I recently began reading this classic work with a friend and we have both been so challenged and blessed by Bonhoeffer’s observations and sometimes rather bluntly stated insights. Bonhoeffer was a man I greatly respect. If you don’t know anything about his story, it’s worth doing a little bit of research.
Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together while living in community with other believers. It’s a small book, less than 150 pages, but it’s packed full of wisdom. Here’s a part I’m really working on right now and that ties somewhat to the passage I last quoted by Nouwen:
“In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for the daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”
This last line hits me at my core. I know of so many times I’ve not been thankful for my circumstances, be they relationships, location, spiritual condition, or any number of things. I am sad to know that I robbed my Father of the thanks due him for the blessings I chose not to see. I am sad thinking about the great things that I did not receive because of my ungrateful attitude.
I don’t believe Bonhoeffer is teaching that we must become comfortable and complacent in our current situation and growth. Rather, we must choose to rejoice and be thankful for what we have, it is so much more than we deserve.