One of the most wonderful things I’ve learned here in Moscow is the importance of gratitude. I’ve been reading Robert Farrar Capon’s The Supper of the Lamb recently (there’ll be another post on it shortly), and one of the things I was struck by is how Capon exudes gratitude for the particular. He delights in onions, pocket knives, and gravy, and takes time to explore each in various ways. One of the other striking things about Capon is how opinionated he is. He is decidedly anti-margarine, anti-electric carving knife, and numerous other particular “quirky” convictions. To which many might respond, “who cares?” And we might also think that a nut with such “random” dogmas would be someone we might view rather warily. Of course I don’t know Capon at all personally, and so I can’t really make any substantiated claims. But let me at least speak to the principle. It strikes me that there are really only two kinds of stubborn opinionated personalities in the world: the bitter, jaded souls that smolder in their sin and the grateful hearts overflowing with thanksgiving to their Creator and Redeemer. Much has often been said about the stubbornness of the bitter and conceited. The proud and arrogant who can’t change their minds about anything and refuse to be corrected. The “hell-no, I won’t go” sorts who visibly burn with envy. But there is another kind stubbornness; there is another kind of opinionated person: the person who sees everything as a gift from God. If this particular house is a gift from God, why would I sell? If this community is a gift from God, why would I move? If these particular doctrinal formulations were gifts to me from God, why would I let them go? And the list goes on and on: from unexplainable family traditions to cultural expressions and celebrations. Why, I don’t know why we eat seafood on New Year’s Eve, but we’d never stop doing it because it’s what God has given to us over the last 20 years! Our families, our communities, our community cultures, our history is a gift of God. They are particular gifts of God to particular people. Why would we give them up easily? Of course there are times for everything (e.g. selling, moving, etc.), as the wise man once said, but it occurs to me that our transient and novel culture rides on the back of a collective bitterness and covenantal disenfranchisement with the God of heaven.
Gratitude deep down in the bones for the particular gifts of God isn’t easily distracted and those particular gifts are not easily replaced. This also indicates that one New Englander’s fiercely held opinion about chicken broth can be accepted cheerfully and charitably disagreed with by a South American’s gastronomic dogma. Each have been given many different things, why do we feel the necessity to be the great Grinches of the world counting gifts, comparing values and insisting that everyone have the same opinions, concerns, or doctrinal heritage? There’s of course a kind of gratitude that just wants others to share our own joy, but there’s another kind of ingratitude that resents the way God has told the story of the world.