Do I Have To?
By Mila Nataliya A. Govorukha
Occasionally I teach a Bible class at Sunday school for three- to five-year-olds. The group is very small, sometimes only four or five children. One of the girls, a frequent visitor, is very smart, outspoken, and strong-willed. Recently she was going through a stage where she would be quite stubborn about even little things. One time she was refusing to go to the class because her hair was messy, but she wouldn’t let her mother brush her hair, because her mom forgot her favorite pink hair bands with flowers. I found pink ribbons in the arts and crafts box, and she graciously allowed me to braid her hair.
When I was done, after her mom’s soft nudging and dad’s firm prompting, she wouldn’t say thank you. Most likely, the real reason why she was so upset was because she was jealous of her younger sister, who was getting so much attention from her parents and others around. After another request for her to express her thankfulness, she crossed her arms over her chest, gave a stern look, and quietly with frustration asked, “Do I have to?”
For a second, I didn’t know what to say. “No, you don’t have to, my dear,” was followed by an explanation about how politeness “smoothes” the complexities of life and makes relationships somewhat easier, and that most of all, showing gratitude melts hearts and a grateful spirit is always appreciated by others, not to mention that it is the will of God for us to be thankful “in everything.”1 She wouldn’t give in. We had to start the class; the other children were waiting.
That month had been tough for me emotionally, even distressing. My son, who lives on another continent, was supposed to come for a three-week visit. I hadn’t seen him for a year. His older brother, who lives closer but abroad nevertheless, planned to join us too. We had made adventurous plans, had booked a place to stay, and had a tight fun-filled schedule of activities planned. It didn’t work out. For different reasons all of it was cancelled.
I was so distraught that for a couple of weeks I couldn’t pull myself together. I even went as far as wondering if the Lord really cared about me, allowing something like that to happen. I tried my best to pray often, especially when I would wake up and right before falling asleep. As is the case with many of us humans, I pray more often when things go wrong.
Late in the evening that day, following the encounter with my Sunday school student, I couldn’t sleep and thought of my sons. Though they are grown up, I can still recollect cute and naughty deeds from their early childhood. Why, oh why can’t I be with them now?! We had planned this meet–up for months! How come, Lord?! I knew in my mind that I had no right to be frustrated with God, but in my heart I was frustrated. Then I remembered the incident with the braids and pink ribbons. Does God see me as a stubborn girl with arms crossed over her chest? Am I childishly upset that things didn’t go my way, and now disturbing others with my unhappy reactions?
I pulled out a shabby photo album, laughing and crying while scanning old photos. So many amazing moments. So much love shared. In this one I am reading a book to my boys, five and two at that time, before bed. Here we are cooking together. There they are performing at the music school. In that one we are playing a board game with them and their best friends.
I opened photo files on my computer. Here the three of us were together last winter in the mountains; the boys are snowboarding and I am filming them. In the next one, surrounded by a breathtaking view, we are riding horses. Another is a group shot from some years ago when we were volunteering at a clown program at the children’s hospital. Then a photo shoot a few years old of my younger son receiving a medal for graduating from school with honors. And then me taking a picture of my eldest son feeding peacocks last summer.
Then me last year: traveling through Europe, hiking in the mountains and swimming in the sea, attending a concert and visiting an art museum, training volunteers and painting a mural at an orphanage, studying at the university, cutting cake at my birthday party, meeting old friends and making new ones. Countless stories that deserve to be written fill my heart with thankfulness. I am reminded of a myriad of the sweetest memories and unforgettable moments! There are so many things to be thankful for!
Do I have to say “thank you” to God? Yes, I do! I want to show Him my gratitude, and to remind myself what a wonderful world He created for us to live in. I have to keep thanking God, for my sake, for the sake of other people, for the sake of my sons, and even for the sake of my future grandchildren, whom I will teach to say “thank you” to people and to the one who loves us no matter what!
1 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
- Be Salt and Light!
- Cultivating Generosity
- Living in God’s Word
- God’s Healing Balm in Times of Grief
- Hurry and Worry
- One Thing Before All Things
- Faith Like Gold
- Learning About God’s Mercy
- Trusting Through the Silence
- A Life Well Lived, Today and for the Future