Sunday, April 27, 2014

When "Thank You" Isn't Enough

Have you ever been overwhelmed by gratitude?  Have you ever been gifted with something so remarkable you could find no words to thank the giver(s)?  Have you ever been accorded favor or grace so overwhelming that it was beyond your reasoning to imagine how to repay in kind? 

Many who know our family can well imagine this is precisely where we are currently walking and they would be right.  (For those unfamiliar, click here.)The grace, love, and overwhelming kindness recently shown is staggering to our minds.  Our senses are still daily reeling from the effort exerted to repair issues of varying severity to the structure and safety of our home.  These repairs have restored health, serenity, and redefined our future in ways we could not have previously foreseen; casting aside our limited scope of planning and enlarging the potential of this home's effectiveness as the ministry tool we have always viewed it to be.  But in this, I am struggling.  I am struggling with self.

This blessing of incalculable magnitude has placed us in unfamiliar territory.   Very simply, we are the recipients of the surrounding love and grace of others for no other reason than to be the body of Christ to us.  Many who were friends and acquaintances overwhelmed us with their generosity.  Many did not know us personally and many did not even know our names, but they came and gave of their time, efforts, resources, and the sweat of their brow to serve this family.  Where we would gladly leap at the opportunity to help others, we suddenly found ourselves facing a tidal wave of outreach that seemed unreal and improbable.

This is not a statement of preferred, isolation,  bravado, or a cavalier "John Wayne" manner of living that was sought out.  Very simply, our path and our journey as we have endeavored to pursue God's calling on our lives has often led us into unfamiliar and often very lonely territories.  Our constant was our God and his promise to never leave or forsake.  People often have, but He held us firm.  Family, both biological and church, have walked away.  Friends have distanced, but our Lord has always been close, always been faithful, always provided our needs through the deepest of valleys, always been faithful to his word.  A sole reliance on God and self develops in this environment and as compassion is studied and taken to heart, a lifestyle of seeking to serve others would rarely if ever expect others to reciprocate, let alone envelope in grace and love. 

And now my foundations have been shaken.  I desire to look each and every individual in the eye that had anything to do with the blessings that overwhelmed us and whole heartedly thank them.  But this doesn't seem enough.  The previously mentioned self-reliance in me wants to reciprocate to each of them, pay back in full and show my deepest appreciation by doing in kind what each has done for me.  Yet I am left with the reality that this is an impossibility.  My early mornings find me enjoying a newly defined resting area perfected for meditation on the Word and prayer.  Upon returning home from work, I find myself stepping into a work of love and grace and defined order.  An entire ocean of gratitude seems insufficient....In fact, I've been wrestling deeply with the subjects of gratitude and grace ever since.

It is here that God gave me the following;  Would any of us try to pay Jesus back for the gift of salvation?  Could any of us attempt to reciprocate to God for giving eternal life?  Do we truly understand the depth or the magnitude of this greatest of offerings of all time?  If so, should not thanksgiving continually be on our lips?  Yet picture the absurdity of any of us struggling with the guilt of "not being able to pay God back".  Here we begin to recognize the very definition of grace as defined in Ephesians.

He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable, limitless, surpassing riches of His free grace; His unmerited favor in His kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by free grace, God’s unmerited favor, that you are saved, delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation, through [your] faith. And this salvation is not of yourselves, of your own doing, it came not through your own striving, but it is the gift of God;
Ephesians 2:7,8

God's relationship with us is not defined by our ability to thank him or repay him for his works in our lives.  Yet how often do we define our relationships with each other in this manner if we are truly honest?  I can honestly say I have may not have shied away from others based on their needs or the cost to myself, but I have on occasion based upon my own needs and my potential liability for indebted gratitude to others.  And yet we all are admonished

"Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law."
Romans 13:8 NLT

And this love moves to action towards its neighbor.  It causes a family to abandon the comforts of this American existence to minister in Guatemala.  It moves hearts to partner with families on a Swazi mountainside to bring healing, education, and (most importantly) the Word of God.  It partners with and supports those pursuing God's calling to minister to the fatherless and the orphan.  It even rebuilt the home of this family, but more importantly rebuilt our hearts. 

No mere verbalization can encapsulate it.  It is action in motion and requires likewise.  The problem with the traditional view of gratitude in general is that we very often view it as a static or one time occurrence.  When there is no chance of ever being able to repay the giver however, when grace occurs in such overwhelming magnitude that we are unable to barter for reciprocation, we are compelled to something greater.  We are driven to live for something beyond ourselves. 

We will all spend the oceans of eternity either acknowledging through praise and thanksgiving the worthiness and indescribable splendor of our God or lamenting our refusal to do so.  What this blessing has taught me is that sometimes living beyond yourself to search out grace and love towards others is the greatest praise to a mighty God when "thank you" isn't enough.

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