Years ago a bunch of us made a goofy little video about what a new and improved man might look like. At the end, one of the summary statements was that he would have "less attitude, more gratitude."
There have been times for me when that is true, where thankfulness and appreciation and gratitude come naturally. However, that isn't always the case.
In reading through Deuteronomy, a book about a pivotal time in the history of Israel where they were moving from the desert to enter the promise of God, there are a few statements that stand out to me. Most notable are the almost word for word repetitions of "when you eat and are satisfied." (Deut. 6:11, 8:10, 8:12, 11:15)
Why did they stand out?
Not because I'm hungry, but because I'm overfed.
It's hard to know want when you're over satisfied. The people of Israel knew want. The generation listening to Moses were born during a 40 year road trip through harsh wilderness. A wilderness that Moses describes as: "a vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions." (Deut. 8:15)
After each use of "when you eat and are satisfied" comes a warning. "Do not forget the Lord."
Why, because at first when you move into a city you did not build, or eat the food from a pantry you did not stock, or drink water from a well you did not dig, you are filled with gratitude and readily thank the provider. However, over time the tendency is to begin thinking that the true provide is not God but the one who maintains the city, the food supply, and the well.
That is fine if we continually recognize that God is the maintainer.
Too often we see the efforts we put in and think the maintenance is up to us. Then it becomes the city we have built, the food we have provided, the well we have dug. And we begin living Bart Simpson's prayer: "Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves. So thanks for nothing."
"When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God." (Deut. 8:10-11a)
"When you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." (Deut. 6:11b-12)
Now, this relates to more than food but to spouses, children, homes, vehicles, relationships, and countless other ways the Lord has provided.
How then does one continually recognize them as gifts lovingly provided and avoid the trap of looking at my kids and thinking yeah, I made that, or my wife and responding I put a ring on that, or my house and lamenting I'm signing away my pay cheques for that, or my car and worrying will I eventually wreck that?
The Israelites wrote reminders on the door frames of their houses, and strapped them to their bodies, and built altars where they sacrificed. Their worship was all related to remembering that God is the provider.
For the Israelites, and for us, to remember well meant writing something down, reading something daily, reciting something throughout the day. There was a physicality to remembering. The eyes saw, the ears heard, the tongue twisted, the hands carried, erected and prepared.
I can't say that I've been through a wilderness like the Israelites. I have had my own experiences of being without, of waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promises, but no land of snakes and scorpions. I am in a place of absolute abundance, all because that is where the Lord has placed me.
I am usually great.
I am always full.
I'm not always grateful.
If there are some of you rocking the gratitude share your secrets? What have you done to maintain focus on God as your provider?
"Listen, O Israel! the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:4-9