Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28b)
Anything from a ray of sunlight warming my knees as I sit on the sofa, to the cheep of a chickadee, to a hot cup of tea, a tasty treat, time with loved ones, a good story, the hush of a snowfall, the laughter of a child, a power nap, a shared smile . . . and even the less obvious: enjoying the clean floors after mopping, hanging fresh clothes in the closet, washing the pots and pans that made a meal, and neverending clutter (the evidence of a living family!).
The simple (yet profound) act of saying, “Thank you, Lord,” for each and every gift has opened the door to a much deeper and more intimate relationship with God than I was able to have before. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, enter his courts with praise.” It really is an open-sesame to the presence of God.
I know though, when life is grim, giving thanks can feel next to impossible. Food tastes like gravel, material possessions seem meaningless, and sunshine taunts an overcast soul.
But it turns out giving thanks is a veritable life line.
We live in a physical world of matter, so much so that naturalists believe this is all there is, that there couldn’t possibly be a supernatural realm as well. But what if the two are intertwined? God is omnipresent, which means he is everywhere: all at the same time. Have you ever pondered the infinity of the universe? The scientists say the universe is expanding – yet how is this possible? There is no “space” outside of space, so where does the room come from to expand into, so to speak?
Well, think about it this way: if the universe exists within the omnipresent God, who is infinitely big, the universe can expand forever and ever and never come up against a wall. It’s fascinating to think about. But what’s my point? My point is that if you want to experience the presence of God, why not consider the senses as a gateway of sorts?
The omnipresence of God could be why pagans throughout history have been so inclined to worship nature. They sense (feel) the presence of God in his created things, but don’t necessarily look any further. So they worship the flower rather than the One who made it. It was God who created all matter and space – even linear time (the universe had a beginning). As C.S. Lewis said, “He likes matter; he invented it.” Being made of matter is what enables us to have a physical existence in a physical universe. It is also what makes it possible for us to feel the presence of God.
To be close to someone physically, we need to be in their presence.
Think of the infant whose attachment to mom is entirely through the senses. We need to either see the person, hear them, touch them, kiss them, smell them, or feel their spirit, to maintain a connection. The ways to achieve this are obvious with people and animals, but it may not be quite as obvious with God. Or so one might think.
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. (Psalm 89:11)
In my last post, Pt.3, Good Himself, I looked at mankind’s love of storytelling and heroes. The same theme is used again and again of a good man, a saviour, willing to sacrifice his very life in order to save the lives of others: Good must always triumph over evil.
Ever wondered what an ideal life would be like? An Edenic existence?
Would it be like a luxury vacation, drinks on hand; housekeeping fairies to make your bed and put fresh towels in the bathroom; gourmet chefs to prepare your meals, staff to wash the dishes. Would it be like Downton Abbey where you don’t even have to dress yourself?
If yes, then many people already enjoy this ideal life. But are they happy?
Substance abuse, eating disorders, infidelity, divorce, and suicide rates amongst the very rich suggest they are not. Furthermore, those housekeeping fairies are actually real people who have to work hard. Not everyone can live the life of Riley, because Riley requires a host of servants.
Adam and Eve, however, led the original Edenic life, and they did not have servants. Nevertheless, they were required to tend the garden. And anyone who has tended a garden knows this is grubby work involving soiled knees and dirt-caked hands. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15).
Were Adam and Eve thankful to have all their needs provided for, working for pleasure rather than sustenance? Were they content? It seems they were not. Why else the forbidden fruit? Why does anyone taste forbidden fruit unless they hope, deep down, that this is the final thing they need to be fulfilled?
Ann Voskamp, best-selling author of One Thousand Gifts, says the first sin stemmed from a spirit of ingratitude. C.S. Lewis said it came from pride, just as it did for Lucifer. But these are not contrary statements, since pride and ingratitude go hand in hand: when we have a sense of entitlement (pride), thinking we deserve better (discontentment), we become ungrateful.
So, what happened to Adam and Eve when they became prideful and ungrateful, setting themselves up to be gods, and ate the forbidden fruit?
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
1) Tending a garden before the earth was cursed must have been a very pleasant thing, despite the labor involved and the grimy hands. Climatic conditions meant a perfect amount of water and sun to keep things growing optimally. Indeed even today many people enjoying gardening and consider it therapeutic. But after the Fall, this burden to produce all our own food became back-breaking labor for many people; particularly in unfavorable conditions like heat and drought. It would seem all the joy was sucked out of it.
2) The very thing (dirt) that brings us life is the very thing that will one day absorb the life out of us too (death). The peach comes with a pit.
3) What we refer to as the Curse, the Fall, might also be the cure. The cure for ingratitude.