A popular hymn says we should “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done”. Many Christians sing the words, but I wonder how many of us understand that you can only count as a blessing what you acknowledge is a blessing, or that you can only show gratitude for something if you do not feel entitled to it. With this settled, this birthday article begins.
I was not planning to write any birthday-themed article on the eve of my birthday. I wanted to write something about the love-hate relationship between Nigerians and noise. However, over our customary lengthy WhatsApp calls, my wife asked what I was grateful for on the eve of the twenty-seventh of November, otherwise known as my birthday. In responding, I recalled a chapter in Ruth that had been on my mind for over a week. Herein is another retelling of gratitude.
In Ruth Chapter 2, we see Ruth head into a farm to pick the leftovers while farm workers harvested the crops. She worked very hard all through the day and picked quite a bit of leftovers. From Ruth’s perspective, the crops she gathered must have been the result of her hard work. Was she wrong? Maybe not, but let’s see what was happening backstage.
The owner of the farm was a nice guy named Boaz who was so impressed by her character that he invited her to join the farm workers to have lunch, thereby helping her gain some additional strength to improve her picking efficiency. He also instructed his workers to not harass her, thereby allowing her to focus and achieve a higher picking rate per hour. As if this was not enough, he further instructed his workers to purposely allow some crops to fall to the ground, so she could have more to pick. By deliberately reducing the harvesting efficiency of his workers, he gave the hardworking Ruth a chance to boast of higher picking efficiency. So, we ask again whether the crops she gathered were the result of her hard work.
In relating the chapter to my wife, I was looking at how it applies to my life and the resultant incentive to be grateful. At my current workplace, I can boast of being a hard worker, but could I work hard if I had no job, or was employed and deployed to a unit with very little to do? If I did not get the exposure to do certain tasks, would my performance potential be of any relevance? If people did not take a chance on me before knowing my capability, would I have had a platform to prove myself?
Still on my famed claim of being a hard worker, would my skills be of any relevance if I had a serious health condition? I do a lot of reading every day, maybe more than a normal human should read. So, I wonder how I would read if I were to have an eye defect, or if my eyes were to ache or fill with water after every page. Would my love of reading be actionable without compliant eyes? Would I even read or know as much as I do if my dad had not provided newspapers for his eight-year-old to summarise or paid a primary school teacher to provide extra lessons after school. One could argue that some others got the same privilege but turned out differently, but that is just life being stochastic.
We ended up wrapping the reference chapter and my life in a very simple word called grace. As I recounted my blessings to my wife’s ears, we could see different ways that I had been enabled to do certain things. Thanks to work obligations, my birthday is being spent away from my family, but being away from home has not shut-in the well of love. And so, I am grateful for my life, my family, everyone who has cleared a path for me at any point in my life, and for the master planner whose grace makes all the difference. I step into an ever-brighter future with a heart of gratitude. It’s a happy birthday!