We, like all good parents, are training our children to say “thank you”. It has been interesting to see them slowly but surely pick it up. It started with external behaviour and gradually it’s beginning to become an internal reality. It is becoming something they understand; starting to know ‘why’ they should say thank you, not just doing the ‘right thing’. They don’t always get it right but they are becoming thankful kids, not kids who can just say thank you.
It’s always two steps forward, one step back, and I’m thankful for their progress. But as they’ve matured in thanksgiving a strange thing has happened: it has become more challenging for me. Why? Because it reminds me to ‘practice what I preach’. Literally!
As we’ve trained our kids it’s reminded me again that what I’m training them in is something that needs to be real to me – both inside & out; both mind set & behaviour. God has been helping me to have “thank you” as both an internal perspective and an external posture.
It’s been a challenging but life-giving journey for me. I have had many, many opportunities over the past few years. There’s been times when it’s been easy and a joy to be thankful and times when it’s been through gritted teeth or sheer determination. To “know” something is easy; to believe and live it out through every circumstance is hard. Frequently, over the last season, we have reminded each other that ‘God is good’; reminding ourselves of who He is, His character, His promise and His good purposes. This has helped a “thank you’ rise in our hearts regardless of our circumstances.
“Thank you” as an internal perspective and an external posture.
It’s easy to try and ‘do it’: to do the right thing or to engage in the right behaviour. But the problem is if your posture is right but your perspective is wrong it feels disjointed, heavy, dutiful and falters when you run out of energy and effort.
I am an external person; it is easy for me to try to do something without letting it penetrate beneath. I’ve found that a good jolt helps me! Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful to be jolted – to be reminded that ‘the One who calls us is faithful’ and that He is bigger than today’s circumstance and that He is the same God, yesterday, today and forever. As I remember Him it puts who I am in perspective.
# Look at the big picture – A leader I respect recently shared that when he’s struggling with a circumstance he stops & steps back and thinks “what will this look like in a week, in a month, in a year and in a decade and how will I feel in a week, in a month, a year and a decade?” It has been helpful for me to set today in context & to change my perspective on today.
# Look to others – Sometimes we don’t have the answers. Sometimes we don’t have the faith. Sometimes we don’t have the capacity and ability to put one foot in front of the other. That is where God’s voice comes through community. It’s where community really comes into its own. We look sideways – not to compare or compete – but to raise faith and to see God at work. It helps to see others, the way they hold themselves through trial, under pressure or in battle, and to see how God is present and at work in that place with that person reminds me of His presence with me in my circumstance. To be encouraged, uplifted, cheered on by others helps me to keep going, slowly but surely in the right direction with the right perspective.
# Look at what you’ve got – the world pushes us to feel we need more, to know more and to understand more. It pushes us to look sideways at what God is doing somewhere else or in someone else. It’s much more life-giving to look at what we’ve got; to look at what God has given you, what He is doing and where He is at work.
# Look at the bible – I am always struck that the Heroes of the faith written about in Hebrews didn’t receive their prize. Yet. What God spoke to them about and set before them they didn’t receive in full. Yet. We have an opportunity and challenge for our names to be written alongside those great heroes. Those heroes mentioned in Hebrews are not the only ones that inspire faith & produce perseverance in us. We see throughout the Bible many of God’s people who struggled, journeyed and lived with a ‘thank you’ through all the ups & down’s of following God.