First conversation. From the moment he sat down in my office to the moment he left, it was a string of grievances. No one was spared. Congregation, colleagues, even kids were on the unfavorable list. Bad day? Possibly. But this was not the first time I have been on the receiving end of this person’s unhappiness. Along the way, I have been offered suggestions, options and possibilities of what might set his ship on a course with less rough waters: all to no avail.
Next conversation. This individual walked into my office, sat down, then started to share with me, with great animation, a flurry of ‘blessings’ in her life. Yes, there were some challenges as well. However, her approach to the challenges was through imagination, which she wanted to explore with me.
These were two completely different encounters. They illustrated two completely different lenses through which a person could experience the world around them.
One of the tried and true spiritual disciplines that I have great appreciation for is that of gratitude. The practice I have found helpful is to prayerfully begin each day by expressing gratitude for things anticipated. And then, at the end of the day, to recount things that have taken place with gratitude. It is a matter of consciously making a choice to frame your day from an appreciative perspective. Or, as one of my spiritual directors continues to remind me, there is ‘grace in gratitude.’
Theologian Thomas Merton put it this way:
You have made us one with You.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another,
You dwell in us.
Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts.
Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection.
Oh God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely,
we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You,
and we love You with our whole being,
because our being is in Your being,
our spirit is rooted in Your spirit.
Fill us then with love,
and let us be found together with love as we go our diverse ways,
united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world,
and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love.
Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.
My prayer for all of us this Thanksgiving is that we may create a space where we can be open to grace with gratitude. In my experience, it can be truly transforming.