John’s Blog- Gratitude
Late in August, my wife and I attended a conference at Montreat on Transitional Ministry. One of my best friends, Dee Wade, and I had decided to attend the conference because it was supposed to help us deal with change in the church. It was a good conference and I really felt helped in dealing with this whole issue of rapid change in the culture and the church. However, as I reflect on the conference I may have failed the course the first day.
Let me explain. My wife and I were staying in Assembly Inn, which has recently been renovated. The Inn is very old and the renovation cost a small fortune. Years ago, I stayed in the Inn every summer when I was a youth conference small group leader. I have also spent time in those rooms as an adult advisor for presbytery youth groups and we always had at least three to a room sharing a bathroom with the room next door. There was very little closet space, which meant the floor was covered with dirty clothes most of the week. Trust me the parents of these boys would have been proud. But I always enjoyed the week, loved the un-airconditioned rooms with their big windows and looked forward to the week each year.
So we arrive this year having been told that we were going to be blown away by all the improvements in the rooms. Our room now had a bathroom, although if was very small. It now had dozens of electrical outlets whereas there used to be only one or two but they were hard to reach and hard to see. The lights were so dim I could barely read by them. The wireless Internet was hit and miss.
I might have been happier if no one had told me to expect these marvelous new rooms. Perhaps then I wouldn’t have had such high expectations.
Gratitude, writes David Brooks in a New York Times article, happens “when some kindness exceeds expectations, when it is undeserved. Gratitude is a sort of laughter of the heart that comes about after some surprising kindness.”
For example, a number of years ago when Janie’s sister’s daughter had her wedding in Lubbock, Texas I had the honor of performing the wedding. The whole wedding party stayed at the same Holiday Inn. When I went to check out, I was not surprised when the bride’s father had paid my motel bill since this is customary. But I looked over to see the others in the party checking out and each of them had a stunned look on their faces. The father of the bride had paid everyone in the wedding’s motel bill. The look on each person’s face was disbelief but there was laughter in his or her hearts. This warm inner glow that each person felt was a response to the gratitude they now felt.
Now my brother in law is a very good person and so it could be that his act of generosity came from this well of goodness. But my brother in law is also a committed Christian and so I wonder if his generosity was motivated by the love of a generous and forgiving God.