Receiving the Gift

This past year I had an unusual visitor to my office. As the woman was ushered in to see me, I could immediately tell that she was emotionally spent, and deeply touched by something that had happened to her. She was devoting much of their energy to hold back her tears. Her story seemed to rush out with a mixture of awe and excitement. She explained that her twenty-something son had been involved in a life-threatening auto accident. His car had been totaled, and arriving on the scene the EMTs assumed the worse. Beyond anyone’s wildest expectation, the young man walked away from the wreckage without a scratch to show for it. This woman had not understood the seriousness of her son’s situation until a police officer stopped by their house the following day. He’d seen accident the day before and came to the house to tell this young man that his survival was a miracle. (How often does a police officer do this?)

Now this young man’s mother was in my office. I asked her why she’d come. She said: I don’t know why I am here, but I know I must do something. Her heart was welling up with gratitude, but she had no idea what to do with it. She knew she needed to express it, but where and to whom? Thanksgiving can only be given in two ways: as an obligation or as an opportunity. We may feel when something miraculous happens to us that we have an obligation to thank God for it. Like the woman who came to see me, we know we are indebted. We know something is required. But, do we also see gratitude as an opportunity? Luke, the gospel writer, tells us that one day ten lepers approached Jesus to beg for healing. Their future could only be described as hopeless and shameful. Jesus sent them away with his miraculous healing blessing, but Luke tells us that only one of these healed lepers returned to thank Jesus. Jesus says to this man:

“Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Jesus explains to this man that his act of returning to Jesus to give thanks completed the gift. It was this man’s opportunity to connect the dots in his life, to remember the gift of health he’d received, and to acknowledge what had been done for him. Thanksgiving is an opportunity for us, and opportunity to return to the scene of the gift, to bring a word of gratitude to the giver, and to complete the joy of receiving the gift as well.

May you seize the opportunity of this thanksgiving to seize the joy of the gifts God has given to you.

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