June 11, 2015

A shocking mansion: are you thankful?

by Austin Duncan

My family recently was invited to go to a friend’s “cabin” in the mountains above Los Angeles. When I heard the word cabin I became hesitant; I associate cabins with sleeping bags, Deet, and dirt. I’m not much of a camping guy, and even less so when it involves kids.

I asked my friend if sleeping bags were needed and he replied, “No, we have all you need.”

I soon learned that this was because cabin was not a good word to describe his place. When my family arrived, we did not see a “cabin” but instead a “shocking mansion.” Sleeping bags were not appropriate here. Butlers yes, tents no.

We tremendously enjoyed our time. The owners were generous. We could use their ski-boats—note the plural—and the entire time there was an experience unlike any we have had.

I tried to tell the owners how thankful we were. They laughed, and shared with us something that initially surprised me.

They said it was normal for families they invite there for the firs time to be incredibly impressed; picture over-the-top thank you notes which make use of calligraphy. The notes would contain effusive praise and remarkable gratitude. Most likely a thesaurus was involved.

And then a few months later, a subtle hint along the lines of… “You don’t think we could possibly, maybe, come by some other time, do you…?”

So the next year they would return, and enjoy it. And the next year a thank-you note would come too, only this time it would likely be a thank-you email.

The following year, the email might be shorter, and possibly ask if the cabin was open on July 4th weekend.

On that fourth year, the house wouldn’t seem as nice was it was the first year. Chipped paint might be noticed. The speed boat seems like its lost a little ummph. “You should get that checked out” they might say. They might make a comment about how they would arrange the kitchen (if they had that kind of money). Its as if the shocking mansion seems to have a bit more flaws the more time you are there.

Doesn’t this capture the nature of our thankfulness? People’s thankfulness tends to diminish through experience. Remember the joy of salvation, and how impressed you were with God, and how lavishly you esteemed him?

But overtime, our tendency is to reduce our thankfulness. We become accustomed to having a relationship with the creator, and lose track of the innumerable blessings we have received. Growing forgetful of what we were like outside of Christ, we gradually take his kindness for granted. That too can even give way to thoughts like, “Well, if I had that kind of power, I might do this a little differently over here…”

We are to fight this human tendency to diminish praise by striving to continually grow closer to the Lord, and more thankful for what he has done for us. We are to come to worship, come to meet with God, and come to a relationship with him (Psalm 95:1, 2, 6). We are to grow ever thankful, constantly guarding our heart against the tendency to downgrade gratefulness (1 Thess 3:9, 1 Tim 4:4).

What about you? Have you seen this tendency in your life? What do you do to combat it?

Austin Duncan

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Austin is an elder and college pastor at Grace Church in Los Angeles.
  • Robert Sakovich

    Good thoughts. I always try to go back to trying to get a correct estimation of who I am and Who God is. It is like the beginning of The Institutes…for man to rightly know himself, he must first know God and then examine himself in light of that. And when I come back to examining that, I am thankful just to be alive…let alone enjoy the manifold blessings that come from salvation.

  • wiseopinion

    What a GREAT analogy. Love this post because it truly is a verbal picture of how soon one can not only get use to blessings…but then start to expect them, and expect them to be greater and grander.

  • This is an excellent reminder. I kept thinking of this short audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J471VobaZks

    • fundamentals

      Thanks, and Amen!

  • fundamentals

    A great illustration of a deeper truth that every Christian must fight against. Go deeper with Christ. Cultivate passion for Jesus. Fellowship with him in honesty and love.

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    So true! I find the solution to my remaining grateful is directly linked to my being in the word. Even my prayers can become stale when I am not listening to God through the word. Let’s be honest, this world can be so loud and so demanding and discouraging. We can easily become hard and guarded. God’s word has this wonderful ability to soften us, to lift us from a place of discouragement to hope, from doubt to faith and from fear to courage. For me, it is where I can meet God face to face and come away glowing. 🙂

  • Johnny

    This was a really good analogy and a lot to think about

  • pearlbaker

    Thank you, Austin, for this vital reminder of the necessity of keeping gratitude for our salvation alive, that it not lay stagnant and fail to produce the fruit for which it was designed. Yes, it is a gift from God, but must attend to this spiritual life of ours and not become complacent, lest we drift into ingratitude and uselessness. Surely, we can regularly bring to our minds all the amazing gifts we have because of our salvation, and we can begin with the gift of each and every breath we take each day, each one impossible without the mercy and grace of our Lord. Everything else is added unto that. And for the saved, even when breathing ceases, the gift of salvation just begins to unfold as we enter into the presence of Jesus Christ.

    One very effective and practical way I know to keep gratitude for our salvation vibrant and alive is to carry the amazing message of the Gospel of the salvation plan of Christ to others, as God gifts us with the opportunity. Either by contrast or by seeing the Word embraced by a new convert, it should produce fountains of fresh gratitude in us. Then, when we think on our abject and total unworthiness, it just serves to intensify the feeling of gratitude to our merciful and loving God for snatching us from the fire of eternal, felt torment, saving our souls for a blessed and blissful eternity with Him. I am feeling overwhelmed by gratitude just writing this!

  • 4Commencefiring4

    This tendency to forget how good we have it is why I believe God strives to combat it by sprinkling times of hardship and–much to our collective and individual dislike– tragedy into our lives. Why does a family lose a precious child to disease or crime? Why does He allow our dreams of a well-deserved retirement, travelling with our spouse of 40 years and finally hoping to see some sights before we die, end prematurely through some unforeseen event?

    Why indeed? All I can think is that downing a handful of salt, by itself, wouldn’t be very appealing. But a stew made with no salt is downright tasteless. And God is making a stew, not just forcing salt down our throats.

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      I tend to believe that trials provide our credibility as Christians. What I mean is that if God gave us lives without trials, what credibility would we have to those who are suffering?

      When my father died, the hospital offered my mother grief counseling. When she walked into her appointment, she saw a young female counselor right out of college. Her first question was, “Are you married?” The girl answered no. My mom promptly got up and said, “Then how can you possibly relate to losing someone you love after 52 years of marriage”?

      I never forgot that. It has helped me to understand the value of sharing in others’ sufferings, and thereby a means by which I can share my hope.

  • Sir Aaron

    I have a sneaky suspicion that if most of us didn’t have this tendency, you’d not need to write a blog post about it. As to what to do about it….I wish I had an answer that was better than anybody else’s. But I will keep this in mind in the future.
    I think there is another layer that your analogy provides. We need to express thankfulness to others as part of our witness.

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