I'm sitting here in my home with Melissa and Abrielle napping on the couch. These last 3 years have been full of transition for us: dating, marriage, new job, birth, death, new home, book published... It seems that we are just calming down into some form of stability right now.
When I reflect back on my entire life, it has also been full of transition, some good, some bad. It would seem I am finding some sense of stability being a husband and father.
Thinking back on my grade school social studies classes, I could reflect, as many have done, on the "Divine Providence" of grace extended the pilgrims by the "savage" Native Americans, of the greatness of this nation, of what United States of America offers the world, etc. I could be thankful for that...and I am. There is good reason why so many people have continually travelled to this country , this nation, for a better life than where they originate from. But that is not my focus.
If I think back to any of my college Ethnic Studies classes, I could reflect on how small pox was given to native americans, how their land was stolen from them, on the atrocity of the Middle Passage and chattel slavery, on the Robber Barons who swindled, strong armed, or stole the lives of poor white people coming to this nation for a better life than Europe. I could be thankful that those days are overtly over...and I am. Those, and many others, are the sins of America...sins we would love to believe are completely gone, and whose effects are no longer with us...wishful thinking. But that is not my focus.
If I remember my time in Seminary, studying theology, I would reflect on the awesome sacrifice of Jesus, thanking God for the forgiveness of, redemption from, freedom from, cleansing from Sin. I would thank God for the condescension, the incarnation, into flesh so that we may be reconciled to God. I should be thankful for all of that and much more...and I am. But that is not the entirety of my focus
I would like to consider the following:
Late 12 cen., from God's favor or help, from Old French grace "pardon, divine grace, mercy, elegance virtue; from Latin gratia "esteem, favor, regard, pleasing quality, good will; from gratus "pleasing, agreeable"; to praise to sing, to celebrate
Gratefulness, or grateful, really means to be full of grace or virtue. The problem is that this fullness of virtue is inately absent in all humanity.
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps isunder their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood:Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:11-19)
When humanity sinned in the Garden (Genesis 3), we should have instantly ceased to exist. God is life, and to disobey God is to disobey living. Our existance, an act of Divine Creative Grace, is what we sinned against. It would be as if all humanity and the plant would have immediately reverted back to the formless, dark void of Nothing (Genesis 1:1-2). There should not be a place in the universe where sinners exist in eternal rebellion to the Life-Giver. Our existance is a universal anomaly.
God, however, chose to bestow upon us Divine Redemptive Grace. God chose to favor, to pardon, to extend good will to a race of beings whose existance would forever be marred with rebellion and the perversion of His designs toward evil. God chose to encapsulate humanity in a bubble called grace, in anticipation of God supreme act of grace, Jesus. All the evil we experience, as heinous as it is, while not being what God wants, is encapsulated in his grace so that we may simply exist and have a chance to know him.
Actions have consequences, and while God choses to extend grace of salvation, we still live in the hell of human existance pervaded by evil influences and actions. The hell humanity experiences, all of it, is the consequence of human choice, and God honors freedom. God could choose to start over, could despise our choice, and simply remove his grace, and he would be justified to do so. "If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust." (Job 34:14-15).
Our lives are grace, undeserved and unrepayable.
To add to this grace of existing (in fact the foundation of this grace and the reason for it), is the grace God gave us when he gave us Jesus. Not only do we get the opportunity to exist and know God, but, we have been given Jesus. In getting Jesus, who is God-incarnate, we have the chance to recieve the adoption of being God's children. In receiving this adoption, we gain an inheritance. Of all universal creatures, humans are the only ones who can call God "Dad". The grace of existance is grounded firmly in the grace of salvation. We have been so filled with grace that we are "grace-full" or grateful.
This leads us to thankfulness
to recompense, reward; it carries the idea of "in loving memory" (to think, to feel)
Gracefullness (gratefulness) should lead to the thought-filled and emotion-filled outpouring toward and for God. This is why we give thanks. When we say grace, we are not in fact saying grace, as if we are imputing grace into the food for our betterment. We are in fact giving thanks to God for the grace he has bestowed in giving us food. When we look around at what is provided for us, even the slimest existence is a grace to give thanks for.
Evil is everywhere. Burma's Junta and the genocide of the Rohingya, N. American chattel slavery and is effects, the destruction of the Native American people, ENRON, the Atom bomb dropped in Japan, the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, the Economic rape of Africa, ISIS, the economic disparity between the western world and other countries, the economic disparity within the western world, the countless sex traffic rings trafficing men, women, and children to rapist and pedophiles...evil is everywhere.
Yet here we are, existing in the bubble of God's grace.
And when finite time meets the eternal time, and I come to God with the evil done unto me and other, God assures me when He tells me, "Vengeance in mine; I will repay!"
And for that too, I am thankful.