Yay God

Like most Christian families, we pray grace over our dinner — and every other meal we sit down to. One evening (two or so decades ago) we clasped hands and recited our grace prayer; but at the end, to our surprise, my three-year-old son pumped his tiny fist in the air and shouted, “Yay God!” My daughter, husband, and I giggled at the spontaneity of his passionate gesture, while he nonchalantly reached for a piece of Italian bread.

“Hey Buddy...” I asked between snickers, “where’d you learn that?”

“St. Anthony’s Small Friars,” he reported. “We say grace before snack, then… ‘Yay, God,’” his hand immediately fisted and pumped once again.

From that day forward, “Yay God” became a family cheer after every grace, with a fist pump into the air to top it off. What started as an innocent expression, turned into a powerful gesture at our table. Friends and guests who sat down to eat with us for the first time were probably caught off guard, but mimicked our actions joyfully.

Since then, every time someone shared good news — my husband signing a great contract or one of the kids landing a solo in the school chorus — we all repeated the phrase and praise fist pump, “Yay God!”

However light-hearted the gesture, I realized that God deserved our praise more often than we gave it throughout the day. Had I been blind to all the favor He poured into our lives before or was there more to celebrate now because in some small way we accredited God for every good thing that came our direction? Maybe a little of both. But what do you do when things aren’t necessarily going your way? When it seems like situations and circumstances continue to come against you? It may be the perfect opportunity to consider the sacrifice of praise.

I never used to understand that phrase like I do today. God showed it to me at a time when I really didn’t want to hear or see it. The messy stuff had hit the fan and knocked me on my rear. I had all to do to keep my mouth shut, so my tongue didn’t have the opportunity to wreak further havoc.

I heard God say, “Praise me.”

I snapped back, “Are You kidding? In the midst of all of this, I have all to do-- “ But He cut me off.

“Praise Me.”

The sacrifice of praise came to mind. So this it what that means? But… I don’t feel like it. Praising is the last thing I want to do right now. As dreadful as I felt, I would never dismiss a request from God. I couldn’t muster up much, but I half-heartedly pumped my fist in the air and muttered, “Yay God.” Those two small words – the sacrifice of spitting them out of my mouth in the midst of adversity – was enough to turn things around. I can’t say whether things got better or I began to see them in a different light, but I can definitely attribute my change in outlook to the small, but powerful, gesture my son taught us at the dinner table that night.

When all’s well, it’s easy to say, “Yay God.” When the world is crumbling around you, it’s time to find the power behind the sacrifice of praise. Muster up the strength to pump your fist high and form those words... “Yay God.”