Every night at the dinner table, my husband and I ask who would like to pray. We're invariably met with two identical shouts of "ME!!" (plus a small argument over who gets to go first), and then treated to the standard nightly refrain:
From our two-year-old:
*glances around the table*
From our four-year-old:
Thank you for this meal. Thank you for this wonderful day.
Every night. The exact same prayers. We've told them that the beginning and the end are the only standard part...they can say anything they want in the middle. We're working on teaching them how to express thankfulness and just speak what's on their heart. They don't quite get it yet, but it's a start...even if for now they've basically created their own repetitive script.
The other night, as I listened to them pray, I was reminded of one of the prayers I used to recite as a kid:
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.
It's a sweet little prayer, and definitely a good way to learn gratitude, but as I thought about it more, I noticed something that gave me pause: It only mentions good things.
Now, I'm not going to get overly critical of a rhyming prayer meant to help kids learn to show thankfulness. BUT...my fear is that my prayers might still sound a bit too much like that:
Thank you for things I have.
Thank you for things that are good.
Thank you for things I enjoy.
Oh, and thank you for, ummm, everything....that should about cover it, I guess.
It's easy to be thankful for the good. When things are rosy, and life is comfortable, there is a lot to say thank you for. But what about when things aren't going so great? What does gratitude look like even in trials? Can I honestly say "thank you God for everything"? Everything?
Here's I was planning to make a cute little list of things I was thankful for...I was going to pay special attention to things that seem like burdens, and spin them into positives. See? Look at me! I'm thankful even for the hard stuff! Such perspective! "Thank you for the toys cluttering my floor because it means we're blessed with things to play with! Thank you for those last five (ish....) pregnancy pounds I can't lose, they're a reminder of the amazing things my body was capable of!"
But I realized that at best, those were basically humble brag prayers. (At worst, they were pretty insincere). I'm not always thankful for the messes in my house, and I'm certainly not in love with my midsection. But if I try hard enough though, I can turn mild frowns upside down. And honestly, it doesn't even require much reliance on God. In fact, it doesn't really involve God at all. It's still about me. Thanks for all the great things I have/I did/I earned/I am, and don't worry, I'm wise enough to find joy even the bad stuff. Tra-la-la!
So not the point. I don't want to force myself into finding a grateful vantage point if I'm just covering up how I actually feel. I can say "bless this mess" all day, without ever actually inviting God into it. Instead, I need to cultivate real thankfulness, which is much harder than just jotting down a list of all the little blessings in my life. It means sitting down to examine my challenges too (and not just the messy playroom kind...I've got to be open to examining the real messes in my heart). It's seeking to learn more about God's character, to understand how He could be using these trials to make me more like Him. Only then, can I truly say: "Thank you God, for everything."