I write a minimum of three thank-you notes every day. That’s not many, only takes 4 or 5 minutes. But in a year that’s more than a thousand, and as I’ve been doing this for 20 years, that’s a lot of thank you notes.
What is striking as I think about it is how
many people I have forgotten to thank, and for so many kindnesses and
favors. Superficially, a thank you note
is about good manners – but I’m only mildly interested in etiquette. I want people to know I appreciate them, that
I’m honored by them.
More importantly, I want to be a grateful
person. Like everybody else, I’m tempted
toward a sense of entitlement. I’m drawn
toward what I think I deserve. I easily
lurch into a sense of self-sufficiency.
But these moods are not of God – and they are not even the truth about
me or anybody else. We are all great
debtors. On my own I’d be nobody, except
one to be pitied. The more I realize how
all the good in my life is a gift, and the more I express thanks for the
wonders in my life, the richer I am, the more spiritually settled I become.
The Bible speaks constantly of
gratitude: “I do not cease to give
thanks for you” (Ephesians 1:16). “Give
thanks to the Lord, for he is good” (Psalm 107:1). You can’t thumb through many pages without
reading expressions of thanks.
Disciplined practice of gratitude makes us
grateful people, and deepens our gratitude to God – and even teaches us how to
ask God for things: “With thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Not “Ask, then give thanks if you get what
you wanted,” but “With thanks, ask.”
Gratitude is contagious. If someone thanks me, I’m inclined to thank
somebody else – so more people are encouraged, and a whole church, a whole
community might become a grateful, encouraging place.
If you want to know God, and to be
worshipful, and even a nobler, more contented person, try this praxis: write a thank you note or two, or four or
seven, each day.