Grace and Gratitude in Unusual Places

Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. –Matthew 6:25-33 (CEB)

When I go to the gym for my daily workout, I am confronted by a deck of televisions; luckily, they are closed-captioned so everyone can listen to whatever they want and read the screen, if they choose. My favorite stationary bike is in front of one that is always set to one of those home networks, where in fifty-five minutes or less, people miraculously find a new house, renovate three-thousand square feet for a pittance, or flip a condemned property for a ridiculous price. The worst thing, however, is the way I think these shows intend to make the viewer feel: Your house isn’t enough—your home doesn’t have the right paint color, you need a marble bathroom, your closets aren’t walk-ins. . . . the list goes on.

On first blush, watching these shows—albeit for the amount of time it takes me to burn a few hundred calories—made me come home, look around, and think, What if . . .?

What if we sold our house and bought a new one? What if we updated our 1960s bathroom? Maybe we should add on a screen porch? And then I come back to my senses. We have a wonderful home, just the right size for our family, even without a porch. And my mint-green bathroom works just fine.

Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with renovating a house. But it is the underlying attitude that concerns me. When the people whine about not having a garage for their third car, or that the bathroom doesn’t have a jet tub, I want to yell at the television (and at myself and those watching and buying into this perspective): Quit whining!

Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes?” –v.25

Matthew’s account of Jesus’ words in Chapter 6 give us many good guidelines for living. It is here where we get the Lord’s Prayer, among other things. And in 6:25, Jesus reminds us that life is more than food, and the body more than clothing, and if he were asked, I am pretty sure Jesus would say that living is more than the structure in which it takes place.

At this time in our culture, some parts of the media feel the need to observe (and possibly revel in) created tension about food, clothing, and the places we live. In addition to the home networks, there are cooking competition programs and shows about what not to wear; how sad this is. Each of these things can just as easily be topics of health and healing, tradition and teaching, grace and gratitude. What would those television programs focused on those attributes look like?

I haven’t changed which stationary bike I sit on for my workout, but I have changed my perspective. Rather than get upset, I do my own “flip” and use this as an opportunity to find grace and practice gratitude.

When unloading the dishwasher, I silently say words of gratitude that I have this amazing appliance, that I have dishes to eat from, that I have an adequate supply of clean water.

When I clean the bathrooms, I pray words of thanksgiving that I have indoor plumbing and a warm place for a shower. That I have soft towels to wrap myself in when I’m done. That the floor is clean and the mirror isn’t cracked.

When I struggle with what to fix for dinner, I look at my pantry of healthy choices and say grace over it, knowing that I’ll be able to concoct something from those cans of beans, jars of pasta sauce, and tins of tuna.

Each day I am faced with a variety of tasks—house cleaning, commuting to work, paying bills, walking my dogs, cooking meals—that I can consider as chores, or I can count them as opportunities to find grace and practice gratitude. And when I catch myself starting to complain, I recall that there are so many people, both in our own rich country and around the world, who have so little. My abundance is grace. My gratitude is the easiest thing I can offer in response.

Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” –vv.31-33

 

Laura Lapins Willis is the author of Finding God in a Bag of Groceries: Sharing Food, Discovering GraceShe has been observing and writing about others since she was eight years old. She is the first executive director of the South Cumberland Community Fund, which represents the first local philanthropic entity to serve the tri-county area of the South Cumberland Plateau in rural Tennessee. She has served as editor and co-publisher of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger, and is the former director of the Community Action Committee outreach program. As often as not, you can find her on the back porch of her home in Sewanee, Tennessee.