Kids are funny. A couple of weeks ago, we had some friends staying with us who brought with them their two children - a two year old daughter and a six month old son. They were both endearingly precious and hilariously entertaining as we experienced all the idiosyncrasies that young children can bring.
Around supper one evening, the two year old, named Allie, wanted some cheese which, her father informed me, is her favorite food, as it is mine. As a fellow "cheese-head," I happily went to the refrigerator to get Allie some cheese. Upon delivering the cheese to her, her mother gave a gentle reminder. "What do you say, Allie?" she asked. Allie turned beat red and dropped her face to the floor. "What do you say?" her mother reminded again, this time in a mildly more serious tone. In her best sheepish voice, Allie replied, "Thank you."
I have found that there are two things that children are regularly remiss to say: "Thank you" and "I'm sorry." What's fascinates me, however, is that it's not just children who have a hard time giving gratitude and offering apologies when they're due. Adults have this problem as well. Sure, we may not turn beat red and drop our faces to the floor, but just try to get a politician to admit a massive mistake. Or consider how many times we have selfishly taken credit for something when we really owed those working behind the scenes a hearty and public thanks.
As we begin reading through Romans, Paul, in Romans 1, opens with these words: "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you" (verse 8). Paul, without a red face and a downward countenance, without any prompting and prodding from his mother, and without any smug tributes to his own accomplishments, says "thank you" to God. And notice, it's the first thing he does: "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you." Paul, it seems, is very liberal and quick with his gratitude.
Sadly, all too often, thankfulness is not a primary posture of our hearts, but a fleeting addendum to our souls, loosely appended to our prayers to God and our relationships with others. We pray to God concerning all our of our pressing needs and overwhelming worries and then wrap up with, "Oh, by the way, thanks for all your blessings, God." Or, a friend helps us with a daunting and challenging task, lending their elbow grease when it is needed the most, only to receive from us a couple of days later, "Oh, by the way, thanks for your help the other day." And thankfulness gets relegated to a paltry postscript again and again.
Rather than subtly tucking his acknowledgments away in some footnote or endnote to his epistle, Paul opens his letter by proudly announcing his gratitude. "First," Paul opens, "I want to say thank you." Shortly, Paul will wade into the tough stuff of life. For instance, in verse 18, when he writes, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men." Shortly, Paul will confront sinners (cf. 1:18-32) and demand righteousness (cf. 6:17-18) and ask for assistance (cf. 16:1-2). But now is a time for thankfulness.
So how about with you? Is a thankful heart a hallmark of your habits, or a mere obligatory appendix to a lengthy laundry list of requests and complaints? Today, begin your activities with a "thank you." Put thankfulness first. Who knows? You may spend so much time being thankful that you find you don't have much time left over to fuss and fret over the worries and cares of this life. Less time to fuss and fret? Why, that's something you can be thankful for right there. I bet you can find more.