One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” ~Luke 17:15-19
Saying “Thank you” is a big deal.
I used to teach high school math. I never thought about it before I became a teacher, but the majority of high schoolers (I could possibly even say ‘people’ here?) do not like math. In fact, most loathe math. So being a “fun” teacher was pretty much out from the beginning. Not if I wanted them to actually do hard work and learn something. Now of all the classes I taught, the most difficult was a class for those students who didn’t pass their standardized test. It was the last period of the day, the class period was about 70 minutes long, and all 35 students (none of whom were math enthusiasts to begin with) were forced to be in the class. I had to take attendance the last five minutes of class because a handful of kids would sneak out early if I was not standing at the door baring their escape.*
The term eventually ended, and I sighed with relief when I was no longer their gate keeper at the end of the school day. About a month later, the students had their test retakes. And that was when a miracle happened. There were students in that class that were well behaved, and doing their best- I just didn’t always have much time for them, as I was spending most of my time trying to figure out which student ducked out of the door with their hoodie pulled up over their head. But it was in the middle of a totally normal day when one of those students came wandering back into my room. Surprised, I greeted him, thinking vaguely that he had not given me any headaches and I really appreciated that. But then he said, “I passed the test. I wanted to tell you, because you were the one who helped me. Thank you.”
I think I just stood there and gaped at him. He probably didn’t know that I was trying really hard not to burst into tears. That I wanted to hug him, possibly adopt him. In all my years teaching, I didn’t remember ever having a student thank me for teaching them. I might have gotten a subway gift card once for teacher appreciation day. And there was another time that someone gave me a cheese and cracker tray for Christmas. But nothing like this. No one coming back after the fact and saying, “Thank you, you made a difference.”
And I remember that kid to this day. If I ran into him, I would thank him for making such a big difference in my life. I’m sure he hasn’t got a clue how much his little act of kindness meant to me. When I remember that moment, I think about those ten lepers that Jesus healed. Running off to celebrate, to tell their families, to- what? I don’t know. But only one came back to thank Jesus. One. And he wasn’t even a Jew. He was the one least expected to give thanks.
And I can’t help but think how often I’ve forgotten to throw myself at Jesus’ feet and thank him. I know I am in a rush, and often forget to thank the people I should. I especially forget to thank God (oops). But giving thanks is a big deal. I repeat: Big. Deal. I know it because of how much that one little thank you from one student touched my heart.
The Bible has a lot of verses on giving thanks. Especially giving thanks to the Lord. But, for the sake of keeping this blog short, there is just one thankful verse you really need: 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
So… just checking, but when would it be a good time to give thanks? So (speaking mainly to myself here) let’s practice our thankfulness. Let’s remember to thank God for even the littlest things. And let’s thank the people in our lives too. Who knows what those little words might do in one tired heart?
Lord, THANK YOU! We thank you for all you have done for us. Give us new hearts- thankful hearts. Help us to be thankful people. Help us to remember all that you have already done, and to trust you for our future. Even when things are going poorly, even when our hearts are so full of sadness and hurt- help us to remember the good you have done, and to trust in the good you are doing. Sometimes saying thank you is a sacrifice for us, it is giving up on our ideas of what is best or right. It is trusting that- somehow- your plan is being worked out in this world. It is trusting that you have already won. We trust you, Lord. We thank you, Lord. You are worthy. And as our hearts are transformed by you, help us to reach those around us with your light, and with your good news. Bless us to be your hands and feet. In Jesus strong name, Amen.
*And there were a few who would sneak out, even if I was standing right at the door telling them not to go. I had to admire their chutzpah.