Each night, I put my 6-year-old son, Henry, to bed. Because my wife and I have done just about everything wrong when it comes to getting our children to sleep, that means I lay down on the floor next to his bed for a while until he nods off. (If any of you with small children want to learn how to get them to sleep on their own, send me a note. I’ll tell you what we did, and you can do the exact opposite.)
Our wind-down routine goes something like this: After the pajamas/bathroom/toothbrush/“Oh, Dad, I just need to do one more thing” routine, Henry clambers into bed, and I tell him a story. Most of the time, it’s a Star Wars story that I make up each night, if you must know.
And after that, we spend some time praying together. Which mostly means that I pray for him and for our family and friends.
One thing I ask Henry to do each night is to tell God something he was thankful for during the day. It can be anything he enjoyed or liked or felt good about, and it only has to be a single-sentence prayer. That may not seem like an onerous request, but invariably, Henry resists. “Oh, Dad, I don’t know.” Or, “Dad, I’m just too tired,” never mind that 30 seconds before he was protesting that he wasn’t tired enough yet to go to bed. Generally speaking, I can coax a little thanks out of my little guy. But sometimes he just doesn’t want to do it.
Not So Different
I wish I could say that Henry’s reticence to pray was due to his being so young. Perhaps some of it is. But I think it goes deeper than that. Because if I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’m not that different. I’m not sure, exactly, why giving thanks doesn’t come naturally to me. Sometimes, I’m just so busy that I forget to take time to do it. Sometimes, though, I do make time for prayer, and I realize that I’ve skipped straight to my list of requests without even taking time to say thank you to my heavenly Father for the good things He’s given me.
In that tendency, I’m also not so different from the 10 lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17:11-19. When they met Jesus, they pleaded, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Jesus did have pity on them, instructing them to go and show themselves to the priest. On their way there, they were cleansed, i.e. healed of a disease that had rendered them outcasts for probably much of their lives. Of those 10 men, only one grateful soul — a Samaritan, no less — returned to Jesus to thank Him for the tremendous gift healing He granted them. Jesus’ response? “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
As I’ve written about before for Boundless, I believe thankfulness is a discipline that needs to be cultivated intentionally. And as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with our friends, family and loved ones, I wanted to share one short scriptural passage that reminds us to reflect on all that God has done for us.
In Psalm 16:5-6, David writes, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s easier to focus on what’s fallen outside the providential boundary lines of our lives than what’s fallen within them. It can be more natural, especially for those of us with a melancholy streak, to fixate on what we don’t have, not on the good things God has so graciously bestowed upon us. I especially remember my tendency in that direction during the many years and holidays I spent single, just wishing that I had someone special to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with.
But I also believe that no matter where we are in our lives, there are ways in which “the boundary lines have fallen for [us] in pleasant places.” Perhaps we’ve been given a good job. Or the blessing of a friend who knows and loves and accepts us unconditionally. Or just having muddled through a tough season far enough to be able to look back and see ways that God was at work that we simply couldn’t see in the hardest moments. It could be a million different things.
So this Thanksgiving, I’d encourage you to think about this question through the lens of this passage: How have the boundary lines fallen in pleasant places for you in the last year? It’s a question worth reflecting on, even if we aren’t always immediately certain that those lines have been drawn where we’d like to see them.
Copyright 2012 Adam Holz. All rights reserved.