In Singapore, Edric and I got our kids to share testimonies with us. This is the one Elijah gave to illustrate the passage in Ephesians about gratitude:
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:17-20
I am growing up in a world where everything is so easily accessible and instant. As an example, my Dad wore his braces for eight years because he did traditional braces (but also because he never went to his appointments). In contrast, my braces are called turbo braces and they only take six months to straighten teeth…but it still feels like a very long time to me.
To be honest, I struggle with being patient and not getting what I want when I want it, but I praise God for my parents who are intentional about teaching my siblings and me how to be content and grateful.
Here are some practical ways they try to teach us this value (please forgive me if this is stuff you have heard before).
Typically, we receive several gifts from our relatives and friends during Christmas and birthdays. Because our parents do not want us to get tired of all our gifts quickly, they only allow us to open one gift at a time.
They want us to learn to wait. For the last two years, Catalina my sister was not allowed to chew gum because my Dad wanted her to wait. She would ask almost everyday and my parents would tell her, “when you turn four.” When she was finally allowed to eat gum just this month on her birthday, she was so happy and grateful, but the downside was she ate almost twenty pieces on the day of her birthday. Thankfully, gum is illegal in Singapore so this will be good for her.
Growing up, if we wanted something and we were fussy about it, our parents would tell us to stop fussing or else we wouldn’t get it. Continued fussing meant we would be disciplined. Instead of fussing, we were encouraged to say okay mommy or okay daddy with a good attitude. When we didn’t get to go to Kinukoniya bookstore the other day and one of my brothers was so disappointed because he researched how to get there and we had walked halfway. But my dad said we would be late to our meeting with the Ccf organizers of the retreat so we had to walk back. My brother started to tear but then he chose to change his attitude and chose to smile despite his bad mood. I know it was hard for him and I was blessed by his good example.
We were also taught by my parents not to be entitled about things like gadgets. When we want to have a gadget, our parents will either give us an old, half-broken hand-me-down or they will make us pay for it ourselves. Once, I asked my parents if I could get an iPad. They said that I would have to use my saved money and money from jobs I did with my Dad, like speaking engagements. After several months of hard work and hard research, I finally saved enough money to pay for 75% of the total price because Dad was gracious. Paying hard earned money for the device taught me that money doesn’t grow on trees. It helped me to learn to appreciate the things I have.
To further teach me about hard work and responsibility, and how to be grateful, Dad took me mountain climbing for four days out in the wild. I had to live with little and life was hard. We climbed over different terrains, like farms, forests, boulder trails, and 87 degree cliffs up the tallest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo. No showers, toilets, and I even learned how to kill a chicken so I could have something to eat. These experiences taught me how to be thankful for everything, even the roof over our heads. After three days of climbing, some kind villagers offered their home for us to sleep in. It felt so nice to have a real roof over our heads and a little more leg room. When I got home it felt like coming back to a five star hotel!
My personal conviction is that gratitude is a byproduct of our perspective on God. If we trust that he loves us and wants what is best for us then we won’t complain if we don’t get what we want.
When I was six, riding in the car with my Mom, I pressed my face against the window because I had a hard time reading the billboards. My mom and dad took me to the doctor and my eyesight was 250. I felt so discouraged. But my parents reminded me of the passage in Jeremiah 29:11, which I also had read in my quiet time. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.
This really comforted me because I knew that even if God didn’t bring healing to my eyes, he had a good plan for me. Today my eyesight has gotten even worse. It’s like 500. Sometimes I get anxious that I may go blind and I feel bad because I keep praying for my eyes and God doesn’t answer with a yes to heal them. But God does remind me to rejoice. Someday I will see clearly in heaven.
If we are followers of Christ, our best life is in eternity and our lives here are so short. So I am looking forward to having perfect eyes in heaven! (And Lord willing, laser surgery when I am old enough.)
I am still learning gratitude and how to be thankful in all things. So please pray for me to always have the right perspective and not be entitled or a complainer.