For some gifts we should ever be thankful. Gifts such as life itself, love and above all, God; gifts showered upon us in sheer grace; gifts we never have to pay for, as if we ever could. Truly, in the beginning is the gift. As the intention within the heart of God, the gift comes even before the Word, which serves to make flesh the gift. Creation is gift; the all is the gift of the All in all. Everything is gift.
God gifts us with ourselves at the moment of our creation. You are God’s gift to you, just as your body is God’s gift for your use, for your love. As I once wrote, full in the realization of God’s sacred gift: “God gave me, me, long before I asked.” God’s sovereign Word of our creation reverberates within us still: “Let there be you; BE YOU.” In that Word dwells operative yet unexpressed, God’s love and approval. In Christ, God’s final Word addresses each of us in our singularity: “You are my beloved child; in you I am pleased; go forth and be fruitful.”
What does God want from us in response to the gift of life? Psalm 116 gives us direction. In response to God’s saving from death, the psalmist declares: “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people….I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord” (vss. 12-14,17). We need to do what the psalmist tells us to do six times in Psalm 107: “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy” (vss. 21-22).
God’s great gift calls for our thankfulness. Are you pleased with God’s pleasure to gift you with life and love? Then lift up your thankfulness to God. Your thankfulness includes your acceptance and approval of God’s gifts. Without acceptance and approval, you cannot prosper in life or in love, nor can you receive more of the gifts God seeks to bestow upon you. Without thankfulness, you will not open your heart to the Lord and let Him in, nor will you share with Him in the feast of joy unending. Thankfulness permits God to be God and you to be who you are. Through your thankfulness you are saying to God: “Yes, I would have it so! Yes, I would be Your child and have You as my God.”
Thankfulness is the foundation of our relationship with God. It sets the context for all our dealings with heaven–and with all others. Are we thankful? Down deep we either are or we are not, though we may mask how we feel to others, even to ourselves. But without the lenses of thankfulness, we simply cannot see life as the precious, sheer gift that it is, nor can we permit our life to become what God wants it to become: a fountain of grace, a source of joy for all. Only the thankful heart is open to receive love–which always comes as a gift. How can love penetrate a heart which is ungrateful? How can we hear, let alone believe the message of love, with a heart hardened by bitterness and resentment?
Thankfulness is a priceless gift which the receiver, and only the receiver, can bestow upon the giver. When we give a gift of love to another, what do we seek from the other in return? Assuming it is a genuine gift of love, rather than a mere attempt to gain or exchange something for something else, we desire that the other receive it in the same spirit with which we give it. Is not the other’s gratitude reward enough–even if we had not sought this response? So be it with God: God seeks our thankfulness.
Thankfulness is a gift not only to the giver, but also to ourselves and to those around us. What happens to us when we are thankful? Joy and peace issue fountain-like from the heart; we find ourselves able to love more fully, more openly; now both giving and receiving come with greater ease. Thankfulness simply feels good, and leads to all manner of goodness. We see the world and others differently when we are thankful than when we are not. Gratitude grounds our actions, and people feel it; they treat us differently and better; they give us ever more reasons for thanksgiving. It’s like laughing: the more we laugh, the more humor we see around us. So also with thankfulness: once we start seeing God’s gifts, we see them everywhere.