To me, the most important attribute that emerges in us as we bring our whole selves to God is gratitude. Gratitude for all the blessings, the grace, the gifts and talents embedded in us, as well as for the tough lessons of our lives. These tough lessons are the things and people in our lives that challenge us to move on from our attachment to the world/culture/family and all they want for us. As we grow and give our burdens over to God, we grow in our ability to love and to forgive ourselves and others. When we seek to learn all that we can from these experiences, our personal lens on what we’ve experienced begins to widen. If we can’t thank God for all that our lives have been, for His design of our lives, for the purpose He wants each of us to achieve, and so much more, it means that we are withholding something big from His altar, from His healing and transformative work.
What have we done with our resentment, our anger, the disappointments in our lives and what we wanted to have happen in our lives? We have buried them and worked to look like we have all that taken care of, but underneath the surface of our lives, God can see all that we are hiding of our pain and anger and fear and resentment. And those are all barriers to a deep relationship with God. They are the product of a lack of gratitude and a lack of trust in God and what He has planned for us.
So, regardless of whether we were happy to have any challenging and/or painful circumstances in our lives, we are to embrace them and learn from them. All these difficult circumstances are our important teachers about our own selves. And, if we are willing to see what they have to teach us about ourselves and our relationship to God, then we will realize that they are also leading directly to our purpose, as we tackle the meaning of first one challenge and then the others. God is not punishing us; He is teaching us how to give up our fear and resentment and anger in order to embrace the lessons of this lifetime for us. Then, we can continue to grow in our understanding of who we were created to be and of who God is to be in our lives.
When I look at my own life, the two most difficult circumstances of my life were 1)being raised in a hell-fire-and-damnation church and 2)feeling like my mother never understood me. The teachings of that early church from the time I was an infant until I was thirteen were such a burden to me as I became an adult. No matter how different any church’s teachings after that first one was, I still could only hear that early message about God: that He just couldn’t wait to punish me for all that I did wrong, that He was vengeful and capricious, and He was always punishing us. I was out of the church by my late twenties, but still I was burdened by these teachings. I was so negatively tied to God that I had to find out who God was and settle this whole issue. And so, began a journey to find out about who God was in reality.
My husband and I were part of a cult for eight years that was based on Jesus’ teachings, but not His divinity. They taught about surrendering our lives to God. I tried and tried but could never do it. Today I believe that I was too afraid of God to surrender my life to Him. Finally, I began to argue with everything the leaders taught and we left the group. That was the first time in my life that I had ever listened to my own needs ahead of whatever any group or other person wanted from me. It was a relief to leave. Within a year, I had, through God’s grace, surrendered my life to Him.
And then He led me on a journey that began to teach me about His love and forgiveness of me. I read about other religions—Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. I particularly liked what the Tao said about not pushing the river, that we were to go where the energy in us was flowing. I then read a number of the saints of the church from Teresa of Avila to John of the Cross, Julianne of Norwich and others. And, as I read I learned so much about different interpretations of the Bible, but especially about the need to develop a personal, direct relationship to God and Christ through the Holy Spirit. At the same time, I was hearing more and more of what God was trying to say to me. The first thing I heard (in my mind) was this: “I have an agenda for my life.” This shocked me, because I had never thought beyond being a wife and mother. After pondering that thought for a few weeks, it led me to ask the question: “What do I really want to do?” Instead of “What should I be doing?”
As to the second issue about my mother, I heard this: “How can I say I love God if I can’t love my mother?” That sent me on a two-year journey of trying to love her; I was pretty unsuccessful, until one afternoon after spending a weekend with her, she was seeing my husband and I off at a railroad station. There, for a minute or two, we three were surrounded by a cloud of love—that was my experience. And from that moment on, I was able to love my mother and she was grateful for every single thing I did for her. I was floored and awed by what had happened. All the way to our next destination, all I could think was that God took my rebelliousness and made it into love!
As I look back on my life I am so grateful for God’s presence and all that He has said and done for me. I am grateful for that early church as well as for how He supported me through my husband’s cancer and death. I am grateful for the family and friends who have accompanied me through my life. I am grateful for all the difficult lessons in my life and for the last 20 years since Hank died, because, through these times, He has led me to a whole new way of living for me, a career for someone who never had a career, a fulfilling life that I never expected. I can see His footprints in every era of my life!
And so, I feel that our major lesson in life is to live in gratitude for everything in our lives and to be aware of His presence and suggestions to us, because His leadings will bring healing and love and joy and peace into our lives. How could we not be grateful for those? So, what in your life have you not forgiven God for? Do you totally trust Him in all that happens to you? Are you holding anything back from God in anger or resentment or fear? Or do you live in gratitude for all that He has brought to you throughout your life?
The most important thing to remember is that 1)God’s purpose for each of us is revealed in the healing of all the challenges we have faced in our lives and 2)He has been present through it all, whether we are aware of His presence or not. There is so much to be grateful for! Thanks be to God!
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest book, Called to Help the Poor and Needy, is now in bookstores and on line. It’s about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s caring for those in need.
Questions to ponder over the week (repeated from the post above): What in your life have you not forgiven God for? Do you totally trust Him in all that happens to you? Are you holding anything back from God in anger or resentment or fear? Or do you live in gratitude for all that He has brought to you throughout your life?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who live in gratitude for all that has been in our lives. May we express that gratitude to God and to others. May we just live in His grace.
See more blog posts and offerings at patsaidadams.com.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts every month. 10.18.21’s is entitled “Grounding Ourselves in Jesus Christ.” Sign up to receive these as monthly emails at the website.