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Finding Gratitude

May 1st, 2007 | 5 min read

By Keith E. Buhler

Perhaps it is a confession of vanity, but when I was in my teenage years, I hated zits. I was perhaps no more pimply than the other folks at my high school, but it was enough! I hated the deleterious effect zits had on my appearance. My already tenuous ability to attract any sort of attention from the fairer sex left me resentful of anything that, in my mind, might set me even further back, especially in the area of physical attractiveness. I reacted to these and other physical imperfections by disliking the body that God gave me, and by envying the beautiful physical appearance of my friends and classmates.

I remember when my older brother turned 22 or 23, he mentioned that his skin had cleared up; he no longer got zits. For whatever reason, the body and its chemical make-up had adjusted to post-puberty, and facial acne became not a problem. As the younger brother, I heard this with great hope and expectation!

I am twenty-four now, and my succeptibility to those nasty little red visitors on my face and skin have long since passed away. I do not remember when they stopped, they just did. Whether their absence has had any effect on my physical appearance I am not one to say, and perhaps I do not want to know! It reminds me of the story of the young basketball player who blamed his limited athletic ability on not having Air Jordan shoes. Someone offered to by him a pair and he said No, “because if with Air Jordons I am still no good at basketball, I won’t have an excuse!”

However, this relatively minor youthful complaint that I had for the better portion of my high school and college years was resolved without my notice. It makes me wonder: How many small (and not-so-small) answers to prayer, how many valuable gifts, and resolutions of long-held tension, have also been given to me without my commemorating, let alone noticing, them? Worse, how many such small blessings have come to me in response to which I have merely responded with an entitled feeling of, “Finally.” “Glad that’s over.” “It’s about time.”

Gratitude is a great Christian virtue. The opposite of envy, it is one of Paul’s fruits of the spirit (contentment, joy, etc.), and it is the subject of high praise in our Lord’s parable about the ten lepers, only one of whom returns to thank Jesus for the gift of healing. We can learn from this parable, among other things, that being grateful to God for his gifts is a matter of at least some intentionality. It is a decision we make, either to commit acts of gratitude or to omit them. It is a skill that can be practiced and learned, or, left fallow to grow stale and atrophy.

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