Why, in western culture, the phrase “how are you” is considered a legitimate way to greet each other positively confounds me. Very few actually answer the question. Fewer still answer with even the slightest form of honesty, and those who do, are generally considered less than pleasant people. Bless their hearts. I recently started working a bit in the retail business. For a people watcher such as myself, this is quality entertainment at its absolute finest. Dozens of times a day, the socially proper question of dubious meaning comes rolling out of my mouth to be answered in the expected, the unexpected, and sometimes the most downright shocking of ways. If I was not already convicted by my own lack of gratitude, I am now. If I was not already convinced, I am now thoroughly certain, that we, generally speaking, are not a thankful people.
We are tired. We are rushed. We are angry. We are bored. We are spoiled. We are fretful. We are not thankful. We are not calm in the care of a Being greater than ourselves. We are not content that our needs are met for this moment, for this day, in this way. It is as if we are playing the same scale of notes over and over in the dreariest way, when the entire keyboard is for our use. I find it immensely satisfying that God put into my hand the exact right instrument to give the Devil and all the powers of evil a smashing headache. He called it thanksgiving. The problem is, it only works with use.
I mean seriously, what about those of us who have exceptional circumstances rendering us excused from cultivating a grateful spirit? (Insert most of the human race here, but most especially me, naturally.) A thankful heart is the daily delight in the facts of a perfect God, not the facts of an imperfect life. God is unchanging and always present, therefore my reasons to be thankful are unchanging and always present. I may climb my way to the top of all the debris of life, and fiercely defy it by planting my flag of thanks at the worst and highest point. And just like that, the litter becomes the rightful property of the Redeemer who has already begun the work of blessing me with this same pile of trash before my flag of thanks has even finished rippling once. It most certainly is not my pristine life that grants me the privilege of speaking of a good God, quite the opposite. It is every rotten, ruined, sin bruised moment that fully qualifies me to sing the praises of a God who can and does love, rescue, and triumph over a life as ugly as this. I can, will, and should thank God, because “Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.”
Thanking God for everything, on any given day, in any situation is the emergency medicine my hurt heart needs. It is the hinge on the door to my prison. It is the sliver of light in the darkness. It is the eternal freedom from the facts of now. So this is my challenge to myself. Say thank you. Say it often. Say it loudly. Say it when no-one expects you to say it “under the circumstances”. Say it when no-one is listening or wants to hear. Let the song of it ring of a Savior who is larger than today. Let the hope of it entice the hopeless. Let the warmth of it glow in my words. I am running my race with goodness and mercy behind me, Heaven before me, and Jesus beside me…and I’m just as good as I can be, thanks so much for asking. So tell me, how are you?
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
(quote from hymn Come Thou Fount)