We have a rug next to the tub in our bathroom that is fluffy and white. Very fluffy and very white. I dropped something on it the other day and it just disappeared into the fluff. I searched and searched. I raked the rug with my fingers but all I could find was white rug. I was starting to get frustrated but then I got a brilliant idea. At least, it seemed like a brilliant idea.
I picked the fluffy white rug up and shook it out over the tub.
It was startling.
This fluffy white, clean looking rug was filled with grit and grime and all kinds of… stuff. You couldn’t see it at first – I didn’t feel it when I searched through the rug with my fingers. But, when I turned the rug over and shook it out it looked like someone threw a shovel full of Galveston beach in the tub. I still didn’t find what I was looking for, but I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to hurry and clean it up before my wife, Kay, came along and asked why I had turned her bathtub into a hazardous waste site.
I was busily wiping up the grit out of the tub when it struck me: this rug is very much like my life. It looks so fluffy and clean. From the outside it looks completely unsoiled. You can even spend some time with me up close and you might not notice any grit or grime. But, way down deep, trapped in the woven fibers of thoughts, attitudes and desires that makeup who I am, there is grit and grime and all kinds of… stuff.
You might think such a stark picture of how much grit and grime remain inside my heart and mind would be depressing, and maybe it should be.
But, it isn’t.
First of all, I know that stuff is in there. Sometimes when there’s a big enough problem, or if I get my feelings hurt by someone, I get shaken enough for some of that grit and grime to come out of my mouth. So not only do I see it, but so do the people who live closest to me.
Still, instead of being depressed it actually makes me thankful.
As I stared at the grit in the tub, and thought about grit that still resides in me, I felt a rush of gratitude because I believe deeply that God has judged me and declared me “not guilty.” God has declared by his will and his power that in Christ I am righteous and even holy unto him. I’m not indifferent to my need to be more like Jesus tomorrow than I am today, but I am overwhelmed by the wonder of knowing that I share anything with in common with him at all! And I am grateful because I know whatever traits I share with Jesus have been given to me.
Listen to how the apostle Paul says, “thank you.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight…
– Ephesians 1:3-8
God chose us. God adopted us. God blessed us in Jesus. God redeemed us. God forgave us. God lavishes grace on us.
I didn’t do any of that.
I just receive it as God lavishly ladles grace over my grit.
How can I not be thankful?
For a long time, I have thought that the real appreciation for Thanksgiving starts when we see what falls in the tub when we shake out our rug. The roots of genuine gratitude for turkey and family and jobs and pumpkin pie sink deep into the soil of Ephesians 1. Gratitude thrives in us when we see our personal, sinful grit and grime and wonder where we would be without the cross of Jesus. Gratitude transforms us when we look at our grime and reflect on why we need to be adopted in the first place and why we need to be forgiven and redeemed.
It seems to me that so many things the Scripture commands we do – forgive, bear with one another, be generous with other people, etc. – are things that blossom out of a heart overflowing with gratitude. One who knows they have been forgiven for much can forgive. One who knows they have been given riches is free to share.
I always look forward to Thanksgiving. It’s great to be thankful at Thanksgiving. But this year, before I start eating, I might go shake that rug into the tub again, and read Ephesians 1 again, just to make sure I remember why I am most grateful. If I start there, I won’t forget that the myriad of other physical and relational blessings I enjoy are really just the gravy on top of the peace with God that Jesus bought for me.
I invite you to join me this year taking some time to think about being thankful (before you eat yourself into the annual pumpkin pie coma).