July 20, 2011


I've been thinking about this for a while now, much more so after a few conversations I've had with friends over the past few days. It's just amazing how our attitudes can get so out-of-whack in so many areas when gratitude falls out of our view. But how do we keep gratitude in sight, or at least in our peripheral vision? Just saying, "I will be grateful today", won't do it. For me, a list/inventory is the way to go.

Writing a gratitude list can be harder than it sounds, especially if you're feeling more ungrateful than normal, or have never done it before. Still, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to get at least a short list started. Once  a few things get on the paper, then more things will flow naturally. If it's really difficult to get a list going, then starting with some very basic things like air to breathe, food to eat, running water, etc., will get the ball rolling. Then we can get down to the "strong meat" referenced in the book of Hebrews. So let me put a few items down and take a look at why I have these things to be grateful for, and more importantly, where they come from:

  1. I live in a world filled with modern conveniences. Most of these things I call 'conveniences' would have been rich luxuries in the past, and still are in much of the world today.
  2. There is a wonderful woman in my life that loves me deeply for who I am, and not what I can do for her.
  3. I have an employer that cares for my well-being as an employee and as a person
  4. I have talents and skills in music, writing, and photography.  
That's enough for this example, but I could write all day, and still not be finished. These are humbling enough, but a little deeper look at who gave me these gifts brings a deeper understanding. So, in order of my list, these gifts were given to me by God, girlfriend, boss, and God. Fine enough on the surface, but there's more to 2 and 3 than the surface. Why do I have those things? And who is ultimately responsible?

Starting with number three, why do I have that? If I choose to look at it as sheer luck, then there's really not much to be grateful for, it's just the way the dice rolled. But, If I choose to look at from the perspective of grace (undeserved favor) then I see that there's more to the picture. I could stop at the point of my boss being an old high school friend doing something nice for old time's sake, but is that really what's going on? Looking deeper at the person my boss is, learning about her and the way she lives internally, I can see God's love working in and through her life. It's one thing to look at our salvation with the awe and humility of an undeserved gift, but to look at this through that same filter, it's easier for me to see that this was a truly undeserved gift given to me by God, through one of his servants here.

Looking now at the second item on my list, I could easily say that I deserve someone to love me, because that's what we all deserve. Really? Do any of us really deserve to be loved? If I start giving you reasons why I deserve to be loved, then I am doing nothing more than feeding my ego, and that is the antithesis of this exercise. And if I ascribe the other person's motives to things that are selfish or simply reciprocal, then I am selling both ourselves short. I don't deserve her love any more than I deserve God's love, but there it is for me; a free gift, that is undeserved by what I have done or can do.

These things may sound a bit Pollyanna-ish, especially to someone that is going through a hard time or a crisis. The thing I have to remember (and it can be so very hard to remember this in times of crisis) is that instead of asking God, "Why me?" I need to ask myself, "Why not me?" Is there something special about me that I should be exempted from the life events that happen to everyone on this planet? Nope, not at all, and any other answer is just deflection or ego-feeding. I'm not going to be the person that says, "There's a lesson in everything, both the good and bad, you just have to learn it." That's far too saccharine for me to say.  Some things that happen in life are just plain painful and bad, and there's no deep lesson to learn except to persevere through it. Blaming God or telling myself I deserved it just separates me from God and from myself.

So whether I see a gift as coming from a person or ultimately, from God, I have to ask myself why I was given this gift. And the answer that underlies it all is love. And that leaves me with the thought that what I really need is not to receive more love, but to show more love...

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