Do you enjoy the tastes and smells of a delicious meal? How about the sights and sounds of a beautiful sunset? Scripture calls us to taste and see that the Lord is good. We have five senses and each sense can lead us to greater thankfulness.
5 ways the senses teach us to be more thankful
Sense #1: Taste and see that the Lord is good
Do you view food as utilitarian, just meant to keep you alive? Or, do you delight in making and sharing food for the enjoyment of others?
When we were first married, my wife learned to her horror that I loved pouring copious amounts of salsa on everything I made. Once the honeymoon ended, I reverted to my old ways and it took a while before I realized my salsa habit offended my bride.
I discovered an important truth. Many cooks, chefs, and wives (and sometimes husbands) create gastronomic wonders out of love. Taking time to taste the food and return thanks shows my love and appreciation for the cook.
EXERCISE: Slow down enough to taste the love in each meal you eat. Allow your taste buds to discover different ways to thank God. For example, isn’t it amazing that we can use spices like saffron, tarragon, and basil that come from all around God’s creation?
Sense #2: Stop and smell the roses
We’ve heard the adage to stop and smell the roses all our lives. Beyond the reminder to slow down, this reminds us to follow our noses. Scientists teach us that smell most quickly accesses our limbic system, triggering memories.
Have you experienced this? You walk into a grocery store or restaurant and smell a certain spice that triggers a memory of a specific meal or person. Suddenly that’s all you can think of.
I believe we can allow our noses to keep us thankful. When the odors spark negative memories, we can return thanks for God’s grace as we talked about on Day 8. When the memories feel happy, allow those to guide you into deeper gratitude.
New smells can also evoke new reasons for gratitude. The smells of flowers and cut grass might remind you to thank God for causing growth in your life. Odors emitting from rotting food, while nasty, could induce thankfulness for the ability to detect evil.
EXERCISE: Stop and smell the proverbial roses at least three times today and see what you notice. Allow it to provoke a short prayer of thankfulness.
Sense #3: Be careful little eyes what you see
Did your parents teach you to sing the nursery rhyme, “Be careful little eyes what you see?” Wise words when you consider “the human retina can transmit data at roughly 10 million bits per second.” (Penn Med School)
The eyes continuously absorb information that we mostly ignore. We often see things we wish we could “unsee,” but visual impressions remain imprinted in our brains for a long time.
Billy Graham, when talking about purity, advised young men to avoid the second glance. We often can’t help what we see the first time, but we can choose where we allow our eyes to linger.
When it comes to cultivating the habit of gratitude, I encourage you to allow your eyes to feed you reasons to be grateful throughout the day.
EXERCISE: Take one minute right now to try this. Grab a pen and paper and set a timer for 60 seconds. Look around the room where you are right now and write down everything you see. After 60 seconds stop writing and pick a couple of those items and tell God why you’re thankful for it. (Go ahead and pause the podcast, if you can).
Example: When I did this exercise I wrote down ten items. I probably could have written more, but I found myself instantly thankful for the story behind each item: Lynn custom painted a picture for me. The trip to Italy where I found the alabaster owl. Angie bought me the ICT mug as a thank you gift. The list could go on…
Sense #4: Sounds of thankfulness
What does thankfulness sound like? I venture to say it sounds more like singing than grumbling and complaining.
How do you allow what you hear to turn your response into thankfulness? For example, when your children play loudly do you instantly want to squelch them, or do you return thanks to God for your children’s lives, playfulness, and creativity? Asking them to play more quietly might follow, but I’m asking about our initial response.
Hearing birds sing might cause you delight, but what about the ruckus of crows?
We lived next to a busy highway in Chicago. We heard semis blowing their horns at all times of day and night. I didn’t always respond with thankfulness, but how might I?
Example: Lord, thank you for the drivers of these trucks who leave their families to bring food and goods to make my life better. Thank you for the roads that allow for safe travel. Thank you even for horns that allow drivers to communicate with each other.
EXERCISE: What’s a sound that normally causes you frustration? How might you turn that into a prompt for thanks?
Sense #5: Touch and believe
Remember doubting Thomas? He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” When Jesus appeared, he addressed Thomas and told him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:24-27 NIV)
Thomas wanted hard evidence that Jesus was alive. The sense of touch provides tangible reminders of God’s work in our lives and the world. Touch communicates love more powerfully than words in many circumstances. There’s a reason why doctors put a newborn baby in her mother’s arms immediately upon birth. It’s the same reason mothers hold their babies as often as possible: to assure the child of her love.
EXERCISE: Allow your fingers to feel things today and return thanks. I’m thankful right now for the touch of my fingers on this computer. I’m grateful for a working computer, for the ability to type, and for the restoration of my wrist this year.
Today’s challenge exercise(s) was embedded in the article. Take time through the day to notice how your senses give you reasons to be grateful.
I’m grateful, Father, for the complex way you made me. Open my eyes to see your work all around me. Open my ears to hear the melodies of grace. May I taste and smell your goodness and may I feel the depths of your love. In all of this, teach me to be thankful. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.