Starting with Gratitude
A few years ago, I was sitting in the living room when my mom walked in.
She had just finished a phone call with a friend going through a divorce. I asked about the advice she gave her friend, expecting it to be something to the tune of "you're better off without him" or "he'll never find anyone with better hair or a better chicken parmesan recipe than you."
Instead, my mom said this: "Write down ten things you are thankful for."
I quickly realized there was a disconnect between my heart and gratitude, as I would have likely never given this advice to a friend in a difficult circumstance, and I'd also not love to receive it. Gratitude + my self-pity = something similar to a CrockPot soup I made last month that truly tasted like an envelope.
In recent weeks, this very topic of gratitude has come up in church. And small group. And it's been on my heart frequently, as with marriage comes getting to know your new roommate better. Something I've learned about my wonderful husband is that he has a good grasp on gratitude. He's always thanking me, always pointing out God's blessings, and always seeking the positive in any situation. To sum it up: gratitude is a buzz word that I mix into my heart in the way I mixed those envelope soup ingredients: NOT WELL. Something's off.
A few days after the gratitude buzz began, I woke up feeling stressed out and exhausted before my day even started. So instead of going for a run (that's not really my vibe), I decided to take Mom's advice, and I initiated my quiet time with prayers of thanksgiving rather than prayers of desperate pleas.
"God, thank You for...." instead of "God, I'm just exhausted and I need...."
And my day immediately turned around.
I was still exhausted and I still needed God in those moments (and always!), but starting with praise just changed things. It pulled me out of the pit of self-pity and into a posture of hallelujahs. My heart went from being filled with worry to being filled with worship.
I realize that gratitude does not take away the hard things you are going through. It's not a Band-Aid that will only fall off or an ibuprofen that will wear away in a few hours. At the same time, it's not a super successful transplant surgery. It's not a patch and it's also not a cure to whatever difficult circumstance you are enduring.
But gratitude does give your impaired sight in this sinful world some glasses to gain a new perspective. Gratitude points out those details that your blurred eye looks over. A thankful heart is like restored sight to a blind pupil. It's like a telescope reminding you of a larger perspective. And at the same time, it's a microscope that brings God's provision into sharp focus.
This must be why so many New Testament letters start with words of thanks. This must be why in so many biblical passages, "and be thankful" appears. In a world filled with comparison, we need to stop seeing what the person on our left has and the person on our right can do and simply look up to praise.
This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to truly pause and thank God for what He has done. Or even just what He did or what He will one day do. Because if you're like me, you easily get yourself trapped in that pity pit of comparison with a need to see beyond the dirt walls of the pit and into those glimpses of glory.
So thank You, God. Thank You for teaching this hardhearted self new things. Thank You for a church through which I can come to know You more. Thank You for a mother and a husband and so many others who embody gratitude and point me to You. Thank You for Your Word that instructs and Your Spirit that fills. Thank You for restoring this heart and redeeming this soul. Thank You for forgiveness that cleanses this sinful, sinful heart. Thank You for new lenses and a fresh viewpoint and this new day with new chances to know You more and love others better than I did yesterday. Thank You, God.
As we thank and praise, I pray that we all come to know His heart more and more. This Thanksgiving Day and every day, may we all pause to give our thanks.