My daughter, Aaliyah clocked 6 on the 26th of May, 2021. I bought her a bicycle as a birthday gift. She woke up that morning to see a bicycle in the living room. She screamed with excitement! And she ran to me and hugged me: “Thank you, daddy!”
She went to school that morning, happier than normal. She just got a birthday present that blew her mind. And she thanked me, her father who got it for her.
I was happy I did.
I was happy she liked it.
I was happy how she showed it (screaming and running to hug me).
And I was happy with her gratitude…
I went about my business for the day happy.
I had a smile on my lips all day!
A while later, the Holy Spirit asked me, “Why are you smiling?”
“Because I’m HAPPY!”
He asked, “Why?”
When the Holy Spirit starts questioning me like this, I instinctively know He wants to pass a message across.
“Because I bought my daughter a bicycle and I’m happy she liked it and showed her gratitude”, I responded.
And the Holy Spirit said, “Imagine God gave you a gift that blew your mind and you say, “Yaaay! Thank you Father”, do you think that would suffice?”
I kept quiet.
I got the message: WE HAVE TURNED THANKSGIVING INTO A CEREMONY!
For whatever reason, we just feel telling God, “Thank you, Father” is not enough. If we haven’t put on our best clothes, carry our entire village to Church and danced to the altar and Pastor prays for us (and we give a fat offering, of course!), we haven’t thanked Him enough.
And unfortunately, this permeates through our Christian Practice.
Aaliyah was born in the US in 2015. I drove to the airport to pick her and her mother when they returned. I was seeing her live for the first time. I picked her, lifted her up and prayed, “Father, in the Name of Jesus…” I dedicated her to God there at the airport and we went home.
But it didn’t go down well with a lot of people!
“Harry, when are you taking your daughter to Church for dedication?”
“That is not necessary: she’s already dedicated!”
“She has? By who?”
“At the airport when I went to pick her and her mother.”
“By lifting her up and praying for her.”
Those I had this conversation with couldn’t comprehend it! According to their theology, babies are dedicated in Churches by Pastors, not by fathers at the airport!
To them, something was missing, something wasn’t right!
“So, you mean you won’t take her to Church for dedication?”
“I just told you she’s already dedicated! Why go to Church for another one?”
“She needs Pastoral Dedication, Harry!”
“Which one is Pastoral Dedication?”
“The one done the Pastor!”
One even said, “Poor girl! Harry, if anything happens to this girl, it’s your fault! Just take her to Church for dedication!”
These folks have been conditioned to think they are helpless and useless without the Pastor. They don’t have access to God without the Pastor. Tragic.
So we turn everything to ceremonies. We have all become Masters (and Mistresses) of Ceremonies!
In the Book of Daniel, an interesting thing happened: King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and he needed the interpretation. He asked his astrologers and sorcerers to tell him the dream and the interpretation. They had no idea. Daniel went to see the king and asked he gave him some time to tell him his dream and the interpretation.
Then he went home to his friends, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego: they prayed and sought God’s face over the matter. That night, God downloaded the info for Daniel.
Now, what did Daniel do after that? He just said, “I thank you and praise you, o God of my fathers who has given me wisdom and might and has made known to me what we ask of you” (Daniel 2:23).
No drama, no ceremonies, no gymnastics: just THANK YOU, FATHER.
I think our CONCEPT of God is the problem here. We have been conditioned to see through African eyes, so we see Him as one primitive Village Chief whose ego must be massaged, whose low self esteem must be managed.
That is the dummy our Church leaders have sold to us, the theology we have been taught and accepted.
But God is not like that: he is a FATHER who we can approach without rituals and rites, just as Aaliyah can approach me without any conditions. And as she simply said, “thank you, daddy” in the living room when she got a bicycle gift for her birthday, so can we also say, “thank you daddy” in our bedroom or office when He blesses us with anything.
And God is okay with it: He is as comfortable with your “Thank you Father” gratitude in your bedroom as He is with your Church Thanksgiving with your village people: the former is very convenient, the later very unnecessary…