Unlike some other Christian characteristics, like faith or hope, gratitude isn’t something we spend a lot of time talking about. We try and put our own gratitude and thankfulness into words, but that’s a little different. That’s expressing it, not attempting to capture it in words.
There are some reasons for this. It’s often the simplest words that are the hardest to define – when was the last time you tried to explain what “with” means without using the word? – and while things like faith are sufficiently heavenly as to require Biblical definition, we all know what gratitude is, right?
More simply put, it’s difficult to actually put into words.
Gratitude is an attitude of the heart that recognises “without you, this would not be”. We try to develop this recognition in our children by requiring them to say “thank you” when they get birthday or Christmas presents. Without you, I wouldn’t have this.
You can feel gratitude without expressing it, of course, but it’s a characteristic that invites expression. It’s perhaps a little delicate and ephemeral, and without being expressed, it dissipates, being replaced by a smug attitude of taking things for granted. Of expectation and entitlement.
Gratitude is actually vital to our spiritual wellbeing. Lethal to our sense of arrogant independence, it quietly insists that we are not self-made. Someone else had a hand in who and what we are today, both humanly speaking and in Absolute terms. Without You, I would not be.
Recognition of the good part others have played in who we are and what we have is right and honourable. It’s churlish not to and bespeaks a hard, self-centred attitude, stubbornly insistent that we do not need anyone, that we can produce all that we need by our own power. Or else a sense that the giving of others to us is no more than our due, that we deserve it.
Thanksgiving Day is a beautiful reminder that no-one is an island. We depend on one another; we none of us would be or have what we have today without the generosity of other people, and more importantly of the Lord.
I’m not always good at putting my gratitude into words, but thank you all, and thank You, Lord.