"Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Rise and go your way. Your faith has made you whole." Luke 17:18-19
The verses above come from the story of Jesus’ healing the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). All were healed but only one returned to give thanks, and a Samaritan man at that. Jesus remarked, “your faith has made you well," or at least that is the typical translation. The word for "well" also means "to be made whole." Jesus had more in mind here than simply a physical healing. The Samaritan's gratitude made him whole. All ten were healed, but only this man was made whole. What is it about thanksgiving that can make us whole?
We begin by asking why God wants us to thank him? Do you think He needs to hear it? We get offended sometimes if we are not thanked. We are in a huff if we don’t get the thank you note. Is God like that? Of course not. So why does he want us to be thankful people?
Like all of God’s commands and directions, not a single one of them is for His benefit. All of them benefit us. When you are thankful you are made whole. You don’t take anything for granted any more. You don’t compare yourself incessantly with others. You don’t constantly regret what you do not have. You don’t spend any time searching for the pinprick of disappointment in your life or in other people. You are thankful, and that thankfulness lifts the soul like nothing else!
I read this story a while back, but do not have the author. He began, “The best gift I ever received and the worst gift I ever receive was the same gift. During the Depression my father was unemployed and we struggled to make ends meet. As Christmas approached I told mom and dad that I wanted a bicycle since most all of my friends had one. They tried to explain our financial situation and prepare me for the disappointment of finding no bicycle on Christmas morning. But to my delight on Christmas day there was a bicycle! It was the best gift I ever received!
"As soon as I could excuse myself I ran outside to show off my new bicycle. My friends pointed out some things about my bike that I had not noticed. My bike didn’t have shiny new chrome handle bars like theirs. It had instead been sanded and painted silver. There were obvious evidences of dents and rust under the fresh paint on the fenders. I realized that my new bike was a used one. My friends made fun of it, and I was humiliated and embarrassed. It was the worst gift I had ever received.
"But as the years passed I remembered that there were no other presents under the tree that year except for my bike. Mom and dad had no money for gifts for each other. They had scraped together enough money to buy an old bike and fix it up as best they could. The bike was not the best in the world, but it represented a love for me that was the best in the world. That was the greatest gift I ever received."
Thanksgiving makes you whole by helping you notice things that you overlooked before. You will see evidences of God’s blessing and love that were always present, but somehow you just rushed by them. You will begin to see your family in a different light, not in terms of the trouble they cause you, but in terms of the joy they bring you. Nature becomes a resplendent and enduring testimony to God's beauty and intricacy. You become "aware," in the deepest spiritual meaning of the word.
Thomas Merton wrote, "Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience." Surely that is what Jesus meant by being made whole.
Grace and gratitude,
November 19, 2012