Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gratitude and Relationships

Have you ever had a moment, or even a day, where nothing went as you thought it ought to? A day when your expectations and your reality collided and what was left in the wake was frustration? I have. In fact, I came out of about 8 months of that. But that's for a different time. I dislike change. I dislike when I have a plan in my head and it changes. Some people are really great with going with the flow. I'm not one of them. At least not yet.

Last year I spent my birthday on an airplane (not fun) going to the Bahamas (totally fun) with Ryan and his family. I had a feeling that the wonderfulness of my birthday would be lost on a day spent traveling. I was correct. There was no annual birthday dinner. There was no family celebration. There was no singing happy birthday or even a cake. Definitely no candles. And gifts were a last minute thought bought the night before we left for vacation. Once home I asked if Ryan would get me a cake so I could have something traditional for my birthday. I wanted a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. He came home with a chocolate cake with white and red frosting. Fail. My response was not meant to be ungracious. It stemmed from a place of feeling like I didn't matter. Birthdays should be a big deal. Mine was anything but.

Fast forward to February 2011. I called my aunt to see what they had planned for my grandma's 83rd birthday. Not much- a lunch at a local ice cream/burger joint because my cousin, who works there, had to work that day. I drove back home to Webster to surprise my grandma. My aunt dropped her off by the door and as she slowly made her way to the door I opened it and smiled at her. She smiled back for a second and then her entire face lit up. She was thrilled that I came. We ate with her and sang happy birthday to her. She opened presents and she was so thrilled to just be with us. I spent the night at her house and was able to spend the next day with her. We talked and we ate lunch at Arby's because, according to her, the fish sandwich is AMAZING. And when I packed up my car and was heading out the door she hugged me and said, "You coming was the BEST gift you could've ever given me. Thank you." And she meant it. Words will do no justice to the joy I felt in that moment. My grandmother, who probably had very little expectations for her birthday, who is grateful for another day on this earth, was so blessed to just be with me, that in turn, she blessed me. Priceless.

Last night as I sat at my kitchen table, Bible opened, scribbling away in my prayer journal I laid before the Lord this question, "Lord, what is on your heart? What do I need to learn from You?" I laid down my pen and sat, eyes closed, waiting for an answer. Two words resonated in my spirit. Gratitude and Relationships. I immediately scribbled them down along with these questions, "What would my life look like if every day I had a grateful heart even when things didn't go my way? How would that affect my relationship with Jesus? What if I invested more in people and less in things? What if my birthday this year was all about people and not about things?"

I think what would happen would be similar to my 24 hour trip to visit my grandma on her birthday. I would be blessed. Others would be blessed. The Lord would be blessed and He would bless. Oh, I hope you have had the experience where you knew without a doubt that what ultimately mattered was that someone loved you and was grateful you were with them. I hope you know the sheer blessing of knowing your presence was enough. I could have wrapped up an old t-shirt with a bow and my grandma would not have cared. I was the gift. And the treasure of knowing that brings me to tears.

I want to be like that. I want to care more about people than I do about getting my way, eating the right cake, getting the right gift, etc. I'm not there yet. Oh, but how I long to be! How I long for the Lord to do a mighty work in my life in this way. I am praying Colossians 2:6-7 that, "just as I received Christ Jesus as Lord, that I would continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as I was taught and overflowing with thankfulness."

Colossians 3:15-17 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

How can we ever get to a place where we overflow with thankfulness? Or where what is in our hearts is gratitude to God? Overwhelming? It is if we try to do it in our own strength. Not just overwhelming, impossible. By my own strength, by my own will I'll fail. I may get to the point where I am thankful on a good day. Or my words seem to be thankful. But my heart will be the same selfish, all about me, I want my way, my way or the highway place. So, how can what God's word says be true in me?

Only through His grace worked out in me by the power of His Holy Spirit. Not by my strength but by His. In Ephesians 1:17-20 Paul writes, "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order than you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms..." The same power that raised Christ from the dead and conquered death is ours. Oh, how short I will fall trying to be grateful on my own. But God's promise is that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in our lives when we believe in Christ!

As for the relationship piece of this here is what I know so far- I think that enjoying people and the relationship applies to my relationship with the Lord. I am to love God for who He is and not for what He can give me, do for me, etc. That's God's heart. I would wager that He wants me to have a heart like His. Again, by his power, not mine. And that is definitely something I am grateful for!