The Lord has been leading me on somewhat of a journey of gratitude over the past few weeks. Probably over the last few months - this is one of the great characteristics of our Lord. He has the ability to work behind the scenes without us even realizing it! Gentle and, yet, so irresistible. One of the three (yes, I said three) books I am currently reading is called One Thousand Gifts. (Please forgive me if you find some of my thoughts to be highly similar to Ann Voskamp's - her book has been an amazing blessing to me thus far!) As I mentioned in my previous post, this book is about being thankful in all circumstances.
Now, some people might hear this and think, "What?! Is she crazy?" Some hear the words be thankful and automatically think of all the things in their lives for which they couldn't possibly be thankful - bills, debt, workloads, broken relationships, addictions, wayward children and spouses, long lost dreams. I used to be one of those people. Actually, up until fairly recently I looked at my life through the scratched, cloudy, and terribly warped lens of "want". I could never be happy with what I had because I ached for more. I longed for a bigger house, yearned for a better paying job, and desperately needed more "me" time. I was blindly searching and praying for circumstances which were anything but the ones I'd been given.
Then, the Lord began leading me on a journey to open up the eyes of my heart. That line in "Amazing Grace" that says, "I once was blind but now I see" is a stunning truth when you accept the Lord into your heart. It still amazes me the way He commands all the pieces and elements to fall in the perfect place at exactly the perfect time. When you pray for wisdom and truth you'd better be ready to receive it! Because the Lord is diligent and faithful to respond to the calls of those who sincerely seek Him. Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you". Isaiah 65:24 says, "I will answer them before they even call to me" And so I prayed for wisdom, which is what I got.
I began to realize that my problem was not external. It was not my car, nor my job, nor my living space, nor any of the circumstances surrounding me that were causing me to yearn for more than what God had already given me. The problem I had was internal. It was a disease, a sickness that infected me all the way down to the very fibers of my heart muscles. A disease called pride. I was so busy focusing on what I thought I should have that I was blinded to the beautiful (and undeserved) blessings that I already had. When we think we deserve more, how can we ever be grateful for what we have?
I began to realize that if I could learn to see myself from God's perspective instead from my own human perspective, I would see things very differently. From my perspective, I was a pretty good person. I take care of my family, go to work every day, pay the bills, don't murder, don't steal, and don't commit adultery. I'm a good person, right? Don't I deserve a better life? A life of more? Ah . . . but God sees things differently.
First Samuel 16:7 says, "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart." (NASB) Aha! Now it was all beginning to make sense to me. Sure I help take care of my family . . . but the Lord saw the irritation and annoyance when I couldn't put myself first before them as I thought I deserved. Sure I went to work every day . . . but the Lord saw the pride and resentfulness in my heart when I felt I was not making as much money as I deserved. Sure I help pay the bills . . . but the Lord saw the doubt and mistrust in my heart when I held back His portion that I thought I deserved. Sure I don't run around with a butcher knife stabbing people in plain view of society . . . but the Lord heard the hateful gossip spoken in secret, bringing death to the person I spoke of (Proverbs 18:21). All these things I do or don't do because I think others are watching are "like a filthy garment" to the Lord (Isaiah 64).
I cannot think of one good thing that ever came out of my life, or mouth for that matter, from thinking I deserve more. When I feel that I deserve more, I am saying that what God gives is not enough. I am learning now that it is only when I see myself for what I truly am, a sinner who does not even deserve to be in the presence of the Most High, that I can begin to turn my prideful ingratitude into humble thanksgiving. When I begin to realize that I really don't deserve any of the things God has blessed me with, I see my life - my whole life - as a beautiful gift.
Psalm 139 tells us the Lord has formed our inward parts and woven us together in our mothers' wombs (NASB). Let me tell you, I checked the internet for videos of weaving and it does NOT look easy! In fact, it's a rather complicated and tedious process. It also says we are skillfully wrought. Merriam Webster defines the word wrought as being "worked into shape by artistry or effort". Another definition of the word is "elaborately embellished". This second definition of the word which the bible uses to tell us how we are made by God makes tears well up in my eyes. We are elaborately embellished!! Woven skillfully and carefully by the same God who placed the stars in the heavens one by one and fashioned the earth with His very hands. It is more than we deserve. It is better than we deserve. And, yet, He held nothing back from us - not even His own Son.
It has been (and continues to be) immensely humbling for me to awaken to the truth that the Lord sees and knows everything about me and still loves me anyway. He knows every hurtful word before I even speak it. He sees every ungrateful thought before it's even formed in my mind. He sees the very pride that lurks in the darkest corners of my heart, causing me to turn away from Him again and again. Yet, He loves me anyway. Not only that, but He goes to great lengths to demonstrate it to me . Maybe this eye-opening truth that I really am just a sinner, this stark reality that I once turned my back on the God who put so much effort into creating and loving me, is the key to the heart of gratitude I have been praying for since I first came to know the Lord. Maybe the way for me to know that what God gives is enough, is for me to know that I don't deserve any of it.
"A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor." Proverbs 29:23