The True Meaning of Gratitude


Yesterday I was feeling a little raw and got vulnerable here in this space about the challenges that my family has been facing this past week.  It wasn't the first time, and I imagine it won't be the last.   

So many of you responded with stories of your own, words of encouragement and offers of help, prayers, and positive vibes.  It meant a lot to me because as a pastor it's not easy to be vulnerable and to admit that things aren't always hunky-dory.  

I am grateful for the grace I receive from you, dear reader.  I can actually feel it sometimes if that makes any sense at all.  It fills me with such gratitude.  

I'm actually preaching on gratitude this month, and so I've been reading and thinking about it for a couple of weeks.  

I'm learning that being able to feel and express gratitude is one of the most vital aspects of experiencing what the ancient Hebrew writers referred to as shalom or the peace of God.  

But I'm also learning that it's not always easy for us to express gratitude--especially when we are going through difficult seasons of life.  The late Henri Nouwen summed it up like this:  
To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives--the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections--that requires hard spiritual work. 
Nouwen's words really resonated with me this morning.  I've begun to truly believe that there's so much more to gratitude than merely being grateful for the good things in life.  It's easy to feel grateful when everything is awesome.  

But I believe until we can experience feelings of gratitude in the middle of challenges, trials and tribulations, we won't ever tap into the true meaning of what it means to be grateful.  

Diana Butler-Bass recently wrote:  
Gratitude at its deepest and perhaps most transformative level, is not warm feelings about what we have.  Instead, gratitude is the deep ability to embrace the gift of who we are... 
Until we can accept ourselves... forgive ourselves... embrace ourselves in all of our brokenness and messiness we won't ever get below the surface of all that living a life of gratitude has to offer. 

We can't just pick and choose what aspects of our lives deserve to be filled with gratitude.  We have to be grateful for all of it--even the difficult parts.  And we especially need to be gentle with ourselves and let our gratitude flow unswervingly toward the person who greets us in the mirror every day.

Because that person is loved, cherished, chosen and covered by God's glory.  

May you be filled with gratitude today and every day.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.   


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