Living in Gratitude
Gratitude, to me, is the very fundamental aspect of our love of God. Our appreciation for our lives here on this beautiful planet, our families, the friendships that have sustained us over our lifetimes, our work, our leisure interests, our challenges and blessings, forms the underlying support for our love of God. Let’s look at each of these dimensions of our lives.
Human beings were created as a part of an interdependent system of plants and animals, minerals, seas and more. Each species contributes to this magnificent whole, helping to sustain each other, nourish each other, provide the oxygen and other necessities of life for a wide variety of creatures, including us human beings. We live on a planet full of beauty in which everything here contributes to the whole. It’s not just nutritious food and oxygen that is provided, but also the incredible variety of landscapes we see whose beauty can sustain us through thick and thin. All of this was given by God to the inhabitants of the Earth. Are we grateful for all that? I hope so. We need it every day.
Our families of origin provide us with love, affection, food, and sustenance of all kinds. They teach us how to be in this world, how to love, support our learning and stay with us for all of our lives. Now I know that some parents are so damaged that they can’t provide all that, but at the very least they gave us life here on Earth. They also gave us some lessons we would like to forget, challenges that have shaped our lives until we could finally let them go.
And what about our friends who love and understand us, who stand by us through thick and thin? Are we grateful for these people who journey with us for a time or a whole life time? We learn from them tremendous amounts.
Then there are the things that interest us in this lifetime, our talents, the type of work we are called to, the leisure activities that balance out all that we expend of ourselves in our work—hobbies, interests to pursue, conditioning our physical bodies and more.
Then there are the challenges that we face. The worse part of my childhood was growing up in a hell-fire-and-damnation church. As I grew up, God, to me, was a raven sitting on my shoulder ready to zap me for anything I did wrong. For years I hated that church, but I came to realize that with that experience I had to find a God I could love, which led me on a long journey of being in a cult where I was taught other interpretations of Jesus’s teachings. And in leaving that cult, I took the first step toward affirming my own deeper longings beyond the conditioning I had received to be just me. Later I did give my life to Christ and from there I read through Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism. One idea in Taoism really captivated me: don’t push the river, it said. In other words, don’t try to go upstream but to go where the energy in you is flowing. A revolutionary idea to me.
Then I read through quite a few saints of the church like Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich and John of the Cross. And I did rejoin the church, now solidly in Christ’s arms. And when I look back on my life, I see that without that early awful teaching, I would never have gone on this long journey to find God that I could love and not just fear; I would never have become a spiritual director or a writer about the life of following Christ. I can see God’s footprints in it all, even when I was totally unaware of His presence. That early church became a real blessing to me. And so, it is with all of our challenges: once we discover what the lesson that we are to learn from them is, we have redeemed the experience of challenge and pain that they caused us.
I do look at life here on earth as a school in which we are to learn how to really love like God loves, if we are willing to accept all that happens to us, because it really does have a good purpose in our lives once we have come to accept it. And so, we are to grow throughout our lives in our understanding of what following Jesus will bring us.
We Americans think that we can control our lives, set our agendas and pursue them, but often life intervenes with something either unexpected or painful or challenging in some way. The Corona Virus has brought us one great lesson: that we do not control everything in our lives. But it has highlighted many things about our lives that we could choose to change or actually get rid of. Before the virus came along, Americans were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Soon, Americans were making different choices in their lives—in their jobs, in whether they wanted to spend all that time commuting, in parenting and safety for their families and more. The virus has been a big challenge for us all, but it has also brought us real choices about how we want to live.
To get back to my thesis here: that gratitude is the fundamental basis of our love for God on which everything else is built, let us begin to examine all the areas of life in which we can be grateful to Him who designed our lives for us. Let us, in every change and instance in our lives, live in gratitude for His care and for what He has given us. Let us be grateful for Him accompanying us through everything we experience here on earth, offering us His presence for sustenance and help and comfort, no matter what we are going through. There is nothing that we cannot be grateful for, because God is always there to help us through it. Amen.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com 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 instructions for caring for those in need.
Questions to ponder over the week: How grateful am I to God for everything that has been in my life? Is there some issue/issues which I cannot forgive God for, much less move into gratitude? What have been my difficulties and challenges? And how have I learned from them? What do I lean on God for?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are grateful for our lives and all that He has given and shown us about them. May we be accepting of our challenges and learn what we need to learn from each of them. May we love God fully.
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