The Practice of Gratitude Part 2
A society dwells in a dump, a cavity of stink where the city throws its trash in Tijuana, Mexico.
As a college student, I spent a day volunteering there. We administered showers to the kids. We checked for lice one family at a time and passed out toiletries to the masses. They received two meals and clean clothes. These precious ones called this horrible pit their home. The lucky ones used cardboard boxes as shelter from the rain.
Never in my young life had I seen such gratefulness, such unabashed appreciation. It was as if we had rescued them and delivered them to a mansion. Strong images, forever ingrained in my mind.
Repeated guilt ensued after my time at the dump, including an ongoing confession to God. I kept saying, “God, forgive me for my ungratefulness! Forgive me for all my stuff, forgive me, forgive me…” It felt wrong that I had so much. Wrong that I was living in a large condo, driving a great car and getting a college degree. I had fabulous clothes and a warm shower every day. No one administered humiliating lice checks and I didn’t worry when the rain came.
Was it a sin that I was born to my parents? That my folks could afford material possessions for me? A college education and housing to boot? Such extravagance compared to the mammas and daddies I’d met, wanting only to feed, clothe, and protect their children. My college-girl self lived sheltered and cared for. A gift.
In time, my grown-up self learned this truth:
Being raised with material abundance is not a sin.
My dump encounter was priceless. My experience that day eclipsed the small bit of what I did for the people I met. In the years following, I’ve had many opportunities to look at my plenty, in contrast to the lives of people living in poverty: I’ve worked in prisons, orphanages, street outreach, homeless shelters, among many. What strikes me each time I “serve” is the gratitude given. Beautiful gratitude, this is what I aspire to take from these experiences into my living. Not guilt or a feeling that my privileges are a sin.
Valuable examples for me. I’ve seem that no matter what the condition or situation, there is always something to be grateful for. If the citizens of the dump can do it, so can I.
Also valuable was coming to terms with sin and abundance. But what about sin and ungratefulness?
Is my ungratefulness a sin?
What do you think?
I believe it is. And let me tell you, I have been the Queen of Ungratefulness. So, no casting-stones- queen here, just a convicting idea to unpack.
The bible is full of illustrations of ingratitude. The Israelites whined their way through 40 years in the desert. And in the start of God’s word, we find Eve, beguiled by the serpent. He convinced Eve of her “lack”. So it began: the sin of mankind. See Genesis 3.
The faulty lens of discontent causes me to focus on my perceived lack instead of my bounty. Eve allowed the snake to change her focus, and sin ensued. How may times have I sinned due to my assumption of lack? My faulty lens? Too many.
For me, it sometimes shows up in the area of overspending. Or comparing my lot (my house, my kids, my body shape) to another’s. Or complaining. For some, it shows up as entitlement. For others, stealing. Perhaps it leads to engaging in some harmful activity. Sexual transgression is often rooted here. Romans 1:21 tells us our hearts are darkened by unthankfulness. By ingratitude. By sin.
Consequently, when I am ungrateful, I sin. The state of ingratitude is itself a sin. As are the actions to which it may lead.
However! There is grace. In turn, grace leads my heart away from the focus of lack, to the bounty of the cross. Because of the cross, I am, you are, a chosen child whose darkened heart can turn yet again to gratitude. A grace-filled practice. Progress.
We, God’s beloved, salvaged from a garbage pit and delivered to a mansion.
This is Grace.
~Is the sin of ungratefulness a struggle for you? How does it manifest itself?