I was waiting for a red light the other day and I could not think of one thing to be thankful for. As you know, I’ve adopted a new practice of giving thanks whenever I get stuck at a red light as a way to help me slow down and put God at the forefront of my mind.
But at that one signal I had a total brain freeze.
Then I noticed something obvious: I am breathing air into my lungs.
Seriously, that’s the thought that came to my head. So I thanked the Lord for air and for my lungs. I then thought about the car I was driving. So I thanked God for my car – and it has been a very, very good car for me (2008 Hyundai Sonata – in case you were wondering). Then I thought about other things that God has given me: food to eat, grocery stores to get food, a kitchen to cook food, restaurants to eat when I don’t feel like cooking, money to pay for food and restaurants, a job that pays me, skills that allow me to do my job, having a job that I absolutely love, and on and on it went.
Until someone behind me honked their horn. The light had turned green as I was lost in my prayers of thanksgiving. This is becoming a dangerous practice!
Maybe the guy behind me needs to lighten up and give thanks for what he has. LOL!
It sounds so elementary and maybe it feels a little trite at times, but it is so good to give thanks for what we have – especially in our culture. We SO take things for granted: hot running water, toilets, chairs, pens, computers, coffee makers, phones, electricity, paved streets, shelter, clothes, etc. If you go into many foreign countries, they don’t have some of these things. (Which is a good reason to go on a short term mission trip to a Third World country – it’s eye opening)
I also believe that “entitlement” is the besetting sin of Americans of the 21st Century. And, sadly, many of us in the church don’t realize how entitlement has possessed our souls – it is such an insidious attitude. It is so easy to not just take things for granted, but to think that we actually deserve or are entitled to these things. So much so that we cry “foul!” when some of our things are threatened or taken from us.
If you don’t believe me, just notice your first reaction when someone cuts in front of you while you are waiting in line or driving in traffic. Or notice how you feel when it takes more than five minutes for the clerk at McDonald’s to get your Egg McMuffin or the barista at Starbuck’s to prepare your Venti Decaf Caramel Macchiato with half-soy, half non-fat, light on the whipped cream. Or notice the pulsing in your neck when you see a big scratch on your new Honda that it received while you were shopping in the store.
One of the powerful antidotes to our severe entitlement and attachment is to give thanks to God for what He has given us.
We don’t deserve anything and yet He has blessed us with “so much.” So much that we can’t begin to recount it while waiting for a light to change at an intersection. So much that we get overwhelmed the immensity of undeserved blessing when we actually have time to think about it.
And it helps us to understand that while God has given us so much in the things we have, there is so much MORE and BETTER blessings He has given us beyond the material: spiritual, emotional, relational (as we talked about yesterday), intellectual, etc.
But sometimes it helps to start with the tangible and the physical – what’s right in front of us; beginning with the very air we breathe.
2 thoughts on “Thankful for what we have”
Doug, I’ve been telling people about the “giving thanks at red lights” idea, and trying to practice it myself, ever since reading your first blog about it. I got my first test this week when I was having lower back problems and it was almost too painful to sit behind the wheel.
The only prayer I could think of was, “Thank you, God, that my back doesn’t normally hurt like this!”
Sounds trite, maybe, but it was sincere. So, I then began to think of all the other things that could be unpleasant, which God has in his grace and mercy withheld from me. I can share my thoughts with others in a reasonably cogent manner. I have a good appetite. My job is secure (so far) despite layoffs at work. Etc., etc.
I was also reading Screwtape Letters today (I think it was letter #21) where Screwtape advises Wormwood to by all means prevent his client (a young Christian) from thinking of his time as anything but his own. When we think we “own” our time we are then indignant at the effrontery of disruptions (like red lights). But the truth is that none of us “owns” our time, and Lewis demonstrate how laughable it is to even seriously entertain this idea.
This put sitting at red lights in a different perspective for me. Lewis makes the point that if God somehow manifested Himself physically to us today and said, “I want you to spend an hour today sitting at red lights” we would certainly do so with great joy and willingness. Yet how is our situation any different than that?
Anyway, just wanted to say “thanks” for helping us to see things in a clearer, more Christ-centric perspective!
thanks, Larry! And thanks for sharing from Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters” as well as from your personal experience.