It’s only natural to thank someone when they do something nice for you. Maybe your mom knit you a new sweater. Maybe your dad helped you chop firewood for the winter. Maybe your kids helped clean up the house. The list can go on forever, and should.
And it’s also completely natural to thank God when He does something for you. If we would take the time to write down and be grateful for all God has done for us, it would take hours and many sheets of paper.
If you’ve ever made a gratitude list for all God’s blessings, I have a sneaking suspicion that no matter how long the list is, you probably left off one of the most important items, YOU.
A grateful heart finds things to be thankful for almost without effort. The late afternoon sunshine on the trunk of a tree. The dew on the flower buds. The artistic shadows on the sidewalk. And of course there are your friends and family. And a host of more obvious things to be grateful for.
But have you ever thanked God for you?
Add yourself to your gratitude list
Frankly, it had never even occurred to me to do so until just yesterday. I’ve always (well, most of the time) tried to be grateful for all the good in my life. I’ve even gotten to the place where I am grateful for the challenges that come my way because they force me to turn to God more earnestly than I might have otherwise.
But I had never thanked God for myself, for making me.
Oh, I had thanked him for giving me wisdom and all the qualities and attributes He has endowed me with, but I had never just been grateful for me as a whole as I would for another person.
It almost sounds odd even writing about it. But I am convinced that we need to add ourselves to our gratitude lists.
From one perspective this might seem selfish and egotistical. I have known more than one person who considered themselves to be God’s gift to the universe in a very egotistical way. And yet I have met others who realize they have a God-ordained presence in the world and humbly go about fulfilling their purpose.
We are all too familiar with Jesus’ words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But do we really obey him? Do you love yourself just as much as you love others? It’s a matter of balance. We could substitute gratitude for love in this command: Be as grateful for yourself as you are for your neighbor.
Why is it hard to be grateful that God made you?
Basically we are too hard on ourselves, or too lenient. But the problem here is we are looking at ourselves from our own perspective, from other people’s perspective, and all too often from the perspective of a harsh, judgmental theology that magnifies our sins instead of washing them away.
If you want to see how totally awesome you are, go read Psalm 139. I love verse 14: “I praise you [God], for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (ESV)
You are wonderfully made. Isn’t that just amazing!
Just take that in for a minute.
But then, we usually come back with “Yeah, but…” We suddenly remember the sins and mistakes we’ve made and just don’t feel we’re worthy of such grandeur. We feel this way even when we have discovered and accepted the saving message of Jesus Christ. These things should not so be.
We’re not supposed to be grateful for our sins, but neither are we supposed to allow past mistakes to keep us from present and future good. Jesus said that we are the light of the world. He said that first to a multitude of people who were no different from you and me. Some were holier than others, no doubt, but they had all done something in their lives that was in disobedience to God. They had all committed sins of either greater or lesser magnitude.
BUT, Jesus didn’t say just the holier ones were the light of the world. He told them they were all – even with all their worries, fears, and burdens of past mistakes – the light of the world. Each one.
You are still the light of the world
That means you and me. Even though we have sinned, we are still the light of the world. Here’s the thing. Your sins are not the light. But they are not part of you either.
That’s why you are still the light of the world even though you have made mistakes. If you fell in the mud and were so dirty no one recognized you, it doesn’t mean the mud is part of you. It will wash off. It’s the same with sin. Your true nature as a child of God is not sinful, no matter what some man-made theologies demand you believe. The sin is no more part of you than the mud you fall in. Christ washes away the sin, just as water washes away the mud.
And just because you got muddy one or more times, doesn’t mean you can’t walk down the street with a candle or a flashlight to help others find their way in the darkness. In fact you might still have a little dirt on you and still be able to hold the light. Who knew? Apparently Jesus did.
Just because you’ve sinned does not mean you are no longer the light of the world. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to get rid of all sin in your life. It just takes a while.
All that said, to say this: You are the light of the world. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Own that about yourself. Be grateful for yourself as the light that Jesus saw you to be. Be grateful that God made you.
Paul says, “For we are his [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
You are grateful for others. Others are grateful for you, no doubt. Accept their gratitude as valid. If they can be grateful for you, you must be worth their gratitude. So,… be grateful for yourself as well.
Here’s a simple little prayer: Thank You God for making me.
That’s it. Don’t try to find excuses or reasons or justifications for why you should be grateful for yourself. Just do it.
Hopefully, your prayer will go on from there, but it’s a good place to start.
But what if you’re feeling just the opposite? Have you ever heard someone say, or felt yourself, “I wish I had never been born.”? That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what I’m talking about here.
If you ever find yourself hurling those feelings from the depths of your anguished soul, please stop. And pray instead, even if you may not totally feel it at the time, “God, thank You for making me. I don’t know why You created me, but thank You any way. You must have created me for a reason or I wouldn’t exist. You must have a greater purpose for me than I can see right now. So, thanks again for making me. And thanks in advance for showing me the “me” You made me to be.”
Take a baby step first
If that seems too much to ask, then take a baby step of gratitude for yourself. If it’s your task to wash the dishes and your spouse unexpectedly did it for you, hopefully you would thank them. So what do you do when you do something nice for yourself or someone else? How about thanking yourself.
I am the one who takes out the trash in our home. But do I ever stop and thank myself when I do it? Absolutely not. In almost 29 years of marriage, I have never thanked myself for taking out the trash. It’s my job. It’s no big deal (unless I put if off). So the next time I do one of my little household chores, I am going to say, “James, thank you for doing that.”
I invite you to join me in this little exercise.
We need to be grateful for ourselves. It may start with the small and seemingly insignificant things, but the more we do it the better we get and we can feel our worth and be grateful for the whole package, the whole “us.”
I am grateful for myself. Thank You God for making me.
I am grateful for you, dear reader. I thank God for making you.
P.S. I just came back from lunch and after I finished washing the dirty dishes I thanked myself. It felt a little funny, but I did it and in another way it felt good. Let me know how you are grateful for yourself.