Friday, 25 November 2011

The one that came back

God, I've had a nice day today. 

Despite a heavy cold (though far be it from me to complain) I have been out for coffee with friends, and been out with some special people for a birthday lunch. I am full of food and coffee and had a lovely time chatting. Not quite sure why such an indulgent sort of day should leave me feeling exhausted and in need of a good sit down and forty winks, but maybe that's just the particularly bad cold that I have (not that I'm complaining, you understand).

I have so much to be grateful for. I have been reading about gratitude lately, and I definitely believe in counting my blessings - they are indeed too numerous to number. I have been learning that a healthy dose of gratitude is essential to happiness; grateful people are happy people. Ungrateful people will never be happy because they are never satisfied. Gratitude is a Good Thing. 

Thankyou for this...
The other thing I've been reflecting on, recently, is that gratitude doesn't mean much unless it's expressed. 

In Luke 17 Jesus heals ten lepers. He sends them off to show themselves to the priests to get themselves accepted back into society. This is a big thing. Ten are healed, but only one (and a Samaritan at that) comes back to say thank you. Jesus looks at the one ex-leper who throws himself to the ground in front of him and asks:

'Didn't I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no-one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?'
Luke 17:17-18

Jesus sounds so disappointed. Only one of the ten thought to say thank you. This immense, life-changing thing happened to them and only one came back to say thank you. 

Can it be that in failing to notice your blessings, I can disappoint you like this? Or worse still, by noticing but not saying thank you, I could hurt your feelings?  The 'ingrate' side of gratitude? Or alternatively, the myriad of times that I am truly grateful, but through laziness I don't get round to expressing my gratitude?

Today I gave my friend a birthday present. I hoped she'd like it, I thought she'd like it, and when she unwrapped it, I knew she liked it. She said thank you to me with real warmth. I felt appreciated. But if she'd opened it at home, where I couldn't see, she might still have liked it, but I would never have been sure. She might have felt grateful for the gift but unless she got in touch with me to say thank you, I'd never know. Now, I know that it isn't the same for you, because you know everything, but still I need to be so much better with the thankyous.  If my friend today had unwrapped her present, smiled in pleasure but never said thank you, perhaps I would have smiled back cheerfully but been a little bit hurt that she hadn't spoken her appreciation. I don't know. What I do know is that if you cured me of leprosy today, I feel as if I'd never get up from the floor in front of you for gratitude. 

...and this...
So what leprosies have you healed me from? What have you done for me? What gifts have you given me today? What do you go on giving me day after day after day?  

I don't know where to start, but that's not good enough. A blanket, 'Oh, and thank you for everything, Lord,' doesn't do the trick just like blanket confessions don't do the trick. 'Sorry about everything, Father. You know all that I did wrong, so forgive me all of it without me going into detail, will you?' It's thoughtless and lazy and it won't do. 

But that's so much easier said than done; I know that I need to pay closer attention to this. I really don't want your love and your help and your blessings to pass me by, and I certainly don't want to soak them up, sponge-like and hurt your feelings by not saying thank you. While I've been writing this my friend sent me a text message to thank me again for her present. It's given me a warm feeling and I've been able to say how welcome she is and it's another little blessing on our friendship. 

Is that what it's like with you and me, Lord? When I say thank you, and mean it, does it make you smile? Does it make you think, 'Well, if you're going to respond like that, I'll do it again!' like it does when my little daughters' faces light up when I do something for them and then they run and hug me and shout 'Thankyou Mummy!' How much better do I feel when that happens than when they fail to notice my gesture or my gift? And how bad do I feel when I buy them a new blue jumper and they complain that they wanted the red one? 

I don't want to be ungrateful, either actively or passively. I want to notice, absorb and remember all that you do for me. That might well be beyond my ability or imagination, but I want to try. I want to reflect the blessings that you give me and not just soak them up and hoard them. I want to be the leper that came back and made Jesus smile, and not one of the nine that made him feel sad and unappreciated. If I'd been Jesus I might have had the leprosy come back with a vengeance for their ingratitude  - 'Whoof! Check that out. Now they'll be sorry!' - but I don't suppose he did. And I suppose on reflection I'm glad that he didn't, since I've been the ingrate so many times myself. 
...and these...

Thankyou Lord: for my friends, for good cups of coffee, for the encouragement and laughter and companionship and for the opportunity to eat nice food and chat with people that I care about, who care about me. Thankyou for lovely food prepared by someone else, for mayonnaise, for apple crumble (yes, we had dessert too, what a treat was that?), for the beautiful bright, low sun on the remaining Autumn leaves. For blue skies, lovely Derbyshire countryside, for my car and independence, for my girls running out of school with smiles. For hugs. For music in the car. For my Mum welcoming me home and making me a cup of tea, for the fact that Bryan is on his way back from London. For our little blackbird eating berries only three feet away as we watched him. For a warm house on a cold day and for paracetamol and handkerchiefs for this particularly virulent cold that I am enduring with such stoicism...

There's so much more. 

Lord, I am forever in your debt. I can never give you enough thanks. But please, help me to notice and not just go running off. 

I want to be the one that came back to give glory to you. 

I want to be the one that came back.

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