“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -G.K. Chesterton
I missed the “I’m thankful for...” blogging boat that sailed in late November. Bloggers near and far wrote beautiful, humorous, challenging, profound posts about things, people, events, experiences, opportunities, etc. that they’re thankful for, inspired (appropriately) by the Thanksgiving holiday. Even those one-point-five-posts-a-year bloggers jumped on board and blogged about their gratitude. I, on the other hand, for a variety of reasons, did not. Slack blogger that I am, I missed the “thankful” boat, but guess what, faithful readers? All four of you are about to read a belated (but no less sincere) post on gratitude. There. The closure I know you’ve been waiting for. You’re welcome.
Back in August, I wrote a post in which I listed some of the abundant blessings in my life that sometimes overwhelm me with gratitude. Some were "big ones" (family, husband, home, etc.), and some were less obvious (but no less amazing) "little ones" that do to my life what chocolate chips do to a batch of brownies: take what was already unbelievably delicious and somehow make it even sweeter.
Yes, I am hungry and, incidentally, craving chocolate. Ahem.
Anyway. Take a look at the partial list of blessings, believe me when I say that I meant every word I said in the post, and please be graceful with me in this confession: I sometimes go days at a time without taking a moment to pause and be really, truly, deeply, intensely thankful.
Isn’t that crazy? All those tangible and intangible blessings, many more than I listed, so many things I didn’t earn and don’t deserve, gifted to me to experience on a daily basis. How do I not spend every waking moment overcome with gratitude? How is it possible that I only feel it in fleeting instances? Can you believe it?
My hunch is that many of you can, because I don’t think I’m alone on this one. I think it’s really easy to get accustomed to having these gifts in our life. It’s really easy to convince ourselves that we are still somehow slighted in spite of them. It's really easy to become bitter. Really easy to slip into an attitude of entitlement--an attitude that I often notice all too often in others but fail to recognize in myself, though it is certainly there. It’s really easy to get fixated on life’s inconveniences, unfortunate coincidences, and difficulties, and become blind to its beauties and deaf to its songs. In the words of writer Aldous Huxley, "most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted".
We are blessed beyond belief, beyond merit, and beyond measure, in the truest sense of the phrase. It’s impossible to count our blessings, because they’re innumerable. And yet, some days, I often don’t even count enough of them to use both hands. Here’s the craziest part, too: Even if I had nothing--no possessions to enjoy, no family or husband to love, no education to pursue, no horses to ride, no mountains to climb, no chocolate to eat (sorry, stream of consciousness)--even if I had none of those things, I would still have one gift that is undeserved and unearned and strong and beautiful and gentle and precious and freeing and life-altering and earth-shaking and eternity-changing enough to overwhelm me with gratitude to the point of tears. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask me sometime. It’s one of those gifts that you can give away and still not lose.
Yes, it’s really easy to slide into ungratefulness. It’s a sneaky, gradual process, but thankfully (thankfully!) it is neither unavoidable nor irreversible. I don’t pretend to have it all figured out, since by my own admission I’m certainly not the paragon of a thankful person, but I’m beginning to think that ungratefulness is a disease of the mind that affects the heart, and then flourishes in some kind of feedback loop. (Side note: I’m sure there’s been tons of research done on this stuff, and psychologists would probably cringe if they read this blog, but hey, I never claimed to be a professional). For the sake of argument, let’s assume I’m at least partly right. It follows, then, that if we are to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness, we must be careful to “guard our minds”, so to speak--to be really aware of the kinds of thoughts we allow to make themselves at home up there, and to distinguish between the real truths and the lies that our minds have confused as truths. And because it’s so easy to lose perspective and confuse the two, I think if we are to cultivate a lasting lifestyle and sincere spirit of gratitude, we need to ask for help from something, someone, outside of ourselves--someone full of grace and truth--to help us change from the inside out.
I think I'll take a moment now to pause and just be thankful. Join me?
“Be thankful in all circumstances.” -1 Thessalonians 5:18
“...be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” -Romans 12:2
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’” -William A. Ward