As a family we took advantage of the sunny Bank Holiday to visit a local National Trust garden and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation on a grand scale.
As the day progressed, in fact more realistically 2 minutes into the walk, I found myself a long way behind my wife and older daughter as I was hanging back with my younger daughter who seemed to have no great inclination to go any faster.
I noticed feelings in myself I’ve spotted a few times recently in similar situations. I was feeling cross with her for holding us back – I wanted to be with the others – part of the main group – and that desire led to ungodly grumpiness and a lack of patience with my daughter.
The transforming thought (which helped a little, though if I’m honest didn’t entirely dispatch the lack of patience at the time) was that I should be enjoying the time that I had with her – rather than desiring something else which I didn’t have. It’s obvious stuff, I’m sure, to anyone else but for me it was a radical insight. That shift of perspective should change everything. What a privilege I had to be able to be out with her at all! What a joy to see the way she was taking an interest in everything (except catching the others up)! How much I could learn from her about living in the moment!
But as I have continued to reflect on this insight, I see that it applies to so much of life. Indeed, lack of gratitude seems to be at the root of so much that is wrong in our hearts. There is a sense in which it is the sin behind all sin (see Romans 1:21).
James, in his searching letter, sees that covetousness (which is the opposite of gratitude) in all our fights and quarrels:
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:1-3)
The discontent we feel in so many areas of life reveals a lack of gratitude. As we wandered around the beautiful gardens on Monday there was part of me that wanted a bigger garden – instead of being thankful: 1) for the lovely garden we have; 2) for the privilege of being able to spend time in this beautiful garden; and 3) that God created a world with beautiful gardens!
Thanksgiving is fundamental to being a Christian – recognising that everything we have (and most of all our salvation) is a free gift from God to be received with thanks (see James 1:17; 2 Corinthians 9:15; Ephesians 2:1-10 etc.)
And it is amazing how this link works out in all kinds of sin. Have you ever considered sexual immorality as a form of covetousness for which the antidote is thankfulness? Look at how Paul unpacks this link in Ephesians 5:3-4:
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”
So next time I am walking with my daughter, and the rest of our party are slipping further and further away into the distance, I’m going to ask Jesus to help me to be thankful for what I have right there – precious time with my little girl – rather than a heart which is chasing after what it doesn’t have. And perhaps He will be kind enough to work on this aspect of my heart in the whole of my life.