Learning the Lesson of Gratitude

Luke shares a story with us in his recording of the ministry of Jesus: As Jesus is taking a quick rest while traveling, 10 men with leprosy beg Jesus to heal them. Jesus, as we often see in the Gospel narratives, does not turn away these outcasts from society. He engages with them. 

Jesus gives them all a simple action to undertake: go show yourselves to the priests. This is in line with the guidelines of Leviticus chapters 13 and 14, where only a priest could declare someone to be "clean" of leprosy, and therefore able to rejoin society.

The Luke narrative simply says that, "as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy." 

Obviously, there's a whole angle about obeying Jesus, even when it doesn't seem to make sense in the moment, but that's not what this article is about.

It's about what happens next. 

All 10 men realize that they have been healed, but only one of them stops and returns to Jesus to give thanks. Jesus wonders where the other 9 are, saying "Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?"  

Now, hit pause here. 

When I read this, part of me feels a little frustrated at Jesus. If those other 9 are doing exactly what Jesus said to do, isn't that to their credit? Aren't they getting an A+ there? Yet Jesus gives them all an I for incomplete.

The point is that Jesus doesn't just want to create obedient servants, he wants friends. He wants a relationship, not a routine.

Yes, doing what Jesus says is good, but entering into a relationship with him is the entire point.

In our modern world, everything is always moving at 120 mph and on fire (at least it is in my life, with three kids, two jobs, working on another degree, and this whole side hustle of writing I've got going on.)

If you want to get ahead, you've got to network and build your brand and gain more followers on your social media pages and blah blah blah blah blah.

But at this moment, I want to take a minute to turn back and express some gratitude to Jesus.

Today, my book The Unreasonable Jesus, is being published. It's the first book I've written that is being published (instead of me self publishing it.)

When I think about this, I can't help but look back over the past 3 years of my life and I am grateful.

Nearly three years ago, I started sensing something wasn't right in my life - specifically where I was serving in ministry. What I didn't know was that the whole thing was about to blow up in my face. Not because of a moral or professional failing on my part - I was simply about to be deeply affected by the choices of another person.

Right before I was blindsided, I felt God tell me to start writing again - having written in a small corner of the internet years earlier.

I obeyed, but I didn't see any sort of immediate success. In fact, I wrote a book called A Reason to Hope, but when I reached out to publishers, I was almost universally ignored or rejected. I did meet one publisher who was encouraging, but eventually his publishing company decided my book did not fit with their publishing plans.

While I had the opportunity to publish dozens of articles on national internet platforms, I didn't see much success in making a living out of these efforts - all while I was being forced to find a new way to bring home a paycheck.

I figured that I had misunderstood God's call, or the purpose of my writing.

When I went through a particularly difficult period about a year after being blindsided, I was despondent. I had written another book - one that would eventually come to be called The Unreasonable Jesus, but I didn't have the emotional capacity to send it out to publishers and go through another round of rejection.

Feeling that I had misunderstood or missed out, I decided to self publish the book. It would most likely sell some dozens of copies and fade away.

Three weeks before I threw it out on the internet, I had a thought: "Why not send it to the guy who was kind to me when I tried to publish the last book?"

In retrospect, this was clearly the work of the Holy Spirit (and not the first time an idea has suddenly occurred to me which completely altered my path.)

He immediately asked me to hold off on self publishing, and a couple months later, I was signing my first book deal.

It was another 7-8 months before I was again staring down the barrel of a last chance and once again finding God's open door for my life.

I was invited to join the staff of a local church and found myself on the healthiest church leadership team I've ever seen, much less have been a part of.

Now that this book is coming out, it's funny to have people congratulate me on writing a book when I actually wrote it two years ago. A few people have asked me how many I hope or expect to sell and I always tell them I have no idea and I'm not concerning myself with that.

I can't control whether people will buy this book. I'm simply trying to be faithful to what God has called me to do. If it sells a hundred or a million, I can only do what Jesus told me to do. But today, I want to stop and go back and say, "Thank you." 

He has been faithful to me and my family these past three years (and obviously before that, but I'm simply reflecting on this particular season of life, much like the leprous men were not always leprous, but met Jesus in a moment of great need.)

Whether or not the book sells well, I got a change to publish a book - a great honor.

My family and I are now part of a healthy church leadership team and fantastic church family.

My faith has matured and grown because of what I've been through.

So on this day, when everything is aces for me, I'm going back to the one who dealt me these cards. And I'm telling him more than all these gifts, more than all these blessings, I'm grateful for the fact that he sees me and loves me and is willing to care for me.

I am now, and will ever be, grateful.