I watch his reddening face as his jaws clench, and his broad shoulders tense up in that too-familiar indignant stance. This child of mine, who is “almost a man,” is upset once again because his father and I said “no.” I bite my tongue, but I want to yell and somehow get it through his thick skull that he needs to stop focusing on the things he is not granted and look instead at the countless good things he has and the freedoms he enjoys. “Seriously,” I think to myself, “if my children truly understood why we say ‘no’ to certain things—out of a desire for them to live the fullest life—then I know they would be saying, ‘Thank you, Mom, for the hard choices you have made all because you love me!’ Right?”
When I was growing up, my mom emphasized the importance of “an attitude of gratitude,” and living around poverty and need helped train us not to take things for granted. We had so much for which to be grateful: good health, a happy family, strong faith, answered prayers . . .
On a good day, I do give thanks gladly, but on a bad day, I am that indignant teenager in God’s beloved family. I am clenching my teeth yet again because the plan I had, the thing I wanted, or the prayer I prayed was not granted. I am questioning his love and trustworthiness because his choices for me are not what I would have chosen.
At every Mass we are reminded: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father . . .”
“Always and everywhere . . .” Really?! I can think of situations where gratitude seems impossible. When our heavenly Father obliges us to give thanks, is he telling us to stop looking at what we do not have (as I do with my own gang)? Or maybe is he telling us to take a good look at what we do not have and trust him anyway? Giving thanks to God always and everywhere is necessary and salvific because it requires a child-like confidence. If we are heartily convinced that everything in our life is ordained by an all-loving God, then thanksgiving is not an extraordinary gesture of devotion, but should be our normal response.
The source and summit of the Christian life is fittingly named Eucharist, which is derived from the Greek word for giving thanks. Thanksgiving is the springboard into an intimate union with God. So maybe I should thank God for my kids’ ornery moments that challenge me to see my own lack of gratitude and to turn my eyes to my Father, who knows what is best.
Thank you, Lord, for the happy, heart-warming times. Thank you for the sorrowful, heart-breaking times, too. Thank you for loving me always and everywhere! Please, help me to model an attitude of gratitude, especially when things don’t go my way. Jesus, I trust in you.