Faces on Faith: A sense of gratitude
Recently I was invited to rate myself on my ability to consistently practice gratitude in my everyday life, regardless of the circumstances. Gratitude was defined as “recognizing the good.” On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 meaning that I rarely recognized the good or feel grateful, with 10 meaning I am always in a state of gratitude. As I thought about this, my mind went back to my childhood. My parents wanted us to be grateful for all that we had. This was especially true at meal time when, after blessing the food, we were required to eat everything on our plate. My mother was a great cook, but I was a picky eater. So there were many evenings when I sat at the kitchen table refusing to eat what I didn’t like. Returning to the task of rating my gratitude, I wondered if much had changed.
I often admire the Apostle Paul who, after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, became a person who practiced gratitude in all circumstances. Evidence of his changed attitude comes from his letters which make up much of the New Testament. An example would be 1 Thessalonians 5:16 which reads, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” There are other examples such as 2 Corinthians chapters 4-6. The point here is that practicing gratitude daily does change us.
Obviously this is no easy task, given the trials we have experienced the past few months. We may not like what is on our table of life right now. Yet as people of faith, we can give thanks for God’s grace. Grace is a free gift of love given in spite of any circumstance. Receiving grace leads to a heart full of gratitude and gratitude leads to blessing. Blessing is defined as “the projection of good into another.” In chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus shares good news about life in the kingdom of God. He begins with what we call the Beatitudes. Here Jesus says that it is the spiritually poor, the peacemakers, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and those who are persecuted that experience the blessing of the kingdom.
Frankly, I never have liked rating myself. Self-assessments are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. But recognizing the good caused me to again thank God for the gift of grace. Grace leads to gratitude and gratitude to blessing and projecting good onto another may just save a life.
The Rev. Larry L. Marshall is the pastor at the Captiva Chapel by the Sea.