I thought I knew how to express my gratitude to God. If an opportunity presented itself, I would momentarily acknowledge Him. However, Thankfulness is far more; it is a lifestyle of dependence on God and rejoicing in his provision.
While meditating on gratitude, I could not help but recall my experience volunteering at a preschool. When the students go out to play, they have a blast swinging on the playground swings, playing tag on the jungle gym, and digging in the sand. One time I packed sand, damp from the morning dew, into a sand castle. I will admit that I am a novice sandcastle builder, but to the preschoolers, who lack the strength to flip a sand-filled bucket, I appeared as Michelangelo. They loved the sandcastle. After I finished, a young girl came up and politely asked, “May I please smash your sandcastle?” with the utmost sincerity. I was dumbfounded by her sweetness as she anticipated knocking it over, but eventually said “go ahead.” At that moment, her eyes became visibly brighter and with a small grateful smile, looked up at me. Her eyes flitted to the sand castle, back to me and finally, with certainty, to the sandcastle. Smash. My castle fell to the ground as she reveled in the joy of the fallen sand.
Looking back, I could feel Jesus’s presence with me as I interacted with this young girl. He was showing me an example of gratitude and how it leads us to be child-like. When I had first constructed the sandcastle, the little girl viewed it with wonder. She also found joy in the destruction of my castle: For what reason, I do not know. However, if I would have denied her request, she would have continued to admire the sandcastle I had created without resentment or hostility.
We must look at our lives with the same gratitude. Just like the creation of a sandcastle, God places new people and events in daily living. We may request something from God, just as the little girl asked to destroy the sandcastle, but we must accept whatever God grants or denies in humility. We may be apprehensive to surrender our wants to God. Luckily, Scripture tells us our God is not malicious but always seeks our well-being.
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (8:28 Romans).
Gratuity strengthens the virtue of humility, revealing a need for a child-like dependence upon the divine. It reveals our own limitations and compels us to acknowledge the omnipotence of God.
With that being said, we really can achieve a preschooler’s gratitude when we aim for the same joyful humility. I sometimes struggle to see the reasons to be grateful in the difficult, painful times of life. Sometimes the Lord will reveal the reason he allowed us to suffer other times, he will not. These moments allow us to practice gratitude with trust, rather than frustration.
This semester, I am working on expressing gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the sandcastles he has sculpted in my life. And thankfully, he has allowed me to demolish quite a few of them.