Tuesday, March 22, 2011
The Beauty of Gratitude
It's a huge pet-peeve of mine, to be in traffic (enough said there), notice someone needs to get in front of me, pause and let them in, and then they act as if it was due them. It's so frustrating to me when no kind wave acknowledges their appreciation. Likewise, I love it when I see someone pause in traffic to allow a car in front of them, and a friendly wave expresses gratitude from the one who was shown kindness to the one who gave kindness. It just feels right.
It's the beautiful attitude of gratitude that can be seen in a life being lived well.
For the Christian, these expressions of appreciation, can be the precursor to our readiness to see and appreciate all that God does for us. The scriptures tell us, "in this world you will have trouble". It's guaranteed. No one will get through this fallen world without "trouble" on their doorstep. But in the midst of this "trouble", there are many, many goodnesses being poured out on us. If we are not conditioned to notice the good, we can too easily miss it completely, being left with only a lap full of "trouble" and feelings of hopeless despair.
We live in a society of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. We live in a society that can't go to sleep at night or if they do go to sleep, they wake up in the middle of the night - unable to get the full needed cycle of uninterrupted rest the body needs. We live in a society that seems to proclaim the negative, with only a cursory note of the good. We need something to lift us, inspire us, help us; we need something to give us hope.
Is it possible the "something" we need can be found in the tiny capsules of pausing to see, to notice, to receive, and to acknowledge ----- kindness shown --- beauty seen --- goodness revealed --- all around us.
This beauty is usually silent.
Kindness is not typically LOUD.
A gesture of selflessness is usually quick and often inaudible.
It's all too easily missed.
But pausing to see, to realize, to receive, and to acknowledge that we just received a "gift" of kindness ------- can open our eyes to seeing a whole new world around us.
I realized this profoundly when staying in a hotel in Kenya that was very difficult and unlike any place I had ever stayed in my life. The windows were broken, but the bars were in place, the mosquito net had holes in it, the toilet didn't flush, and the shower didn't work. There were "critters" I had never seen before crawling about, and noises I had never heard before creeping through the night. I lay in my bed, fully clothed, because the scratching bed coverings were not the color they should have been if they had been laundered, and I prayed. As I prayed, I began to "cry out" to God about my circumstances. You know --- a sort of "petitioning" to God. Really, I just wanted to tell someone of my plight --- and God was the only one there with me.
So I began listing my grievances to Him --- and He allowed my tearful rantings for almost an hour. I had much to say and was using many eloquent adjectives.
Our Lord is such a patient Father.
For when I had exhausted my list --- He gently whispered to my heart, "Now, let's look at all that is 'right' in your world tonight".
I didn't want to, but I did. After all, I had nothing else to do. There were still several hours left before the sun would give me a new day.
I paused, and admitted, He would have to reveal them to me, my mind could only see the negatives.
And so He began ---- "you are laying in a bed, not in a prison (or worse yet - not out on the street), there is a locked door between you and the evil outside, you had 3 meals today that stayed in your stomach and nourished your body, you drank clean water today, you have clothes on your body and extras in a bag, you have a husband at home that adores you, you have not been to the hospital or the funeral home today, you will ride in a car/bus tomorrow- you will not walk the 50 miles ahead of you, you have..., you will..., you do not..., etc..., etc..., etc...
God's list to me ------ embedded itself in my soul.
God's list to me ---- lasted for more than an hour.
God's list to me --- transformed my heart and mind.
God's list to me was much more profoundly important than my list to Him.
A simple expression of "thank you" given with a sincere heart ----- can escort in profound life change with intense realizations of our Father's goodness to us each and every moment of each and every day.
It's a change of the mind set that can bring life to the body and joy to the soul.
Focusing on all that is right and good and pleasing ------ and saying "thank you" to the One who makes it to be this way, makes the troubles of this world seem less daunting --- and the singing bird outside my window much more beautiful.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:15
Photo taken by Steve at Cades Cove, Tennessee