Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Long Journey Back to Gratitude

“Nothing taken for granted,
Everything received with gratitude,
Everything passed on with grace.”
— G. K. Chesterton (1874–1936)
At the end of a long year (and I’m not one to think of all years as ‘long’) I’ve been left with the recurring feeling that I’m missing something. That something is gratitude. Not saying this applies to everyone, though it could be applicable to anyone.
You see, not unlike many others, I’ve probably got reason to wonder when life will work out. I know I have many reasons to be grateful — certainly too many to count — but gratitude, as a disposition of character, I’ve found, is not as simple as that.
Sometimes the more we know we ought to be grateful the harder gratitude is, because of the awkward relationship we have with guilt. We know we’re blessed beyond measure, but that knowledge doesn’t shift the deep-seated subjective experience with which we must navigate. Something deeper in our soul is upset, and without attending to that first, sustained gratitude seems impossible.
When we’re on that long journey back to gratitude — knowing we ought to be grateful, but have some way to travel to get there — it’s no good feeling guilty. Guilt doesn’t help. It’s a boomerang back into complaint, because we are, of a sense, complaining about ourselves. It might seem right, but it doesn’t help.
Instead, we need to be gentle with ourselves. Of an order, we’ve already identified with the need to repent — to change our minds, as impetus for a change in behaviour. We’ve recognised where we’re at, and where we would rather be. We know what would honour God, as much as knowing where we’re falling short.
There is no condemnation for those who are on their way back to that halcyon of places: gratitude.
Knowing that being in that happy place, in spite of anything that happens to us, will deliver much, not only as God-worship, but specifically as a worship that converts into service, which is love, which converts to joy, which sustains our gratitude, even to the overflowing of our cups.
We enter gratitude in a sustained way when we give equal credence to how we really feel along with intentionally choosing joy.
Where the Chesterton quote fits in the present discussion is how life is received, overall — i.e. with gratitude. When we challenge every assumption, and completely overhaul every expectation, we stop taking things for granted. Barriers to indifferent perception are removed. Then we may receive everything with an openly grateful disposition of spirit.
Gratitude is a disposition of spirit. It’s nothing tried or perfected. It’s nothing if not a product of the joyful spirituality of simplicity. Nothing needed to be added to us.
When we arrive at gratitude we’re then poised to pass everything on with grace.
One thing, this thing, God will bless: the ardent endeavour to traverse the entire journey to the daily destination of gratitude.
The determination to arrive at the daily destination of gratitude is piqued most of all through enduring a hard season where complaint always fell short of something better.
Great is our direction when we’re directed toward gratitude and the way there is via joy.

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