This past Wednesday I shared some words with you from the end of a chapter in Thomas Merton’s book, No Man Is An Island. Actually those words weren’t at the very end of the chapter–just real close. At the very end Merton discusses the importance of gratitude and it’s role in seeing God in His Creation. He writes, “If we are not grateful to God, we cannot taste the joy of finding Him in His creation. To be ungrateful is to admit that we do not know Him, and that we love His creatures not for His sake but for our own.”
I think Merton is on to something here. We miss so much when we fail to live our lives with an attitude of gratitude. If we do not live our lives each day in the awareness that everything is a gift of God and an expression of His goodness we will miss the full blessing of His gifts. We may see a tree, flower or animal and be thankful for it but if we don’t also see in that same tree, flower or animal an expression of God’s love then our thanksgiving is not complete and we miss the full joy God intended.
We are also reminded that ultimately we should love Creation for God’s sake instead of our own. The Bible indicates that the world was created for God’s glory. We tend to think it is all about us but Paul says in First Corinthians 8:6 “yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” The world was made by God and for God. Yes, it brings us great delight and meets our needs in many ways, but if we fail to see that it exists first and foremost for His glory then we fail to see things as they are and also fail to appreciate things as we should. Our gratitude is intensified when we recognize this vital truth and we come to love Creation for God’s sake, not just our own.
In the final sentence of the chapter Merton says “Gratitude shows reverence to God in the way it makes use of His gifts.” I encourage you to give some thought to these words. What he says is true of our own personal gifts but it is also certainly true of the gift of Creation. If we are genuinely grateful for the world God has made it will be revealed not necessarily in how often we say “thank you” but in how we make use of this wonderful gift. Gratitude and Creation Care are intimately connected. I fear too many people have forgotten this or have not been made aware of the connection. Those who are most grateful for the natural world are the ones who are striving to be good stewards of it. According to Merton, they are also the ones showing the most reverence to God.
(I photographed the western chipmunk above in Oregon. The grizzly cubs were photographed at Katmai National Park in Alaska.)