I'm reading Brennan Manning's book The Ragamuffin Gospel right now for one of my classes. On page 80 he tells the story of a meeting he held in Louisiana, after which a man he didn't know handed him an envelope, which he later discovered held a $6,000-check. He decided to send the check to a man he had met the week before, who had 10 children, three of whom had already died because of the poverty they experienced subsisting off the garbage of the town trash heap in Juarez, Mexico. Manning related this to the first beatitude ("Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven") and wrote:
"He wrote me nine letters in two days - letters overflowing with gratitude and describing in detail how he was using the money to help his own family and other neighbors at the dump. That gave me a beautiful insight into what a poor man is like. When he receives a gift he first experiences, then expresses, genuine gratitude. Having nothing, he appreciates the slightest gift. ...The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become - the more we realize that everything in life is a gift."
I think I generally recognize and am grateful for the "small" gifts in my life. To name a couple...I am at least 75% certain I will never have children of my own. But with the family I live with right now, God has allowed me to experience the joy of everyday life with a baby. I am safe; all my basic needs are met; and I have many blessings besides, including a vehicle, a cell phone, shelves and shelves of books, and an education. And I do my very best to take note when little things I pray for are answered, in expected or unexpected ways.
But there is one gift...the greatest gift I have been given...which is so difficult for me to receive with "merely" a "Thank You." It is the gift of salvation...salvation by grace, in fact. Manning's entire point is that we cannot save ourselves; therefore, we should lay aside our false sense of security (or lack thereof) based on our own religious activities (or lack thereof).
When I think about the great gift Jesus has given me, I am completely overcome with thankfulness and a keen sense of my own humility...and even the awe-inspiring awareness that God loves me! But it is so hard to just accept it...because I don't understand it.
This is my prayer:
God, please help me to come to some sort of comprehension of this great gift You have given me...and of the fact that I can neither inspire nor dissuade Your love for me by anything I do. Help me to live a life of gratefulness for this gift, and to share the liberating grace of it with others. Thank You for the extraordinary gift of Your love, which I have never done a single thing to earn. Even in my lack of understanding, the mere glimmer of the knowledge that You love me fills me with hope and joy and, yes, overwhelming gratefulness!