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Gratitude begins where entitlement ends

POSTED: June 5, 2014 5:02 p.m.

There is a saying that gratitude begins when one’s sense of entitlement ends. Have you ever considered how often you feel grateful for something compared to the situations in which you felt entitled?

Many of us who grew up in the 1960s probably felt entitled to more than our parents did. And I expect that trend continues.

Yet, more importantly, we should ask ourselves if we live with an awareness of our blessings. Do we express to God our gratitude for the good things we have received? Or do we only live with a sense of gratitude when things are going well? I must ask myself that question as well.

Dr. Doug Oldenburg, former president of Columbia Theological Seminary, describes a true event of a husband whose wife was gravely ill. Oldenburg was given the man’s diary and reported excerpts from it.

In an entry near the end of the woman’s life, her husband was told by doctors that she might not survive until the morning. The grief-stricken man sat down and wrote this:

“She may die before morning. But I have been with her for four years. . . . There is no way I could feel cheated if did not have her for another day. I never deserved her for a single moment. God knows that.

“And I may die before morning. What I must do now is to accept the justice of death and the injustice of life…. What did I do to deserve birth? It was purely a gift. And I am me, and that is a miracle. I have no right to a single moment …., yet I have had 32 years ….

“But wait,” the entry ends, “I am being given another day. Another day to live and read and smell and walk in glory. I am alive for another day. And she is alive. It’s a gift! Another gift. Thanks be to God!”

This husband inspires me. I hope he inspires you as well. Certainly, being the person God wants us to be includes living with a sense of gratitude, thanking God for all good things.

But what strikes me the most about this man’s thoughts is his sheer joy at experiencing another day. He sees something we all take for granted — another day with those in our lives — as a profound gift, even in the midst of pain.

He does not see himself as being cheated. He does not appear angry. How can he be? For he was never entitled to his blessings; they were always a gift from God.

The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.

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