snack bars and the theology of gratitude


If we have one aim in child-rearing, I’m beginning to believe it should be to teach and exemplify gratitude. If we ever discipline, let it be to encourage a grateful heart. 

Here’s why.

There is only one store that sells their snack bars at a reasonable price, so I go there to buy them because I enjoy doing special things for my boys. Their habit is to wake very early, way before I’m prepared to whip up some breakfast, so they ask for milk and a snack bar, and then they snuggle with us during our quiet time. 

An organic snack bar with a Sesame Street character on the package is granted, and so are clothes, toys, hot meals, a variety of drinks, and our tenderness toward each of their strange personalities. It is granted that I kiss them when their faces are near and that I clean and change them when they’re dirty. It is granted that their daddy and I love each other. They know no other way. We know no life without innumerable gifts, whether the scale be large or small.

 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

A two year old writhes in the floor, kicking in anger – in rejection of a broken snack bar – screaming, “It’s broken. I don’t want it to break.” 

I know his perspective because I often share it; I am right and I have my rights.  I believe that it is my right to go on vacation to the beach. It is my right to wear a new dress to the party. It is my right to prove my point and to win arguments. These things, of course, are not true. 

He believes he deserves an unbroken snack bar because in receiving so many gifts, he has believed that he earned the gifts. (What, by helping me clean the house?!) “For in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed” (Romans 1:17a), which means that my own unrighteousness is revealed, my own unrightness. 

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21)

Acknowledging our minimal rightness and our innumerable gifts is one of the greatest ways to live out the Gospel.

Recognition of Gifts builds a Backbone of Trust, and when we trust, we have patience and faith that the Father, as only He can, will follow through with our care, our good, our salvation.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Phil. 2:14-15)

Gratitude shines the light of the truth on our hearts. Gratitude makes us shine like stars. Gratitude spurs acts of grateful obedience and calls the Father our rightful Master, our completely graceful Redeemer. Complaint, self-glory, and self-righteousness leads to a darkened heart, where we become our own ruin, and this is God’s rightful and very reasonable wrath. He is the  Righteous Gifter, Creator God.

All of this thinking has caused me to ask what it really is that I believe about my rights and my own righteousness. As I am with my children, with more experience and knowledge, God is with me (except multiplied by infinity.) 

Yes, the snack bar has broken in half.  Yes, we work a 400 hour work week. Yes, the divorce and the cancer. Yes, misunderstandings and hurt feelings … volcanoes, ice storms, and puberty.

But, Over All, look at Him, invisible, everywhere, clearly seen, eternal, and YES, shine about Him all over your children, all over the neighborhood, all over the universe.

amberhaines
About me

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18 Comments

Cassie
Reply June 23, 2009

You got me thinking this morning.

Cassie’s last blog post..updates my love

Lora Lynn
Reply June 23, 2009

well said and well worth saying. thank you, friend.

Lora Lynn’s last blog post..Unfit

Jo@Mylestones
Reply June 23, 2009

"Acknowledging our minimal rightness and our innumerable gifts is one of the greatest ways to live out the Gospel."
"And yes the snack bar has broken in half, and yes.....But Over All look at Him...."
Such beautiful uncomfortable truth you've spoken here. Thank you.

Jo@Mylestones’s last blog post..The Age of Exploration

Audra
Reply June 23, 2009

I am loving your writing, this week especially. Never have thought of the broken cookie problem as them wanting their rights! My mom said she wishes you wouldn't write so great, it's intimidating! :)

Audra’s last blog post..Where has she been all my life?

Kara
Reply June 23, 2009

what a lovely post - so true, thank you!

Kara’s last blog post..Happy Father’s Day

Megan @ Hold it Up to the Light
Reply June 23, 2009

You have sure put all the temper tantrums over broken food items into perspective. Thank you friend!

Megan @ Hold it Up to the Light’s last blog post..Save My Sumatanga

Stephen
Reply June 23, 2009

Thanks for more lovely ponderables, Amber.

In a long season of broken snack bars, I am thankful for breath and thunder and crumbs. My greatest challenge? Embracing the silence of God as a gift. (Do you know "The Silence of God" by Andrew Peterson? One of my favorite songs. It throbs with a vivid and familiar truth-ache.)

One thing I am learning, though: God's sort of quiet can reveal the cluttery noise. Still unwrapping that gift.

Stephen’s last blog post..s.d.o.n.d.

Jess
Reply June 24, 2009

this is SO good and SO true . . . I especially love this:

Recognition of Gifts builds a Backbone of Trust, and when we trust, we have patience and faith that the Father, as only He can, will follow through with our care, our good, our salvation.

That is perfect. Yes, gratitude should be our only goal in parenting . . . and my only goal for myself . . . to give thanks in all things. To acknowledge the gifts all around and how very little I deserve them. Thanks for the reminder. (Love your blog!)

Kelly
Reply June 24, 2009

Not in this place today, but appreciating the truth of the reminder. I'll growl at God about it for a while, I suppose. I love your writing - you challenge me to think more creatively about the stuff I slap into syntax.

Kelly’s last blog post..Good Intentions, the Road to Hell, and All That...

brittney
Reply June 24, 2009

You're always great at getting me thinking. I'm encouraged to know I'll have this as a reminder when I have children in the future.

brittney’s last blog post..Bindi's Beetle Battle

Hallie
Reply June 24, 2009

Hey Amber--

Just thought you'd like this one; a post on mercy with a good true story.

http://www.mycharmingkids.net/2009/06/mercy.html

(I'm not trying to get you to read her blog or anything, just another one from her that I think you'll dig.)

Your pal, Hal.

    Amber
    Reply June 24, 2009

    Thanks, Hal. Your'e right that was a great post, and it's actually the second MyCharmingKids post recommended to me this week.

Hillary @ The Other Mama
Reply June 24, 2009

Very well said. I love this!

Hillary @ The Other Mama’s last blog post..Miss {and Master} Piggy

laura
Reply June 24, 2009

that was one of the most beautiful and thoughtful posts I've read in a very long time.

laura’s last blog post..update

jubilee
Reply June 25, 2009

Still mulling this one over. It's a good one, for sure.

One thing that we do at dinner is to talk about the good things that happened that day and what we are thankful for. And we all participate and must say at least one thing. I've noticed that the couple of family members who have the hardest time coming up with an item are the ones who need the reminder most.

jubilee’s last blog post..A Paradox of Heated Proportions

Minnesotamom
Reply June 30, 2009

You're so right--most parenting can be boiled down to that: cultivating an attitude of gratitude while identifying feelings of entitlement so they might be dealt with. Great post.

Minnesotamom’s last blog post..I Heart Faces – Wedding Bells

Jess
Reply July 9, 2009

Amber, this post has stuck with me . . . I write a little parenting column for our little paper in our little town; going to quote you this week! (It's not online, or I would link to you :)

Cosmochristianchick
Reply March 6, 2012

Great blog! Thanks for reminding me how undeserving I am of Gods gifts and how blessed I am that he still chooses to give them to me.

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