We are in part 4 of our 5-part series on Family-Together Habits. These are behaviors families can practice to strive for greater intimacy with Jesus.
The five key habits are:
Today, we are focusing on GRATITUDE.
To be honest, this might look a bit like an outlier in this list. Worship, service, and community are probably things you would expect to see on any list of this sort. But gratitude? I mean, we all want to be grateful people and we want our kids to be grateful to others and to God. It’s intuitive, but it feels a little like a JV-level consideration, not Varsity. At least, at first.
But a deeper dive into the idea and into scripture reveals that gratitude is something God certainly desires for us.
Consider this key phrase laid out in Leviticus 11:45 “For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God…”
This phrase gets used LOTS of times in the Old Testament, spread across SEVERAL books by different authors. [Deuteronomy 8:14, Deut. 20:1, Judges 6:8, 1 Samuel 8:8, 1 Kings 12:28, Nehemiah 9:18, Psalm 81:10, Jeremiah 11:7, Amose 2:10, Amos 3:1.] Here’s why this matters.
This phrase is important even though it may seem rather innocuous. “I know, I know, God – you did that great thing once a long time ago. We are all impressed.” God isn’t conceited. He didn’t forget what he did. And he’s not Uncle Rico, trying to relive his glory days.
You could surmise from his constant reminders that the people had forgotten this story all together, but I doubt it. I bet the children all knew about the miraculous story about their parents, grandparents, or great-great-grandparents being freed from slavery, ransacking Egypt, and God defeating the mighty army of Pharaoh. It’s an incredible story with drama and intrigue and miracles, as well as some national pride mixed in. It’s a story worthy of being told.
My assumption is this: God repeats this so many times not because they don’t know the story, but because they had forgotten why the story was important, and they had forgotten Who – the real, deep meaning of Who – the story was really about.
God’s word is, of course, about Him, but He uses it for our benefit, our instruction, and our correction. So why remind us about this heroic act so many times? Because God wants our hearts to be GRATEFUL. He wants us to be grateful for Him and toward him. And too many times, we are not.
It’s funny how linguistically, especially in November, we talk about “being thankful” as if it were a personality trait. However, gratitude is a dependent concept – one can’t be thankful into nothing or toward no one. Just like “hope” or “love,” thankfulness MUST have an object. And God, in his loving, gentle way, is reminding Israel, and all His people, that they were once slaves, but that He made it possible to be free. Everything they have is because He was, and is, good and merciful.
He and He alone is worthy to be the object of our gratitude. So we must all ask ourselves: am I living with gratitude toward God?
What are some ways we can do better than our predecessors in expressing and living in the gratitude we have for God, especially with our families?
1. Speak our gratitude about God out loud. Gratitude we keep inside isn’t really gratitude at all. It’s just a feeling. Talk about God’s goodness in your everyday life, in hard moments, and in blessed moments. Just say it.
2. Don’t just be thankful, be thankful to God. Assign an object of thankfulness and gratitude when you are able!
3. Take time to formally pause to thank God for all He has done. We can go beyond “God, thanks for this food. Amen.” It seems like intentionally doing this on some kind of schedule is a good idea, right? Thanksgiving is a great time. Passover is as well. What other times are good in your family rhythms?
4. Write down things for which you are thankful. Maybe you’ll even get a book deal out of it! Really though, it’s a great exercise. It’s hard to be entitled and demanding toward God and others while you are actively and humbly thanking Him for His good graces!
5. Thank others. Often. In words. (One I need to do better at, that’s for sure!)
6. Receive compliments when others thank you. Don’t do the Upper-Midwest thing of deflecting the compliment as “no big deal” or trying to compliment back. Just say “thank you,” and receive it – it’s an exercise in humility.
How can you lead your family into greater gratefulness, and greater intimacy with God, in the coming weeks?
My prayer: God, thank you for your goodness in each of our lives. It is in you that “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28). All we have is because of You, and all we have – including our family – is Yours. Amen!
See you for the next Feast,
Some things to know about:
For the Men: Series 33 men’s studies (based on the life and teachings of Jesus) ; Saturdays, Sept. 8 – Oct. 13, 8-9:15 AM, A Man and His Fatherhood (Vol. 6, 6 lessons) DVD discussion held in room 224 at Calvary. $20 includes book and refreshments. **You can still hop in!** Contact Larry Orth ([email protected]) for more information.
Next Dynamic Partnerships Wave begins in October. To learn more or schedule a no-further-commitment-required meeting, just email Brian at [email protected].