“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward
In a book study years ago, a group leader chose a topic each week for us to discuss. Gratitude came up often, especially around Thanksgiving. Everyone gushed gratitude until my turn when I’d say, “I’m grateful I don’t have to be grateful for anything.”
So, when the story came up in church about the lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the one about 10 of them being healed, but only one coming back to thank Jesus, I thought, I’m good with this now. I’ve had a change of heart and I’m all about gratitude.
That was, until Rev. Stu Boehmig said, “The story’s not about being grateful.”
Huh? Then what is it about?
It never occurred to me the nine men who were healed from leprosy were, of course, grateful. After all, their healing meant being spared isolation. They were allowed to again worship in the synagogue, allowed to hug spouses and children who they couldn’t touch prior to their recovery, and given a second chance at life instead of physically deteriorating.
However, only one made the effort to come back. Only one chased down Jesus and thanked him. Only one lived out his gratitude. Here’s what Biblegateway.com has to say about Ten Lepers and a Samaritan’s Faith when only the foreigner returns to give thanks, “Now what Jesus praises here is the Samaritan’s initiative.”
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy
The story’s about action.
And it reminds me of a funny tale about our daughter’s former friend. He didn’t do much, but I’d come to his defense anyway and say, “He has potential.” It turned into a witticism when my father-in-law asked, “Potential to do what? It’s not helping him much.” From then on, we’d say about anyone who wasted their time and talent, “But they have potential … ”
Since the sermon, I’ve thought about my own healing from “leprosy” – a couple of years of isolation and deteriorating mental health due to depression – and how grateful I ought to be. Some people aren’t given a second chance when they suffer a debilitating mental illness. They disappear into alcohol or a pill bottle, an institution, or a grave.
I’ve also thought about turning my potential for gratitude into a practice of gratitude. I am grateful, just like the nine lepers were grateful, but it’s the tenth one who put his potential into practice. He took action.
Intentional. Deliberate. Purposeful.
And here’s the enlightening (and Twilight Zone-y) part of all of this for me. I glanced through the church bulletin to fact check this post when I noticed, after years of reading it, the name of the final prayer the congregation prays together – Prayer of Thanksgiving. No wonder I get choked up every time I say out loud, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you … ”
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
My heart’s known for a while I’ve needed to do “thank you” instead of mouth it. And you know I’m going to tie this into getting our own lives, right? Gratitude is our way forward.
In This Together,
Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.