Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Simple gifts, deep gratitude

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

At New Year's in 2015-16, I wrote of my intention to be more than thankful--I wanted to be grateful. Some people would argue that thankful and grateful are the same. They may be. But to me, grateful goes the extra distance and recognizes the giver for giving up some "thing" of value, whether time, talents, advice, hugs, or of a tangible nature like a service, physical object or money.

Accepting a gift with grace and gratitude is not easy for some of us.
  • Maybe we've taken pride in self-sufficiency and being able to work hard and earn the things we need, so taking "charity" feels shameful. 
  • Maybe we think so little of ourselves that we don't believe we deserve a gift.
  • Maybe we think others need the gift(s) more than we do. 
  • Maybe accepting grace upon grace is overwhelming and the emotions are too powerful. 
  • Maybe we've been given so much and so often that we're a bit jaded. 
  • Maybe we've been given something we didn't want or that didn't suit our tastes. 
If we have a modicum of good manners, we'll say "thank you" at least once, and possibly write a note of thanks.  To live in a state of gratitude is different.

As a recipient who understands the grace and love of the giver, and recognizes that they want the gift to encourage us and give us hope for better times, that they sacrificed something of value (time, money, work, empathy, etc.), we enter into communion with them. We set aside our pride and submit to their grace and mercy, and we return their love with a grateful heart. We "come down where we ought to be." We remember that if we'd earned it, it would be wages; but a gift is given in love and can't be earned.
Ephesians 2:4-9: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." 
I think gratefulness recognizes that gifts come out of love. Love of a friend or family member. Love of a church or nonprofit that takes up special collections or cultivates special donors for extraordinary needs. Love of God who has done his utmost to save everyone who will accept the gift. As the song says, "To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed."

To be grateful is to accept grace that we couldn't earn or deserve--it's a gift from a loving heart, a gift they won't take back.

Learning to be grateful has opened my eyes to not only the value of the gifts I've received, but it's shown me the multiplicity of gifts I've been given. And, of course, when I'm feeling rich in love and awash in goodwill, I have a greater desire to give, and be a blessing to others.

Because giving or receiving gifts is never about the thing.  It's the experience between us. 

'Tis the gift to be simple  'Tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gained
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed
To turn, turn, will be our delight
'Til by turning, turning, we come round right

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