As I go through my TEFL training, I’m learning some fascinating things about the history and development of the English language. I already had a vague understanding of most of it, but to learn in more detail about how this Germanic-French mutant language came into being has been quite fascinating. Did you know that “knee” is spelled that way because in the strictly Germanic Old English, the “k” was actually pronounced? And did you know that it is thanks to the French nobility under William the Conqueror that we eat beef, pork, and veal rather than cow, pig, and calf? Or that your uncle is your uncle, and not your eef? I’m starting to wish that I had majored in linguistics in college – at least minored in it. Yes, I’m learning many interesting things about English. And, as I go through daily life in China, my Mandarin language skills are also increasing. But the word that has really been on my mind as of late is neither English nor Mandarin. The word that has been slowly reforming, reawakening me, is ancient Greek: Eucharisteo.
Last year, just before we left for Shanghai, Anna purchased a book. At her request, we began reading it together. But, with the big move to the other side of the world, we didn’t get very far. I recently picked the book up again and decided to start over. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp is becoming one of the most influential books, besides the Bible itself, in my life. Marketed mostly to women (one need only look at the cover), it was a hidden treasure that I would have easily missed had my wife not bought it and compelled me to read it. I am immensely grateful that she did.
And how fitting! Voskamp’s book is about her discovery of Eucharisteo, the Greek word for thanksgiving. The word envelopes the words for grace and joy. In essence, eucharisteo, is thankfulness for grace, which in turn, produces joy. And as Voskamp takes us on her journey of learning how to live a life of eucharisteo – in all things – it culminates in intimacy with Christ.
I have long been convinced that the only way I would persevere is to find enjoyment in God. And how is one to enjoy God without intimacy? But how do I maintain intimacy? I read, I pray… But what happens when I read and can’t focus? When I pray, but my mind is a million miles away, or anxieties will not subside, or I can’t seem to enjoy God more than sin or more than the gifts he gives?
I’ve found that Voskamp’s assertion seems to be true: “eucharisteo precedes the miracle.” When my mind is set on gratitude to God in this moment, for what I have now, what he’s given me, who he is…I find that sinful desires and anxiety give way to peace and intimate communion with God.
We recently began attending church services near our apartment complex. The pastor (preaching elder?) has been going through the book of Philippians, and on our first day, the sermon was over chapter 4, verses 6-8.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
We were warned of the futility, indeed sinfulness, of being anxious, and exhorted to pray. But not simply to pray, for most people in the world do that at some point. We’re told in verse 6, to pray in thanksgiving. There it is! Eucharisteo! And what is thankful meditation on God’s gifts if it isn’t an act of obedience to the command in verse 8? Confirmation? I think so. And, to top it all off, it dawned on me just the other night, that the name of the church itself is Thanksgiving English Fellowship.
I’m slowly learning, stumbling, getting up, stumbling… Living thanks is hard. (We spend all of our years as unbelievers practicing the exact opposite.) And my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak, and I often forget. But God is patient, long-suffering, relentless. And he is teaching me. And for that, I am thankful.