck!" We need a course correction, one that involves a ton of self-examination of all the bitterness that has taken root over what we think we deserve. Here is just one example (out of millions) of why the Christian worldview trumps all others. Foundational to it is the reality of what is called common grace, whereby God freely gives us all gifts without discrimination - good and evil, righteous and unrighteous, Christian and non-Christian. In it includes the very air we breathe and the lungs with which we have to breathe it. Every breath then is a gift from God for which we can be thankful. What if we were to grow in our thanksgiving, especially all of which we think we're entitled? What would happen if we became known not as the most entitled generation, but the most thankful generation? Can you imagine that?

For me, it begins by saying thank you to my wife for who she is, how she loves me, and how gracious she is towards me day in and day out. I say thank you to my son of just 4 weeks old for his utter dependence on me when I have no clue what I'm doing. And I say thank you to God for my wife and son and the countless other blessings in life I do not deserve at all, the ultimate being salvation from my own entitlement and thanklessness and the hell that will be filled with both.

And be thankful. -Paul, in his letter to the Colossian church.

By His Grace.

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