"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul."
Henry Ward Beecher
"Tha-nk yooou." Southern charm slipped through her lips like sweet tea through a sieve. The beautiful inflections in her little lady's voice were rich with heritage. I listened closely, as her dear, expressive style traveled two doors down the hospital hallway to my room, where I was waiting for outpatient surgery. Time seems suspended when expecting that trip down hospital corridors into the bright, cold, sterile operating room. The pause not only seems slow, but is slow, and the need for diversion moves one to find it wherever it's available.
An early spring day, five years ago, my husband and I found diversion in the elegance of an elderly Southern lady and her gentleman husband, who kept passing by our door, making trip after trip to please his little wife, who was also awaiting a medical procedure, with phone calls to family and questions for the nurses.
Though I could not see her, the precious belle made me smile and occupied my interest, and such occupation was much more enlivening than lying in an antiseptic environment, surveying ceiling tiles and equipment that I did not know about and did not want to know about.
What amused me most was not her accent, though. It was a very deep Southern drawl, which is not nearly as common in the modern South as it once was in past generations. And being born and raised in Georgia, it wasn't the first time I had heard long, drawn-out vowels, and, moreover I have been known to draw-out a vowel or two or three myself.
What impressed me was her perfected Southern charm and her insistence on showing tremendous appreciation for all things, whether simple or slightly stunning. She had me convinced that we were in the best hospital in the world with the best nurses and doctors to be found anywhere on earth right there in our very presence. And her silky, smooth, complementary nature was only surpassed by her courage and calm.
Two hours of listening and absorbing her heart and demeanor left me inspired. I hoped for such charm and genteelness. She was a for real steel magnolia! I didn't want to waste an opportunity to learn from a genuine Melanie Wilkes.
Now reflection has its true place in our lives. And with eventual hindsight, I had to get real! I was inspired by my memories of her spirit and poise, and though I would never forget her amazing likeness to gentle southern belles from old classic movies, I realized my thoughts had to run deeper than the grasping of a demeanor or the outward beauty of kindness or gracious, grateful living.
As a child of God, my grasping must reach toward a higher goal. A life of sincere thankfulness and merciful expression to God and others must be my deliberate hope and intentional prayer. The necessity of a pure, total, thorough, vocal, surrendered life of sincere gratitude for God, i.e. a heart of worship, must be my focused goal in life, for, as Jesus said, those who worship in spirit and truth are "the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23).
Let that truth sink in! God seeks worshipers! He is seeking worshipers who are for real. He wants our praise to be forthright, honest, sincere, and faithful. His Spirit seeks out those who honor Him and aren't ashamed to show it. Such was the case one day as Jesus walked the sandy soil toward Jerusalem, determined to pass through Samaria and Galilee.
The omniscient Christ knew He had an appointment in a tiny Samaritan village along the way. He knew ten needs awaited Him there. He had beheld their poverty. He had heard their calls. He was drawn to them by holy compassion.
But the dusty road seemed surely hopeless to the ten, whose weak bodies and inferiorities brought them daily wander, agony, and shame. Roaming around for relief and pity only brought the men taunting, humiliation, pain, and fatigue. The disease was dreadful. The separation from society unbearable. The strain of their voices reasonable, as the ten tired from crying, "Unclean, . . . unclean, . . . unclean." The lepers were cast-offs, rejects, failures. They stood as symbols of sin and not real men.
Nearing the village, Jesus saw their needy, snowy forms. And, . . . the ten saw Him. They knew His name. They knew of His power. They had heard of His miracles. He had healed the lame. Delivered from demons. Restored souls. Spoke divine authority. Raised the dead. Created new wine.
Now was their day. Now was their hour. Now was their moment of hope.
As Jesus drew nearer, the ten kept far away. They dared not approach. Yet, belief stayed in their spirits, surged through their souls, and finally, faith gave way to uplifted voices. They could hold their cries no longer. "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
Christ looked at them. Spoke to them. Brought divine authority to them. Christ voiced the lepers' deliverance. "Go, show yourselves to the priests."
Then, . . . hope became visible. For as the men made their way to the priests, all were cleansed. Healed, by the Word and by their faith.
Ten faces fixed like granite toward their ordered destination, focused on their flawless forms.
Suddenly, one stopped in his way. He turned. The lone healed man perceived his wholeness. Eyed his transformation. He felt the freedom from pain past. He knew faith made new life. Knew "unclean" was no longer his name.
With loud praise, with voice of triumph, with legs of strength, with flawless, pure skin, the Samaritan ran to Jesus. And falling, casting himself at Christ's feet, that one raised his voice in glorious adoration, and thanked Jesus, Whose mercy gave him new complexion, Whose spoken words released an outcast from bondage, abandon, and torment.
Looking at the grateful man, Jesus simply replied, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any* found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?. . . Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."
I do not know what happened to this grateful man, whose thanksgiving even now compels 21st century hearts to praise. Surely he showed himself to the priests. Then, perhaps, with a soul overwhelmed by God's glory, with new life, he forever testified of the Lord's mercy and the healing power of Jesus Christ. For, the grateful, healed man had a heart of worship, and his heart of worship led him to a personal encounter with the Lord. The one who stayed to give glory to God received a closer look at the Anointed One. His heart of worship and compulsion to praise brought him face to face with Jesus. How could he ever be the same again, when forever he remembered Jesus' piercing eyes of love and the Lord's personal notice of his heart of worship?
God loves a thankful heart! When you have a heart of thankfulness, God moves in your life and changes who you are. Why? Because a thankful heart moves the hand of God. Your honest praise reaches His heart. And your focus on His glory and adoration of Who He is, overcomes the fleshly focus of self and the world.
And as your thanksgiving increases, as your heart of worship grows, perspective of God and life deepens. What is truly important comes to light. You soon see that those little things you thought you needed really aren't so great after all. You soon know the truth of God's Own priorities for your life! And with His priorities in place, everything is new. His peace that passes human understanding becomes reality in you. Through your sincere praise, God escorts you to a walk of perfect peace.
Think for a moment about worshiping in spirit and truth (John 4:24). How can defeat overcome a heart of worship? It is impossible because a heart of worship, real worship, heartfelt thanksgiving, is a state of faith. Glorifying God with you words and with your life allows Him to reign within you. His ruling presence becomes your life's reality! And defeat and despair are incapable of standing in Christ's ruling presence!
"I love you, Lord. I praise you, Jesus, for Who you are and for how you are moving in my life. You are the only, one, true God! And, I thank you for being the great I Am and moving with power in my life."
Jesus sought the lepers to give them mercy and to show us His desire that we glorify Him, at all times, in all things. Dear friend, in every moment of your life "give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (I Thessalonians 5:18). God hungers to hear your praise!
Will you be that one who stops in the way, wonders at God's work, turns, falls at His feet, and gives glory and honor to Jesus? Will you be that one who takes the extra effort to find intimacy with Him is so worth the trip? Will you be that one to place worshiping God and having a grateful spirit above getting on with your life? Will you be that one who loves Him first and clings to Him most? Will you be that one to whom Jesus says, "Arise"?
The cleansing of the ten lepers is found in Luke 17:11-19.
All scripture is from NKJV and NIV.