There’s a line from an Andrew Peterson song that’s been working on me recently. In an album that revisits some of his older songs, Andrew took the bouncy “Isn’t It Love” and transformed it into a slow and graceful song of reflection. Same lyrics, but with a totally different feel, and one of the lyrics has hit me differently than it did ten years ago when I first heard the song.
The line that has gripped me comes right after Andrew speaks of God’s love for the prodigal and how God’s love is manifested in something as humdrum and routine as the rising of the sun.
I know that You love us the same,
‘Cause the sun came up today;
Just as if we deserved it –
Just as if any one of us fools was worth it;
Truth is that we’ll never be perfect, but You love us just the same.
Our culture knows a thing or two about entitlement. Too often, we believe that we deserve the world as we want it to be, and as a result, we overlook the grace in the world as it already is.
The sun came up today. Whatever sins you may have committed last week, yesterday, or even last night, the sun came out. The earth is still spinning. Rain is still falling. The sun shines on the just and the unjust, the righteous and the unrighteous, the sinners and the saints. And if the rising of the sun isn’t proof of God’s benevolent, fatherly attitude toward all humankind, I don’t know what is.
Our family is fresh from a week of relaxation at the beach. For the first time ever, we had more rainy days than sunny. Trying to dodge thunderstorms and stand against the wind-blown sand in the air for an hour here and there isn’t quite as fun as soaking in the rays with a favorite book, or splashing around in the ocean looking for marine life on the floor of the sea.
But once the clouds fled and the sun reemerged, our gratitude for the weather was stronger than it had been before. Gratitude increases the more you realize things really don’t have to be this way. They could be different.
That’s why, when you hear about a child struggling with cancer, you hold your own kids a little closer that night. It’s why, when you are having a tough day at your workplace, you remember someone looking for a job and you’re suddenly grateful for a steady salary. It’s why, when your church community lets you down in some way, you consider places in the world where churches are being forced to closed, and you are grateful that your petty problems don’t arise to such a level.
Spontaneous gratitude is a gift, but it is rare. Most of the time, we are grateful when we recognize what we have in light of what we could lose.
Ironically, in difficult times, we may find more and more to be thankful for. I dare say that the person struggling with a terminal illness may be even more grateful for an ordinary day of life and health than the person who thinks they have forty more years to live. Knowing that what is could be lost stirs up gratitude.
And so, for the Christian, the fact that the sun came up today “just as if we deserved it,” Andrew writes, “just as if any one of us fools was worth it” gives us a reason to offer thanks. Why? Because it didn’t have to be that way.
Of all people, we who have tasted of the grace of God should know the difference between entitlement and contentment, the difference between expectation and grace. G.K. Chesterton’s image of an exuberant Father telling the sun every morning, “Do it again!” reminds us of the holy enthusiasm of a childlike God who can’t hold back His love for His creation. And as the people who reflect His image, our lives should be a continual expression of gratitude for nothing less than existence itself.
To exist in this poem is a greater gift than any finite creature can imagine. To be so insignificant and yet still be given a speaking part, to be given scenes that are my own, and my own only, scenes where the audience is limited to the Author Himself (scenes that I often flub), to have been here with my frozen nose, to have been crafted with at least as much care as a snowflake (though I’m harder to melt), and to hear and feel and see and taste and smell the heavy poetry of God, that is enough.
If there wasn’t someone who loved, the sun would go out. - Victor Hugo