MERCY, FAITH, & GRATITUDE
Updated: Oct 15, 2022
I had one of those days this week. You know, lots to do yet nothing seemed to go right. It was my son's birthday. He was turning 15, and I woke up early to make him breakfast—a birthday tradition in our household. After I finished cooking, I plopped down on the couch to zone out in front of my phone. Before I knew it, the bus had rumbled down the road to pick him up–which was right when I realized I’d never said Happy Birthday. What a great mom!
Later that day I had some time so I decided to wrap his present. Months ago I’d found this great deal on Apple earbuds. Since he was always trying to steal mine, I knew this would be the perfect gift. When I looked in the back of my closet, where I’d so carefully placed the bag to keep it safe, it wasn’t there. No happy birthday, and now… no present.
I turned the house upside down; looked in every drawer, went through all the bags, rifled through closets, moved furniture. It was no use. The earbuds were gone. One hundred dollars, wasted. What was I going to do?
Frazzled, I admitted defeat and moved on to my next errand: the grocery store. Another tradition of ours is to let the birthday person pick their favorite food for dinner. I hadn’t specifically asked my son what he wanted, (because I forgot) but I had a pretty good idea. You can never go wrong with tacos. So I got in my car and headed to the store.
On the way there I remained out of sorts. What was I going to do for a gift? Could we afford to buy another hundred dollar set of earbuds? Not really. Did I have time to search for another present? No. Would he be happy with cash? Why hadn't I asked him what he wanted for his birthday dinner? Can you tell the mom-guilt was really getting me down?
It was about this time that I began to notice the beautiful Fall colors around me. They reminded me of the theme I’d been working on for church this week: to Be Grateful! This is an especially easy thing for me to do this time of year. You can’t go anywhere in New Hampshire without feeling wowed by God’s creation. In fact, I’m guaranteed at least one breath-taking moment each Fall, usually on my way up to church on a Sunday morning. This seemed as good a time as any to practice what I was about to preach. I spent the rest of my drive taking in the trees and thinking about everything I was grateful for. And it did help. I felt like a new person walking into Walmart—until I had a coughing fit in the middle of the taco aisle.
Suddenly all eyes were on me. “Does she have Covid? Is she contagious? We’d better steer clear! I’m so glad that's not me.” I was positive these were all the thoughts of the shoppers around me as they watched me struggle.
Grabbing the nearest can of refried beans, I booked it out of Walmart as fast as I could. Back in my car I realized I hadn’t had the chance to look for a new gift. I’d also forgotten the cilantro. On top of that, every grateful feeling I’d dredged up on the drive over had flown the coop. Clearly this was not going to be my day.
I gave up on finding a present, cooked a so-so dinner (in a house I’d recently torn apart), and tried to be grateful. You know what? It was easier than I thought, and surprisingly effective. Each time I turned my thoughts from the negative to the positive, I felt better! When I found out, over the course of my studies, that there was a scientific reason for this, I wasn’t at all surprised. The parallels between what God tells us to do and what’s good for us are just too many to be coincidence.
The ten Lepers in Luke 17 also showed some very positive thinking. Life really wasn’t going their way. After developing a skin disease, they were cast out of society, which was a tremendous misery. Considered cursed by God, they had to leave their friends and family to live on the outskirts of town where they scavenged for food. They wore torn clothing, unkempt hair, covered their lower faces and had to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever they went. Shunned, sick, hungry, dirty, tired, alone... I'm sure they were at the end of their rope.
When the Leper’s saw Jesus, their shouts changed.
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
Claiming Jesus as Master is important here. The Lepers seemed to know what he was capable of. Perhaps they'd heard stories about his other miracles, or that he wasn't afraid to touch the unclean. Jesus heard their pleas and told them to show themselves to the priest. (Only a priest could look over someone and declare them disease free).
The Lepers didn’t hesitate to obey his command. They didn't wait, they went. And it was as they were going that they were healed. What a fantastic example of walking in faith! When things are difficult. When we’re called to make decisions we’re unsure about, walking forward in faith is often the best move we can make. The Lepers believed they would be healed. They didn’t even need proof before they did as they were commanded. They moved forward in faith and were made whole in the process.
In this gospel story many things happen. Jesus shows mercy, the lepers express faith, and all ten are healed, yet only one turns back to give thanks--and it's the Samaritan. It’s interesting that the scripture makes this distinction. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews. Half Israelite and half gentile, in the eyes of the Jews they defiled the true religion. A Samaritan would have been ostracized by Jewish society even without being a leper. Singling this man out as the one who gave thanks is another lesson. Jesus shows his mercy and love to all, no matter who you are, what others think of you, how good you are, or how worthy.
Why didn't the others turn back? I bet they were just as thankful as the Samaritan. We're not told why, but we do know how Jesus reacts. He wasn’t too impressed. “Where are the other nine? Didn’t I heal all ten? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this outsider?” And then, to the Samaritan he says, “Rise and Go; your faith has made you well.”
Mercy, Faith, and Gratitude. These are just a few of the lessons we can find in this scripture. The Lepers had a tremendous amount of faith in obeying Jesus before they were even healed, Jesus showed an awesome amount of mercy in healing them, but it’s gratitude that makes the biggest impact. It's gratitude that stirs the emotions of Jesus and lands his words on the page for all to read two-thousand years later.
Giving thanks can make a huge impact in our life as well. As I said earlier, even the science proves it. Studies show our brains release serotonin, the happy hormone, when we express thankfulness. Isn’t that amazing? I can attest to this on my no good, very bad day. Every time I let the bad in, I focused on the good and things just turned around. My stress melted away. My outlook of doom shifted.
My challenge to you this week is to express gratitude as many times as you can. Not only in your prayers and praise to God, but to each other. Turn your attitude to gratitude and, even if things aren’t going your way, I'll bet you'll feel better.