When Grace and Gratitude Collide

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”  Psalm 107:1
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Gratitude is something that the Lord is teaching me about during this season of my life. Sure, I am thankful for the things that He has done and given me. I even say, “Thank you,” to Him and tell others about how I am grateful for what He has done. But am I living in a spirit of gratitude? While looking up verses about thanks and gratitude in my concordance, I realized that another gr- word was close by: grace; graciousness. I love language. The History of the English language was my very favorite class in my undergraduate studies. (Even though it was a killer class!) So, my curiosity led me to google, of course. Please forgive the terrible works cited here. I’m pretty sure what I have found is reliable, though, based on my recollection from studying Martin Luther and language.

The root for gratitude comes from the Latin word, “gratus” – meaning, “thankful” or “pleasing.” The Latin root for grace is “gratia”, which means “grace” or “gratitude”. When exploring a little further about the word “grace,”  I consistently saw that it had a lot to do with having a pleasing quality, thanks, and pardon.  As I suspected, the two words and their meanings are very intertwined.

A couple weekends ago, I was really upset because the back up to our back up to our back up fall break trip fell through. I was desperate to escape our overly busy life and enjoy some quality time with my husband while embarking on an adventure.  My last nerve was struck when we found out that Plan C was foiled due to all the hotels being booked in that particular area because of a stinking home football game. So, to put it mildly, after some tears were shed, my more than gracious husband calmed me down and we came up with a plan D. I still had a little bit of an attitude and crushed heart when we rolled out of the driveway, but I figured at least we were together and getting away.

After dropping the dog off at his sister’s house, we set off for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hunger pains were encroaching upon us, so we stopped at an old roadside store for lunch. When we walked in, my attitude immediately changed. There was no way I could be upset anymore because the joyful spirits of the ladies running the place were far too contagious. They were so friendly and we enjoyed the nicest small talk with them. It felt like we had stepped into the Whistle Stop Cafe from Fried Green Tomatoes. (Secret’s in the sauce, baby). We took our chili dogs and coconut pie outside to enjoy lunch the sunshine. After we took our trays back in, the 96 year old woman, who originally owned the building with her husband and had run it as a grocery called for me to come over to her. She said in her rustic southern drawl, “Honey, I can tell this must be the first time y’all have eaten with us. I want you to have one of my pot holders. Go over there and pick one out for yourself and you remember me by it.” Her daughter that now runs the place told me that her mama made those on her original Singer sewing machine with the built in foot pedal and all! What an honor. My day was made.

Later that day, however, I experienced a different kind of “check yourself” moment as we walked over from our fancy hotel that I begged to stay at to grab something to eat. As we were crossing the street, we passed by one of the saddest looking homeless women I have ever seen. The Holy Spirit cut right through the scum of my heart and said loud and clear, “You have a roof over your head. You are about to fill your belly with food. You have a husband. You aren’t alone in this world. You also have me. You have all that you need and more. Look at her. Are you still upset that your dream getaway didn’t work out this time?” Ouch. I had to turn to David and apologize. Again. This time for being ungrateful.

These two women made me realize a lot about living in gratitude. My 96 year old friend certainly is living a life of gratitude, exemplified by her graciousness. Those pot holders were $8 a piece. She didn’t have to give one to a perfect stranger that she had spoken to for less than 5 minutes. But she did so out of thanks. She was thankful that we were supporting her daughter’s business and she wanted to show that it pleased her that we had shown up that day. That’s southern hospitality for you- being a gracious host or hostess. Now I know far more about what being gracious means. It means overflowing with gratitude.

That’s how I want to live. For all that the Lord has done in my life, I’m grateful. But, I don’t need all the things that He has given me to be grateful. I could just start and stop with the number one reason why He deserves thanks: He is good. He deserves an eternity of thanks, though, so I’ll have to add some more to that.  What if I was in that homeless lady’s shoes? I really should have been there the past couple years. But the Lord saw fit to extend an extra measure of His mercy, goodness and graciousness to me. He is good and gracious to her too. We just have been given contrasting stories to experience different intricacies of His goodness and are each responsible for the the thanks we give back to Him no matter what circumstance we are in. Unbeknownst to her, God used the intersection our paths came to, to teach me to live a life that reflects the grace that has been given to me through a spirit of gratitude. Through my spirit of ingratitude and temporary failure to extend grace for things beyond our control, God set us on a little adventure  so that grace and gratitude would collide and I would see it. Now onward to live it…

(PS- Squint hard enough in my cover photo for this piece and you’ll see a basket that says “Give Thanks” that I just noticed after writing this. Think God’s trying to get me to look a little harder into that area of my life or what?!)


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