When I was a teen, I observed an event on several occasions that brought me a tinge of embarrassment. My mother and my grandmother, my mother’s mother, whenever they would eat at a restaurant together, would regularly fight over the check. I witnessed these epic battles several times, and I still cringe when I think about them. These women were my primary role models. Parts of me were afraid of them, all of me respected them, except in these moments.
My mother and grandmother are not alive to defend themselves, and I have no doubt they would try if they could. They were both strong women of high moral character and normally very dignified in their behavior. My family is better for them having been a part of it, and I spend much of my life living up to their memories. I always wanted them to be proud of me, and I know that I made them proud. They were loving women with great fortitude who saw their families through very difficult times. They both suffered from debilitating, lifelong illnesses–my mother from rheumatoid arthritis and my grandmother from type one diabetes–and lived lives of grace and faith in spite of the toll disease ravaged on their bodies. One of my greatest sorrows is that my girls had precious little opportunity to know who they were. My younger daughter was only two years old when my grandmother passed, and she was five when my mother passed.
The stubbornness which buoyed my mother and grandmother through heartache and physical suffering also contributed to the battles over the checks. Each could match the other in determination and focus. Most of the time these battles ended with one grabbing the check from the waitress and the other letting out a huff of disapproval. My mother could also add an eloquent eye roll. What I learned from these skirmishes was to say, “Thank you.” Every time someone picks up a check for my meal, I think of my mother and grandmother and the battles of the checks. After the cringe, the memory brings me a smile. And, I just say, “Thank you.”
I wonder how many times when God blesses me does He wish I would say, “thank you,” instead of all of the other things I come out with. Sometimes, I think I deserve the blessing He bestows and pat myself on the back for a job well done. Ingratitude is never pretty and puts much too much distance between my heart and His. From time to time, I overlook His blessings completely because I’m not paying attention. Occasionally, I don’t recognize a blessing because it doesn’t look like I think it should. Amazingly, at times, I will fight with Him for the check.
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:5, 6
Now and then, God bestows a blessing, the answer to a long held prayer, to which He has been saying, “not yet.” I am overwhelmed. I don’t believe it because it comes in a package I did not imagine. I wonder what the catch is, why it is so much more than I asked for, so different from what I thought it would be. “Why now?” I ask myself. I feel the burden of it, a steward’s responsibility, and I want to say, “no, thank you.” I don’t trust God to know me well enough to know the best timing and appropriate quality of His blessings for me. I look to either side of me and start to reach for something, anything, that feels like I deserve it or looks like I think it should. Mediocrity. Imperfection. Triviality. Surely I don’t deserve the blessings that belong to the child of a King!
“Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28, 29
But, I am the child of a King! A gracious and glorious King who loves me. I am a joint heir with the Savior of all humanity, entitled to every blessing in Heaven, even though I have not earned them. If I don’t know how to handle a blessing, I have only to look to Him for guidance and strength. If it doesn’t look like the blessing I was expecting, His package is much better for me. If the burden of the responsibility of the gift is heavy, He will help me carry it.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3
Every blessing from God comes with some kind of responsibility. Every holy gift is to be treasured and used for His glory. Every godly endowment is to be nurtured and grown and shared for the benefit of His reputation. Every good thing from God is to be accepted and opened with a gratitude that never fades. Refusing a blessing from God or settling for anything less than what He deems I deserve is like spitting in His face, an affront to His great and glorious generosity.
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:16, 17
On this day of thanksgiving, I try to remember as many blessings as I can and thank God for each one. I remember the times I almost did not accept a gift God provided, and I am deeply thankful He gave me the wisdom to walk past my fears into His gracious blessings. My life would be much less full, much less happy, much less abounding in love if I had given in to my fears and trepidations.
I accept His gifts and, with all my heart, just say, “Thank You!”
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Psalm 118:1
All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.