I don’t like to say grace.
As a kid, I dreaded being the child asked to pray for family dinner. I wasn’t ever sure what to say, or quite how to say it. Also, how long are you supposed to pray? And how do you know when to land the plane?
Even now, as an adult, I struggle to say grace before a meal. On the one hand, it is tiresome to me, and inconveniences the food-to-mouth rate that I have gotten quite quick at. What is worse, we have a bad habit around our apartment of not arranging who is going to pray before eyes close and heads bow. While we instinctively grab the others’ hand and lower our brow, we always have an awkward fifteen seconds in which we both pause with eyes only half-shut, waiting to see if the other is about to start.
But here is the honest truth: I usually hope husband starts to say grace, because I don’t like to. I don’t like the pause, I don’t like the focus, and I especially don’t like when I tumble into the prayer (because husband didn’t start a half-second sooner) saying, “Dear God, thank you for…,” having to pause again because I do not know how to complete the sentence.
This was the case this morning. As husband and I held hands at my family’s kitchen counter for a breakfast of dry toast and leftover eggs that the little sibs made, I was the first one out of the gate. And I began, “Dear God, thank you for …” and I had to stop. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. I didn’t want to say, “Thank You for this breakfast,” because I wasn’t thankful for it. I didn’t want to say, “Thank you for this day,” because it seemed cliché. And so I just sat there, all awkward like with husband next to me, peeking at me from under his prayerful posture, wondering what I was going to do.
Something happened in that “not knowing” moment. A pang of realization struck me: I do not have a thankful heart. I surveyed the scene, recognizing many things I both could and should be thankful for. But my silence betrayed me, and I knew that inside my chest was not a soft heart of gratitude, but a hard heart of entitlement and indifference.
Thankfulness is one of the hardest virtues to foster, and even harder to maintain. Over the last year, I have allowed bitterness to sap me of my gratitude and entitlement to dry up my joy. And I quite honestly don’t know how to get back to thankfulness. I’m not entirely sure how to foster within myself a thankful posture. But I know I need to start.
So, here is my challenge for myself: I want to choose gratitude. I want to look around, notice things to be thankful for, and thank someone for them. Maybe it will be a friend and maybe it will be God, and I’m going to say “thank you.” I want to take a look at the things in my life that have value, have purpose, have meaning and I want to make the hard choice of finding someone to thank for them. I want to push my lips toward over-use in my attempt to learn and relearn thankfulness. I want to make them move over the words “thank you” endlessly, until they become the habitual rhythm of my inner and outer life. I want to choose the thankfulness with the faithfulness of a metronome, and force the habit until it forces itself upon me and my little heart. I will sit in the kitchen with my eyes closed and my head bowed until I name every phrase of gratitude I can find. I will finish the sentence, I will say grace, until it boils up in me and I beat husband to the punch of prayer because I want to say thank you to Jesus. Because the only thing better than having something to be thankful for is having Someone to be thankful to. And we’ve got that, friends. We’ve got that in Jesus.
And while I do not know exactly how to grow gratefulness in the hard soil of my soul, I am choosing to push the seeds of thankfulness deep into my daily schedule until it tills up the ground and roots itself there.
Do it with me? Until we are thankful people once again.