In my quiet moments, when I count my many blessings, when I name them one by one, and can’t reach list’s end, it comes to me: I don’t deserve this.
In the last few weeks, I had two conversations that remind me I’m not alone in that feeling of unworthiness. “I don’t know why God is so good to me,” said one person. “I’m a worm.” A worm? A very smart one – a former educator and government consultant; a compassionate caregiver and loving spouse. Humble, too.
Years ago, when I first knew the second person I spoke with, he had two large chips on his shoulders, so obvious I dreaded our conversations. One shoulder carried everything he felt the world owed him. The other bore heavy grudges against everyone who didn’t pay up. I don’t see him often, and honestly, don’t want to. But when we ran into each other a few weeks ago, he seemed different. Nicer. More relaxed. Easier to speak with. And the shoulder chips had shrunk. I don’t know what has made the difference, but I like it.
“I wonder why people aren’t more thankful,” he said slowly, as our conversation got around to the current global hemorrhage. “Really, we don’t deserve anything, do we? Not really.”
I almost choked. Thankfully, he didn’t notice. “Nope. Not a thing.”
In a quiet moment in prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor and theologian (jailed and eventually executed for his part in a plot to assassinate Hitler) wrote, “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”
As a young woman, I don’t recall gratitude flooding my soul like it does now. Though I expressed my thanks for my blessings, for gifts given and unexpected kindnesses shown, in some tight corner of my soul, a snarky little voice (promptly disowned) sometimes poked into my grateful thoughts with, “Really, you deserved this. Look what you did. Remember who you are.”
Not so anymore. A louder, truer voice reminds me that on my own, I have nothing. I am nothing. Everything I was, am, or have, and all I ever will be, have or do is mine not because I deserve it, but for one reason only: Grace. God’s grace, flowing to me through multiple faucets – family, friends, total strangers…the list has no end.
You and I can never pay back the graces shown us. But we can keep saying thank you. And for as long as we live, we can be one of the faucets through which God’s grace flows to others.