One week ago along with my youth group, I was at All Ontario Youth Convention and had the opportunity to hear Shane Claiborne speak. One week later, I'm still digesting some of the things I heard that pricked my heart. One of the questions that I've been faced with this past week is - what does it mean to live a life of gratitude?
Here are some of my own thoughts from this past week that normally would appear normal, but are really born out of an ungrateful heart...
- Pregnancy is getting really uncomfortable - swollen feet and hands, hurts to walk, hurts to sleep
- That angry customer I just talked to was a major pain in the neck
- I'm bored
- I wish I had enough money to buy...
- Waking up in the middle of the night is getting very frustrating
- The rooms in my house are too small, I wish we had more space
- It's hot outside
- and on and on and on....
This past week when thoughts like this have come to mind, some of them have actually caught my attention and made me stop and think. I need to foster a heart of gratitude instead of self-focused entitlement. When I think of Jesus, of His love and grace, of the ways God has blessed me, and when I broaden my view to think of others, what they are facing and going through, there is no reason to live ungrateful.
- I have a beautiful baby growing inside of me when others have not been able to conceive or carry a baby to term
- I have access to incredible health care that will allow this baby to come into the world healthy and strong, and that will take care of me
- I have been blessed with a great job that I enjoy, great staff to work with, and a steady income
- If someone is angry on the phone, I do not know their life situation and what they are going through. And I have the Spirit with me, to walk with me if I feel hurt by anothers words
- God provides
- I have a house, I have a bed, these are incredible gifts that millions of people go without
- I live in a wonderful country with changing seasons that all have their own beauty.
- No matter what I struggle with, God does not treat me as I deserve, but as a Father with his daughter, He treats me with love, grace and forgiveness. And He walks with me as I try to become more like Him.
I want to live in gratitude each day for who God is and what He has done in my life. The thing is, it does not stop at merely feeling grateful. From hearing Shane speak, a life of gratitude goes much further. It may start with expressing thanks to God, using words, prayers and musical worship to try and express that gratitude. This is very appropriate and a great response to God for all He has done for us. But it does not stop there.
A life of gratitude looks around and says "this is too good to keep to myself" (Shane). It gives birth to amazing generosity, reckless sharing, and an opening of ones hands and heart. A life of gratitude looks at the blessings God has given to me - Love, Grace, financial security, food, possessions, knowledge, talents, etc. and says - "I want to let God bless others through me." Whatever we have in our hands that God has given to us, we can choose to hold onto tightly, or we can use to love and bless others. A life of gratitude loves and blesses others - and spreads the love and grace of Jesus all over.
This is something I'm still trying to figure out. And I know God will walk with me through this. I think it starts with a perspective change, like I was encountering this past week - recognizing my closed hand attitudes of ungratefulness, and choose to instead look with a heart of gratitude at each moment, each joy and struggle I face.