Sep 16 2008

Gratitude

Remember the Tanzanian children’s choir I wrote about in my last post? Well, it turns out that their matinee performance that day was only a taste of what was to come — an actual full-fledged concert at Friday’s chapel.

And what I thought was powerful and moving at lunch barely compared to what I experienced on Friday. In fact, it didn’t compare at all.

gratitude-tanzania-childrens-choir

As the kids took the stage, the lighting was almost dimmed by the luminosity of their smiles; they began singing, much like they did Monday at lunch, and despite the different setting, their energy and enthusiasm was unchanged.

The intensity of their voices and the authenticity of their faith, joy, and gratitude were unchanged. Impervious. And that wasn’t even the inspiring part.

The last song they performed was a ballad, a deeply captivating song about children in poverty. The words alone moved me to tears, but hearing it sung by children in poverty was almost unbearable.

The lyrics were written from an outsider’s perspective, but they were sung by those inside the circumstance. As the children sang, I pictured them securely resting in the arms of our Lord as He looked down on family and friends and asked the same question we all ask: Why?

The performance caused goose-bumps to erupt up and down my arms. As they sang the chorus one last time, instead of singing about “other children,” they sang about themselves. And in addition to thanking God for His love, they thanked us, the audience, for our support and provision.

As moving and inspiring as it all was, nothing compared with how it ended.

As they stood, singing, several girls started crying. Not just one glistening tear. They began to sob. Shoulders heaving and little bodies convulsing. It was like a domino effect.

I think I went into spiritual shock. I couldn’t move, couldn’t blink. I could only absorb . . . and it was overwhelming.

I have always considered myself to be a somewhat mature Christian, having gone through my valley and mountain top spiritual seasons and coming out stronger and wiser for it. I thought I understood the grace and love of God. I thought I had some idea of the desperate dependence that the Lord calls us to live in daily, carrying our crosses and following His lead. I thought I had tasted His sovereignty and His provision. And for all of it, I have considered myself grateful and thankful for all those things.

But I discovered that my gratitude was about as deep as a kiddy pool compared to the spiritual depth and experience that I saw emerge from the hearts of those children.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that very few of us (if any) have ever been in a position in which meals were not guaranteed on a daily basis or our friend’s livelihood was not guaranteed when the sun came up. That a parent’s ability to provide was a prayer and not a promise. As much as I wanted to identify with these kids, I could not.

The reason we had nothing in common was because their gratitude poured forth from hearts that were grateful for spiritual life and the salvation of their souls.

They were grateful that they didn’t feel sick that day, that their families were being helped by Compassion. They were grateful because their sponsors loved them and cared enough to send $32 a month. They were grateful because gratitude was all they had to give.

How many of us want to be that grateful? Harder still, how many of us are willing to learn how to be that grateful?

If you want to know and have the gratitude that those children had, be prepared to understand why they have it. It is all that they have. The lives they lead are not radical; they are Biblical.

Where does your devotion lie?

Who or what holds the keys to your heart? Your joy? Your peace?

The only thing I truly know is this: when we have been brought to our knees at the foot of the cross, every hindrance aside, not only is our gratitude more pure and undefiled, but we are in the perfect place to receive His grace.

I want to rest there. Will you come with me?

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  1. Sep 16, 2008
    at 8:10 am

    Thank you for sharing this experience, Meredith. As I wipe tears away, I can only wish I had been there.

    I’ll bet the girls on stage weren’t the only ones sobbing.

  2. Chuck Guth
    Sep 16, 2008
    at 9:49 am

    Wow! Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Sep 16, 2008
    at 10:28 am

    Beautiful post, Meredith.

    Here are my follow-up thoughts. Like you, I want to live in that gratitude. I’ve done it before, thanks to some excruciating life circumstances.

    But I’ve found that, as life returns to “normal,” the dependent living slips away. I become my more “normal” self-sufficient self.

    So I’m trying to figure out lately: How can I live with the gratitude and dependence depicted by these children — even though I’m not living in a Third World country and/or not living through a really hard time.

    I know God uses the valley. But I’d like to think I can walk with him just as closely on the mountain top.

  4. Sep 16, 2008
    at 10:43 am

    Wow, my arms have goose bumps and my eyes are all wet.

    Thank you so much for that today!

  5. Sep 16, 2008
    at 12:08 pm

    Wow!

    I really wish that I could have been there for that.

    To think that this can happen (and did happen) just because of sponsor’s just blows my mind away

  6. Sep 16, 2008
    at 1:36 pm

    This is awesome…I’m sure we all wish we could have been there. Thank you for sharing it with us! Today I am thankful that God has blessed me and my family so that we can reach out and sponsor Children through Compassion!

  7. Sep 17, 2008
    at 5:19 am

    Thank you so much for this post…it makes you stop and think how much we really do have when we live in a country where *more* is never enough.

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