“God is a God of superabundance.” Superabundance. Am I the only one who imagines a humongous, overflowing cornucopia? Having an 'abundance’ is already having more than enough. But indeed, a God of superabundance He is.
In The God Who Weeps, by Terryl and Fiona Givens, they expand on that thought with this:
Nature’s purposes and God’s purposes are not in competition but work in tandem. If the first works by blind necessity, the second works by generosity. And in recognizing that giftedness, we turn from appreciation to gratitude; from admiration for the world’s efficiency and order, to love of its beauty and grandeur.
Reading this, I had the passing thought, What’s the difference between appreciation and gratitude?
Most of us use the terms ‘thankful’, ‘grateful’, and ‘appreciate’ interchangeably. I later went back to look up the two terms, and what I found was a whole new approach to gratitude.
- Appreciation: The recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something
- Thankful: pleased and relieved
- Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
I appreciate modern technology that allows me to cross thousands of miles in a matter of hours. I appreciate the breathtaking array of fall colors covering a mountainside, and I appreciate the ability I have to worship freely in the country in which I live. I think to myself, "I sure do appreciate all this stuff!"
I am thankful when the plane flies on time, when the sun shines and I can walk among the changing leaves, and when I can attend church without fear of persecution. I often thank God for these things in prayer.
But when I am grateful, that’s a different story. Or at least, it should be.
When looked at through the lense of the dictionary meanings, the difference in the words is simple. Thankfulness and Appreciation are about me and my enjoyment. I am pleased, I am relieved, or I enjoy something or someone.
Gratitude is about the Giver, and giving back. Thanks-giving, anyone?
If I am being grateful, perhaps I would not only take the flight, but also acknowledge all of the incredible engineering advances over the last century that contributed to air travel (that I know of, which I'm sure is barely fraction!). I would thank God that He put me on Earth in this place and time to enjoy it.
But to truly exercise gratitude, when I am traveling, I should do so with the awareness that if the plane is late, or my neighbor is loud, it is still practically a miracle that I am here at all. I would do whatever I could to make those around me enjoy their trip, being friendly and helpful, not a rushed, cranky traveler.
If I am grateful, I won't just look at the autumn leaves and think to myself, That's pretty. I would look at them, knowing they don’t have to be that pretty. Another quote from the book,
[according to Darwin’s (non-God) theory], maple leaves in autumn do not suddenly transform into stained glass pendants, illuminated by a setting sun, in order to satisfy a human longing for beauty. Their scarlet, ochre, and golden colors emerge as chlorophyll production shuts down, in preparation for sacrificing the leaves that are vulnerable to winter cold, and ensuring the survival of the tree. But [yet] the tree survives, while our vision is ravished.
If God were only looking out for the tree during creation, the green in the leaves could just as well fade into different shades of gloomy. But He seeks to bring us joy even in what could be, to us, an insignificant process!
Noticing that, being aware of it, and then telling Him so, is the beginning of gratitude. Perhaps, also taking better care of the parts of the Earth on which I reside, and cultivating beauty wherever I can, would be a more active form of gratitude.
If I were being grateful, I would attend church, knowing countless others paid a hefty price for me to freely do so. That wars were fought, blood was shed, and whole lives have been spent working to ensure this freedom remains. With a grateful heart, I would take steps to make my community better, to be a responsible citizen, and honor and respect those who brought my country to this place.
Unfortunately, I don't always practice gratitude. Hopefully thankfulness and appreciation, most of the time. But gratitude for loved ones, God, or strangers and what they have done for me requires doing something. Not in a quid pro quo kind of a way, not keeping score or literally giving a gift every time I receive one...
But it does necessitate that I go beyond awareness. That I act. That I give, and I praise.
Much like Love or Faith, it turns out Gratitude is an action word.
The terms gratitude and grace share a Latin root, gratus, meaning 'pleasing'. It’s also akin to Sanskrit grnāti 'he praises'. The definition for grace used here is, “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification”.
God is indeed a "God of superabundance". He gives us “unmerited Divine assistance” whenever we need it, and sometimes when we don’t, but benefit from it anyway. How do I thank Him? Do I simply say thanks (on a good day), then go about my business?
Am I more kind to those around me after noticing a gorgeous sunset, or having my car start on a cold, snowy day? Do I strive to reach out to another in need when I feel grateful for a healthy body? Or do I simply acknowledge the way it makes me feel and end my appreciation there?
The wonderful thing is, God is happy with both. He is happy when we are genuinely enjoying His gifts, even if we never tell Him so.
...the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth; . . . Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. And it pleaseth God that He hath given all these things unto man.
On top of that, He does all He does to increase our joy, because "Men are that they might have joy". So even by asking us to be grateful (in the active sense), He designed us to thrive most when we are.
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
Put the two together, and the formula for happiness is so clear! God gave us everything we need to live a good life, simply by enjoying the Earth and looking into the faces of those we love. Then, to turn that contentment and gladness into pure joy, He shows us the way to give thanks, give back, and praise Him. For after all, "He has set His heart upon us."
As Richard C. Edgley put it, “Humility and Gratitude are the twin characteristics of happiness.”
My goal for this Thanksgiving season is to bring my gratitude to life. To try a little harder to show it on the outside as much as I enjoy it on the inside.
Happy Thanksgiving to One and All!