19 Oct ‘Tis Mercy All
The summer after I graduated college I did two things that challenged me in very positive ways.
One was spending ten days in Tanzania, Africa, where I encountered true joy and thankfulness in a way I’d never seen before. The third world is an incredible place to learn about gratitude. The second was reading through a stack of books I had been collecting since my high school graduation. The books were about a wide variety of things, but one of the topics was thankfulness. I read thoughts on the subject from some very talented authors and it was extremely refreshing. Those authors, and the experiences I had with my brothers and sisters in Africa, inspired and encouraged me to count my blessings, to write down evidences of God’s goodness.
In true “Hannah” fashion, I had to travel somewhere to begin this endeavor. I went on a long road trip throughout the southeast, and it was on that trip that I began keeping a journal in which I would write down evidences of His faithfulness. I created what I’d termed a gift list, a list of the unique things God has created and done to bless me on a very personal level. The list includes things like:
Thousands of tiny, silvery blue fishes swimming inches beneath clear water
The smell of baby hair
Very loud jazz
Orange-purple sunset over Carl Brown’s field
“Another One Bites the Dust” (Queen)
Spaghetti noodles stuck together
Reading over that list of mercies takes me back to those moments and I am once again filled with this sense of remembering what the Lord has done. I have a renewed sense of thankfulness for the Lord’s abundant provision for me.
But the problem is, I forget to remember. I forget to stop. Thankfulness for His provisions for me has not yet become such a part of my lifestyle that everything I do exudes this gratitude for and confidence in the ways He loves me. I got busy and the list making stopped.
“But the problem is, I forget to remember.”
Early this past summer, Will Plonk gave a talk at Decade 20 on the topic of entitlement. In it, Will outlined the process of how this corrupted attitude forms in our hearts. First we receive the gifts the Lord gives us with excitement and gratefulness, but over time we get used to that gift. That’s when we believe we have a right to it. Routine without thankfulness, he said, is what fuels entitlement.
In Exodus 16, we see this is true. Within just a few chapters, the Israelites forget their incredible rescue from their oppressors in Egypt. They forget about their protection from plagues prior to the start of the Exodus, and they forget about the parting of the Red Sea after. They forget the cloud by day and the fire by night. And now they complain to Aaron and Moses, saying they actually should have stayed in Egypt with the slave masters instead of venturing into freedom because of the predictable stability there when it came to food. In Egypt, they didn’t wonder where their next meal would come from, but with their new freedom comes a necessity to trust Yahweh even more. That factor—trust—is what I think truly limits their ability (and ours today) to be thankful.
“Routine without thankfulness, he said, is what fuels entitlement.”
God provides them very clear instructions for how to gather the delicious bread that falls like snow each morning from heaven: just gather enough for one day at a time. But the people don’t obey because they don’t trust. They don’t believe that the Lord will provide enough. So they gather enough for two days instead of one. And it rots.
Doesn’t the same happen for us? We don’t obey and we aren’t thankful because we busy ourselves with the insignificant. We forget to remember His graces to us because we are so busy we won’t pump the breaks and just slow down. As a result, we develop this toxic, rotten, stinking darkness in us: entitlement. We believe we have a right to His provisions, that they aren’t gifts but that they are something He owes us. The Israelites may have believed God owed them more variety in their diet, or comfort. For me, it’s believing He owes me the life I’ve always dreamed of, a life where reality always meets my expectations.
We live in a culture that worships busyness. But if we refuse to worship busyness and instead choose to worship the God of eternal gifts, we see that it is imperative that we take time to slow down. If we don’t, we get used to the gifts and they become routine, or we ignore them altogether.
“But if we refuse to worship busyness and instead choose to worship the God of eternal gifts, we see that it is imperative that we take time to slow down.”
With the Lord’s help, today I took some time to slow down so as not to miss His goodness, His unmerited provision for me. I’m adding more mercies to the list.
“He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.”
“And Can It Be?” | Charles Wesley
Hannah loves going for a drive, being by the water, and learning about anything at all. Getting a new stamp in her passport is her favorite feeling and she loves to sit on the porch on warm summer nights. She loves to make people laugh and cook them some supper. Hannah attends our Powdersville campus.