In much the same fashion as Lindsay, while walking along the beach on my recent trip to tropical north Queensland, I had my own LiLo-as-a-mathlete epiphany moment during which I exclaimed, "the difference does not exist!" The difference I'm referring to is the difference between head-thanks and heart- thanks.
Bear with me.
Time to Define
What "head thanks" is: The notion that one is thankful for XYZ, and can genuinely appreciate it on a mental and intellectual level.
What "head thanks" isn't: Obligatory, reluctant, or manipulative thanks.
What "heart thanks" is: The emotion that arises when one acquiesces emotionally how blessed he or she is for XYZ.
What "heart thanks" isn't: Selfish desire glorified or indulged.
Lets get Biblical
In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul writes, "6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (emphasis added).
We all know what "overflowing with thankfulness" feels like – the sweet fullness of joy that accompanies a moment's realisation of how blessed we are. Heart thanks. But what about when we do not feel like we are "overflowing with thankfulness"? Doesn't Paul's command still stand firm?
Throughout the years, I have struggled with this, and it has always looked something like this:
In the moments I didn't feel thankful, I felt guilty. Even worse, when I tried to overcome my feelings and offer my thanks to God regardless of them, I believed my gratitude was worth infinitely less due to my lack of "overflow". I felt like I was somehow being deceitful to Godâ€"thanking Him under false pretenses.
In the moments when I was overflowing with thankfulness, I would panic. Believing that now, when my thankfulness was "real", I had to get in as much appreciation as possible before the feeling dissipated and my thank you's were no longer as valid.
And so the cycle continued…. for as long as I believed the lie that there was a difference between thanking God based on the knowledge of how much He's given me (head-thanks) and thanking Him through the feeling that His blessings incur (heart-thanks). The difference we perceive between them does not exist, and although "heart thanks" feels a whole lot better, "head thanks" is just as well- received by God.
In fact, nowhere in the Bible does it require that the giving of thanks, when it is sincere, be accompanied by the feeling of thankfulness. When referring to thanksgiving as a whole, the term most often used is "to give thanks" – the verb. Verbs are action words, meaning it is entirely possible to pursue the action of thanksgiving independent of the feeling that often accompanies it.
Why this brings freedom
For me, this revelation opened the door to a whole new world of gratitude. As I was free to thank God more regularly and assuredly, I sensed His presence increase in my everyday life. Why? It's simple, really. He inhabits the praises of His people, and we enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise (Psalms 22 verse 3 paraphrased and Psalm 100 verse 4 respectively). We are given:
1. Freedom from our emotions ~ We are no longer bound to only giving thanks when we feel thankful. It is much more difficult to control one's emotions than one's actions. True praise becomes the choice it was always intended to be.
2. Freedom to respond in confidence ~ We are no longer discouraged in responding how we are called to in every situation. Our hearts can be confident that thanks given in His name is thanks received by His grace.
3. Freedom from self- condemnation ~ We will no longer be guilt-ridden for our want of feeling thankful. Our choice in thanksgiving is all that is required of us.
Despite what we feel, in the wise words of Lindsay Lohan, the difference does not exist. And for that, I am thankful.
Tina Hakimi is an Arizona-raised, Sydney-based writer pursuing her doctorate at UNSW and learning the art of thanksgiving in all its forms.
Tina Hakimi previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tina-hakimi.html